Northern Rivers community recovery after the flood

After the floodProject Aim: Through a population-based survey, this cross-sectional study aims to measure the impact on mental health and wellbeing of residents (16 years and older) in Northern Rivers’ communities six months after the April 2017 flood. It will examine relationships between mental health and wellbeing and the: degree of flood impact; perceptions of the adequacy of the pre-flood mitigation/warning systems and relief service response (government, community and insurance organisations); and level of personal and community resilience.


The survey examines, in a rural context, the degree of mental health distress by different exposure groups (flooded/ disrupted without flooding/unaffected); and in particularly vulnerable groups including the homeless, older people, young adults, Aboriginal people, farmers, and business owners. We are using validated measures to assess anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to better inform existing and future service provision required in response to natural disasters.


The findings will inform current mental health service needs and policy and service response mechanisms for future preparedness planning for natural disaster events. It will specifically inform the design of: a) community-based mental health and wellbeing interventions to mitigate the impact of the recent (and future) flood events; b) more in-depth research to inform strengthening of disaster relief responses; and c) a prospective cohort study to monitor community mental health and wellbeing in the medium (1-2 years) and longer-term (3-5 years).


Staff involved: Professor Ross BailieDr Veronica MatthewsAssociate Professor James Bennett-Levy;  Dr Judy SingerDr Sabrina PitDr Megan PasseyDr Jo LongmanAssociate Professor Geoff MorganDr Margaret Rolfe; Ms Lee Duncan; Ms Maddie Braddon



Northern NSW Local Health District, University of Western Sydney, University of Wollongong, NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, Rekindling the Spirit, Salvation Army, Social Futures, Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul, Winsome Soup Kitchen, Lifeline, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Department of Premier & Cabinet, Thomas George’s office, North Coast Primary Health Network, Lismore Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Lismore City Council, Helping Hands, Southern Cross University, Interrelate, North Coast Community Housing, Richmond Tweed Library Network, North Coast TAFE,  Northern Rivers Community Gateway, Real Art Works, Thrive 2484, NSW State Emergency Service, Tweed Shire Council, Murwillumbah & District Business Chamber, Tumbulgum Community Association, Ocean Shores Community Association, Murwillumbah Community Centre, Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre, Jullums Aboriginal Medical Service.



  • University Centre of Rural Health
  • University of Sydney
  • Western Sydney University
  • University of Wollongong
  • Northern NSW LHD
  • NSW Office of Environment & Heritage


Initial Findings:

The Northern Rivers is a hotspot for natural disasters, but not much is known about the impact of these events on mental health. The survey findings show the mental health impact was greatest for people who were affected by the flood in a number of ways, and for those still displaced from their homes six months after the flood.


Survey analysis is continuing, looking into resilience factors and community connections and the flood impact on specific sectors of the community.


View initial results here