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Details of the study

Superstorm Sandy impacted houses on Staten Island USA

Rejuvenating bush, Kinglake Ranges Australia

A clock from a primary school on Oshika
Peninsular showing signs of tsunami inundation Japan



This research has been made possible thanks to a Winston Churchill Fellowship, support from New Zealand Red Cross and the generous contribution of knowledge and insights of those who participated. 

During May and June 2014 seven weeks were spent visiting people and places with the aim of learning from other disasters and from the dedicated people working in those contexts. Locations were chosen due to their relevance in terms of socio-economic similarities to New Zealand or to their concentration of humanitarian support expertise. They included various locations in Australia, Japan, Europe and the United States. Click here for details

Semi-structured interviews involved a purposefully wide range of people representing those with a (current or previous) role supporting communities in recovery in a myriad of forms, or whose role has involved advising, supporting or relied upon interactions with the supporters. A conscious effort was made to ensure the experiences of those ‘working on the ground’ in recovery were represented. In acknowledgement that support for communities and challenges of working in a recovery environment comes from and affects people in all sorts of roles; volunteers, community leaders, teachers, business network leaders, local government reception staff, building consent personnel, recovery workers, social service providers, researchers, and psychologists were amongst those interviewed. For some in the disaster-impacted community their role existed before the disaster but has been made more complex and challenging since. For some their role has developed in response to the disaster. For others, a role in disaster recovery practice, research or advising regarding trauma or staff support is their ‘bread and butter.’ More than 80 people were interviewed.

 Semi-structured interviews covered the following themes:

  • What are the challenges of working in recovery?
  • What happens if those with a role to play in recovery are not supported?
  • Why should the supporters be supported?
  • What support has been or would be helpful?

Click here for details of sample questions

Prior to embarking on this fellowship, consultative conversations were held with people playing various recovery roles in Canterbury to shape the themes to be explored, the audiences to consider, and the means of presenting the findings to be useful to those working in recovery. I am grateful to the wide range of people involved, from volunteers, community leaders, service providers and recovery workers to representatives from government departments, who have shaped this work for the better.