From Bush Fires to Terrorism: How Communities Become Resilient

2. Leadership, engagement and shared responsibility: recognizing and promoting leadership at all levels is crucial, but collaboration and community-led response is also required. If government organizations take over, there is a risk that communities are left out of decision-making that affects them.

3. Social ties and wider connections: the things that link people together, such as common interests, cultural experiences, education, home, school, sport, family, friends, work, language and shared spaces are all central elements of communities. At the root it is about getting to know people and finding ways of creating a collective consciousness.

4. Mindset, collective thinking, openness to adapt and cultural change: creating opportunities for everyone to speak and be listened to is paramount. As is a readiness to adapt to improve the way a community reacts to challenges. This means embracing new ideas and technologies. Sometimes these changes can be difficult for some so help may be needed.

5. Integration, inclusivity, equity and diversity: once defined as people living together in a similar area, community has shifted to much wider definitions thanks to the advent of social media and the internet. This offers positives in terms of bringing new and more diverse communities together, and negatives such as the potential loss of cultural heritage. Resilient communities need to value identity and difference.

6. Communications, social support and co-ordination: sharing information openly creates trust. While many are used to communicating online, it can alienate those unfamiliar with technology. Communities should also be trusted to form themselves naturally, although they may need some oversight from more experienced figures who can help them work out what is needed in terms of support.

7. Training and identifying local needs: often people struggle to identify who has the relevant local knowledge and who is best placed to take action when it comes to an emergency situation. It is essential to use past events to develop training that allows communities to act on their own strengths and weaknesses.

Looking Ahead
Communities also need to be committed to working towards common goals with the local authorities. To that end our research report made four key recommendations for building strong, resourceful communities: they must have good communal spaces; building and sharing local knowledge should an ongoing priority; everyone should be heard and given a chance to collaborate; and good, open communication must be at the root of everything.

As we have seen in the extraordinary responses of rural communities in Australia, people that are invested in one another are able to demonstrate real resilience and respond to terrible events in admirable ways. Witnessing this can uplift and inspire people to support one another and nurture connections with their neighbors. So that the next time something extreme happens, they are much more able to cope and respond in service to their community.

Tony Robertson is Lecturer in Social Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Stirling. Sandra Engstrom is Lecturer, Social Work, University of Stirling. This article is published courtesy of The Conversation.