After fires swept through the lower Blue Mountains of NSW in October 2013 and destroyed over 200 homes, a research project was initiated and titled ‘Community Connections: Vulnerability and Resilience within the Blue Mountains’. Reported in this article are the results of eight in-depth interviews conducted with local community leaders. They were asked to reflect on their leadership experiences before, during and after the fires. The research clearly demonstrates that prior to the fires there were no formal connections between local emergency services and local community organisations. Each had limited knowledge of the other in terms of skills, capacities, scope and available resources. This article will elaborate on the lessons learned by the community leaders interviewed. Just as collaborative bonds were finally being formed and combined initiatives had begun to bear solid results – reflected in higher levels of householder disaster preparedness, recovery funding ran out. This article highlights the lessons learned, and includes the importance of maintaining a formalised and continuous connection between emergency services and community organisations. The research recommends that disaster preparedness be embraced as a part of ‘core business’ by community organisations, and that multi-stakeholder connections be forged and strengthened through collaborative community engagement initiatives at the level of local disaster planning and preparation. Both recommendations contribute to the paradigm shift anticipated by Australia’s ‘National Strategy for Disaster Resilience’.
community resilience, disaster management, shared responsibility.
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