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After the Bushfires: Surviving and Volunteering

  • Year: 2011
  • Author: Webber, Ruth; Jones, Kate
  • Journal Name: Australian Journal of Emergency Management, The
  • Journal Number: Vol. 26, No. 2
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: Victoria

This article analyses the negative and positive implications for bushfire survivors becoming involved in a range of voluntary activities in the bushfire recovery programs following the 2009 Victorian bushfires. It uses data acquired as part of a study of recovery programs being run by Catholic social welfare agencies in several regions of Victoria. Some volunteers were involved in activities organised by organisations, others volunteered on an informal and ad hoc basis. Volunteering, while having enormous benefits to the volunteer, the recipient and the community, also came at a cost. Many volunteers worked long hours and for many months with the result that there were many instances of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Sustained volunteering involving intensive commitments of time resulted in role conflict between the demands of their family and the demands of volunteering. Volunteers found it difficult to reduce the amount of time spent on their volunteer activity, especially those on recovery committees. They also had difficulty handing over leadership roles to others. As volunteers became exhausted, their ability to make clear judgments was impeded and conflicts sometimes arose.

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