Resilient Communities Project Evaluation

a drawing of many arms reaching across each other in different colours to represent diversity

Natural disasters can significantly disrupt the lives of children and young people, along with the broader community, leaving in their wake trauma and uncertainty.

Beyond emergency responses, building community capacity to recover from disasters in regional areas is critical for the resilience and sustainability of regional and rural communities. MacKillop Family Services (through MacKillop Seasons) was funded by Resilience NSW to build the capacity of communities in northern, southern and central NSW that experienced multiple and ongoing disasters from 2019-2022. In 2021 the Centre for Children and Young People was contracted to undertake an evaluation of their Resilient Communities project.

The project aimed to support individual, family, and community recovery and enhance future disaster preparedness in these regional areas that experienced multiple and ongoing disasters by:

  • supporting the delivery of Seasons for Growth and Stormbirds programs with children, young people and family members
  • building the capacity of community networks to support recovery and future disaster preparedness, and
  • listening and responding to children, young people, and other stakeholders about what they need.

In 2023-24, MacKillop extended this work to East Gippsland communities in Victoria who were also impacted by catastrophic bushfires and flood events.  

Evaluation approach

Evaluators from the Centre for Children and Young People used a participatory and developmental evaluation methodology to understand the practices associated with community capacity building for disaster recovery (CCB-DR) with a focus on the wellbeing and resilience of children and young people, and the conditions that enable and constrain CCB-DR. Ethics approval was obtained from Southern Cross University (number 2022/005) in February 2022.

Methods included critical reflective practice and semi-structured interviews to draw on the lived experience of Community Resilience Officers (CROs) and other MacKillop Seasons personnel to identify and explore CCB-DR practices in each community, and the conditions shaping these practices. Data was also included from children and young people who participated in the programs and activities generated by the project. You can hear what some young people had to say during a weekend retreat here.

A summary of the evaluation findings is available on the MacKillop Seasons' website.

Research team

Led by Professor Anne Graham, the evaluation research was conducted by Dr Meaghan Vosz and Dr Catharine Simmons 

Project contact: anne.graham@scu.edu.au