Publication Details

Winkworth, G., Healy, C., Woodward, M. & Camilleri, P. (2009). Community capacity building: Learning from the 2003 Canberra bushfires. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 24 (2), 5-12.


Research into what happens to communities after disasters is one way of understanding the elements of community capacity building and the actions that help and hinder these processes. In recent years a number of large scale disasters both onshore and offshore have become the focus of Australian State and Commonwealth disaster recovery efforts. These have provided opportunities to reflect on successful elements of 'community recovery' including what 'communities' do themselves to assist 'recovery' and what governments can do to enable and actively facilitate the 'recovery' process. Through an examination of a recent study on the recovery of people affected by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) bushfires (known as the Canberra Bushfires) (Camilleri et al, 2007), this paper examines what helps and what hinders community capacity building, including the role of social networks and supports and community engagement activities. It also contributes to a broader knowledge base about the importance of governments recognising and enabling the development of social networks which help people 'get by', and 'get ahead', and which foster a sense of control over their lives. This knowledge can usefully frame actions used in the pursuit of many other desired policy outcomes linked to community capacity building.