Working Paper

Relief, Recovery & Resilience: Learning from Disasters

Published: 2024

Community organisations, especially the charity sector, play a crucial role in disaster recovery by providing immediate financial support, direct services such as urgent medical or health support, housing support and financial counselling. Frequently, the government and private sector work in collaboration with community organisations to support recovery efforts. This leads us to ask: How can the community sector support disaster recovery more efficiently? To answer this question, we review the growing literature on disaster recovery from the perspective of community organisations in Australia to discover good practices.

Our review of the literature shows that research often tends to focus on engagement and not outcomes when it comes to understanding the role of community organisations in disaster recovery. Nonetheless, we found that there are a number of best and emerging practices to help communities understand recovery, prepare for recovery and manage recovery in the aftermath of a disaster. We also found that there are untapped opportunities for horizontal learning for community organisations because of an absence of a community of practice that focuses on developing, validating and disseminating best practices.

Policymakers and community leaders often talk about the need to focus on building more resilient infrastructure and communities in disaster recovery efforts. We found that community organisations also have an important role to play in fostering a culture of education on disaster risk, building more resilient communities and assisting socioeconomic groups that face distinct and disproportionate challenges when a disaster strikes.  Our review highlights a number of good practices that help community organisations think about ways in which they can establish or improve their disaster response and recovery efforts.


Nathan MiddlebrookNikita Sharma


Sharma, N. & Middlebrook, N. (2024). ‘Relief, Recovery & Resilience: Learning from Disasters’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2024-04. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland. DOI: 10.14264/2722a16