PROJECT

After the Fires

Supporting the ongoing wellbeing and resilience of Australia’s first responders following the 2019–20 bushfires

After the Fires is a national survey of the wellbeing and resilience of Australia’s first responders following the 2019–20 bushfires. This study will help us to understand the health and wellbeing of employees and volunteers in the emergency sector so we can plan and provide better services and support.

The 2019–20 bushfire season was one of the most intense and sustained ever seen in Australia.

The impacts of major bushfires are substantial and ongoing. Cumulative exposure to traumatic events can negatively affect the wellbeing of those called on to respond to critical incidents and emergencies.

We believe the unprecedented intensity and severity of the 2019–20 bushfires probably harmed the wellbeing of at least some responders, many of whom are volunteers.

This research will build on our groundbreaking study, ‘Answering the Call: the first National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Emergency Services’, which surveyed more than 21,000 first responders, including more than 5,000 rural fire service and SES volunteers.

This baseline measure of mental health and wellbeing of first responders will be used to evaluate both shorter- and longer-term impacts by surveying first responders again in 2020 and 2021. The study will measure their engagement with the fires, their wellbeing and resilience, and their need for and use of support services, as well as cultural and organisational factors that might affect wellbeing.

The survey data will be supplemented by a series of focus groups in those communities most affected by the fires so we can further draw out our understanding of how they’ve been affected.

A reference group chaired by Andrew Colvin APM OAM, National Bushfire Recovery Coordinator, with representation from agencies, unions, volunteer associations and non-government organisations working in the sector, is advising the research team on the study.

Goals

Quantify the short- and long-term impacts of the 2019–20 bushfire events on the wellbeing and resilience of first responders.

Assess first responders' need for support and use of support services.

Identify factors associated with resilience and effective coping.

Determine the best strategies to build resilience and protect mental wellbeing.

Funding

2020–2023

Medical Research Future Fund, Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research, Bushfire Impact Research Grant

  • $642,195.60

Collaborators

This project is a collaboration between the UWA Graduate School of Education and:

  • Dr Miranda Van Hooff, The Road Home, The Hospital Research Foundation
  • Professor Sharon Lawn, Flinders University
  • Mr Gerry Bardsley, Roy Morgan Research
  • Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre
  • Beyond Blue

Contact