New Report: What We’ve Learned About Social Connection and Mental Health in Disaster-Impacted Areas

By Relationships Australia

Disaster events are experienced as collective traumas, impacting individuals and communities together. 

In mid-2020, in the wake of the NSW Black Summer bushfires and the first COVID-19 lockdown in Greater Sydney, Relationships Australia NSW wanted to work more with people experiencing climate-related mental distress, focusing not only on families but also local communities.

We piloted the six-week Community Resilience Program in 2020, which was expanded in 2021, and has continued to be refined based on community feedback.

This report describes the program’s current model, its role, outcomes, and contributions within the
NSW disaster service system, and makes recommendations on the potential role of family and relationship service providers in future disaster resilience interventions.

“I was engaged, learning, resources were different, and I left with a network of contacts and ideas.”
– Workshop participant, 2022

Key recommendations from the Report

The Community Resilience Program has made significant contributions to improving resilience to mental distress in disaster-impacted communities in NSW, with opportunities for the future:

  • Scaling support for community leaders in NSW: As climate disasters increase, the program offers a model for government to fund at scale while maintaining localised delivery through
    community leaders
  • Introducing support for frontline disaster workers: Leveraging the sector’s expertise in providing training and clinical supervision to professionals working with trauma
  • Workforce development: Building capacity across our organisation to deliver the program through shadowing and mentoring, and potential upskilling of local leaders as professional facilitators
  • Integrating individual and family relationship services: Combining interventions that target
    building social capital at different levels, based on community needs

Download the E-book

Relationships Are What Makes Us: What the Community Resilience Program Tells us About Social Connection and Mental Health in Disaster-Impacted Areas
Maria Cardoso and Shannon Harvey

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