About the Resilience Profiles Project

Community Resilience in Queensland is the culmination of a twelve-month participatory action research project called the “Resilience Profiles Project”. The project has explored what community resilience means in the context of disaster recovery according to communities themselves, and how to measure it through community indicators. As a pilot project, it has examined three diverse communities in Queensland including; the Tablelands, Rockhampton region and Chinchilla in the Western Downs. The selection of these three was to provide a snapshot of as diverse a range of Queensland experience as possible.

There is little doubt that resilience enables a community to recover at a faster rate from disaster and hardship, yet without a valid method of measuring it, it is difficult to target specific programs and resources to promote its development. The capacity to measure resilience through indicators is beneficial as a means of citizen engagement, to assist with community planning and to inform policy making.

Community Resilience in Queensland presents data, reports and information on the resilience of Queensland communities in a disaster context, using an integrated set of community resilience indicators. These indicators include a broad range of measures designed to identify and communicate the human and social elements of resilience.

Target audience for Community Resilience in Queensland

Community resilience in Queensland is a useful resource for a wide range of people including:

  • Anyone with an interest in the resilience of their community
  • Local government mayors and councillors
  • Local government policy and planning staff
  • State government policy and planning staff
  • Non-government organisations 

Key research question

The key question driving the Resilience Profiles project has been to discover if there is a link between disadvantaged communities and community resilience. We have many assumptions that material advantages will enable communities to recover faster, but this is not always the case. Resilience appears to have a stronger relationship with how connected people are in their community or neighbourhood, how strong their informal networks are, and whether they have a sense of belonging to their community.

The community survey found very little evidence of links between socio-economic disadvantage and resilience, and indeed the only statistically significant outcome from correlating personal income with all questions in the survey was in relation to feeling safe walking after dark in your community. Around 70% of respondents in the highest income brackets felt very safe or safe, compared to only 25 % in the lowest two income brackets.  With no other statistically significant correlations between personal income and the diversity of questions posed in this survey, there is little conclusive evidence from the survey’s findings that personal income levels impact on a community’s levels of resilience.  

What ought to be emphasised from the survey’s findings is that socio-economic status (SES) may be less of a factor in assessing a community’s levels of resilience than might be assumed or presumed.

Why measure resilience? 

Natural disasters seem to be increasing in frequency across the globe, and climate change experts predict that this will continue. Recovery in the aftermath of disaster can take years and requires substantial human and financial resources. 

The new National Framework for Disaster Resilience released in 2011 promotes a position of ‘shared responsibility’ between communities, governments, business and community organizations. While government has an integral role to play, we need to develop and strengthen more holistic responses to disaster and hardship, so that communities have a greater capacity for resilience in the face of crisis.

There is an increasing amount of research being initiated around the world on what makes a community resilient and there are a number of studies undertaken with communities in the aftermath of extreme disasters, such as in Japan, and New Orleans. There is increasing evidence to support the theory that communities with high levels of trust in other community members and in civic/political leaders, strongly networked communities (informal supports, friends, family, neighbours), and communities where members take an active interest in their community (collective action) and have strong ties to their community are those that are more resilient in the face of natural disaster (or indeed any hardship). It is these human and social elements in our communities that could be the key to resilience. This does not underestimate the essential nature of emergency services and immediate response teams, or for the necessity of rebuilding roads and infrastructure etc. We do however have an understanding of the boundaries of these elements and how we can measure their effectiveness.

Natural disasters have a critical impact on those individuals and neighbourhoods that experience them. Media attention is focused on damaged infrastructure, property and the environment; yet there is growing attention placed on the ability of communities to bounce back from such events. Being able to measure the ‘bounce’ or resilience will assist communities to develop strategies that increase their capacity to survive and thrive after the experience of a natural disaster; to measure what exists, investigate the gaps and develop strategies to build future capacity.  In particular, it is hoped those communities invited to participate in the project, will come to a greater understanding of resiliency, and how its dynamic might influence policy and program development in the management of future natural disasters.