This brief presents research undertaken into the economic legacy of Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 in Victoria, Australia. The authors computed the disaster severity of 12 non-contiguous bushfire hotspots of varying sizes within the state of Victoria and gathered key data (income, residential SA2 and other economic, demographic and sectoral indicators) from the Australian Census Longitudinal Data of 2006 and 2011 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This meant they were able to track individuals and see how their situations had changed before and after the 2009 Black Saturday event.
There are four major implications from their research.
- First, while average income effect is informative, the story is in the detail. Individual demographic groups and sectors of employment point to sizeable economic vulnerabilities.
- Second, disaster recovery and relief assistance arrangements could be enhanced by considering an individual’s vulnerabilities with a view to enhancing their economic resilience. In other words, there is room to rethink how we build a sustainable disaster recovery model on limited budgets.
- Third, the migration effects of the Black Saturday bushfires are substantial. Bushfires are frightening and devastating. They found that the Black Saturday bushfires had permanent effects on an individual’s location decisions in terms of moving out and not returning. This finding is also supported by anecdotal evidence.
- Finally, the social effects were extremely negative and resulted in significant adverse mental health effects. Reduced incomes and financial capabilities were critical factors behind deteriorating mental health of the individuals who lived in the disaster zones.