18 January 2013

University of Queensland researchers are looking to recruit participants from the Ipswich region to take part in a study exploring community resilience in the wake of the 2011 Queensland floods.

As North Booval was one of the three worst flood-affected suburbs in Ipswich, the ARC-funded study originated in the region, and focuses on the role that neighbours can play to assist one another in preparing for and recovering from disasters.

Associate Professor Lynda Cheshire from the School of Social Science said the research examined the local resources and networks that people were able to draw upon in North Booval.

“So far, we have interviewed 17 participants in flood affected streets. However, certain parts of the suburb had high numbers of rental properties and many tenants simply left and never came back, so we are calling for more participants - especially those who have not returned but who may still be living elsewhere in Ipswich,” Associate Professor Cheshire said.

Study participants reported that it was often neighbours who first warned them that evacuation might be necessary.

“Neighbours can act as unofficial warning systems of impending disasters, help secure properties, provide emotional support, assist with the clean up, and provide support to those who are particularly vulnerable,” she said.

Associate Professor Cheshire said these acts appeared to have been a basic obligation of neighbourliness that everyone performed, regardless of how well they knew their neighbours.

“Residents were also particularly concerned about more vulnerable neighbours – such as the elderly or those with young children – and went out of their way to check that they were aware of what was happening,” she said.

Since the flood, North Booval residents have reported that there is a stronger sense of neighbourliness in their local area.

“Those neighbours who already knew each other report that the flood has brought them closer together. Those who didn’t know their neighbours before now at least say hello or chat in the street,” she said.

Study findings support the idea that it’s good to get to know your neighbours.

“Even outside of emergencies, a good relation with neighbours has been shown to increase individuals’ sense of community and attachment to place, and to improve health and well-being,” she said.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to become close friends with neighbours or organise street barbecues. Low levels of interaction - such as friendly greetings when you see them, keeping an eye on each other’s properties while away, and exchanging telephone numbers for emergencies is all that’s really needed."

If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact research team on 0438 931 072 or email Lisa Durnian at l.durnian@uq.edu.au.

Media: Lynda Cheshire, Associate Professor in Sociology, School of Social Science l.cheshire@uq.edu.au Tel 0407 572439