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In the wake of the 2009 Gippsland fires: Young adults' perceptions of post-disaster social supports


  • Rouve Jan Forbes SRNDiv1, GDipNurs(CH&Dev), MHSc(Nse:Community Health&Dev),

    Corresponding author
    1. Monash University Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, Moe, Victoria
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  • Rebecca Jones BA(Hons), MA, PhD,

    1. School of History, Research School of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT
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  • Andrea Reupert BA, DipEd, GradDip CounsPsych, DipClinHyp, PhD

    1. Faculty of Education, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
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Mrs Rouve Forbes, 21 Balook Road, Traralgon South, Victoria 3844, Australia. Email:


Objective:  To explore young (18–27 years) rural adults' experience of both formal and informal social support networks post-bushfire. To inform delivery of social support services for young adults post-bushfire.

Design:  Qualitative: semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with transcripts analysed using thematic content analysis.

Setting:  Gippsland 2009 flame-impacted regions: Boolarra and Central Gippsland Black Saturday fire complexes.

Participants:  Ten bushfire impacted young adults (18–27 years): six female and four male.

Results:  The central theme was the importance of acknowledgement and validation of participants' experience as autonomous individuals. Participants' experience of social supports and networks as either helpful or unhelpful depended on the degree to which the supports delivered enhanced sense of acknowledgement, entitlement, affiliation, informational links, engagement in the recovery process and amelioration of displacement in relation to family, friends, community and environment.

Conclusion:  Participants believed that how an individual, community or service provider framed loss had a significant impact on entitlement and how needs were met. Importantly, how society, policy and service providers framed young adults as either adult or adolescent impacts on how their needs were met. This study highlights the need to resituate how loss is viewed and the need for policy and service providers to address the existing nomenclature mismatch and framing of loss so that young adults are not excluded from supports essential to recovery.