NSW's Bega Valley will be part of a study by university researchers looking to learn and understand more about the way communities respond to disaster and crisis.
Senior Professor Sharon Robinson from the Global Challenges team at the University of Wollongong said 70 researchers across 10 projects will work with communities impacted by "terrible bushfires, a pandemic and now floods" over coming months.
"Many people in our communities are still without homes, living in caravans or camping, and now can't do the things that we as people need to do to come together and heal," Professor Robinson said.
"We know many feel they have been forgotten, because of the COVID pandemic. Many of our researchers were themselves directly impacted by the bushfires.
"It has been a priority to engage teams of researchers who weren't just doing research on the community but that are working with the community."
Between our lived experience and a network of researchers across the institution, we have a unique opportunity to evaluate the best ways we can move forward together.Dr Kimberley McMahon-Coleman
One project will look at the role and performance of evacuation centres during the recent bushfires, with the Bermagui evacuation centre, on the NSW South Coast, as the primary case study.
Another study will look at how social media use is affecting bushfire recovery in Bega and the Far South Coast, and another will investigate stories from bushfires in Tathra, Cobargo, Batemans Bay, Mogo, Ulladulla, Nowra and Kangaroo Valley to identify practices that enhance healing and recovery.
A fourth project will create a resource aimed at transforming post-bushfire weed management.
The projects will cover the Southern Highlands, Far South Coast and Shoalhaven, and be run by teams with experience in disaster and emergencies, mental health, disability and inclusion, land management, cultural burning, invasive species, buildings and infrastructure, planning, energy supply, communications and technology, financial planning and management, air and water quality and community preparedness and recovery.
"The staff, students and researchers affiliated with the campuses in Batemans Bay, Bega, Nowra and Moss Vale live in those communities and have families there, and it's no exaggeration to say we have all been impacted," academic director of the university's regional campuses Dr Kimberley McMahon-Coleman said.
"As horrific as summer was, there's a real opportunity for us, as the local university, to do meaningful research that will assist in the rebuild and recovery phases, as well as any future events.
"Between our lived experience and a network of researchers across the institution, we have a unique opportunity to evaluate the best ways we can move forward together."
The teams have partnered with local organisations, community members and government agencies including the Disability Trust, Shark Island Institute, Flagstaff Group, CRAM Foundation, Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation, Mudjingaalbaraga Firesticks, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, and NSW Local Land Services.