Community resilience

Community resilience requires participation from the whole community to improve response and recovery, and to help the community plan for the future.

The impact and effect of the earthquakes have been different for each and every one of us. As a wider community we are all in this together.

It’s important that we continue to champion the strong sense of community that helped us manage and move forward following the earthquakes.

Community resilience: what does it mean?

“Successful recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Dr Rob Gordon, Australian psychologist.

AMI Stadium Open Day.Community resilience is the sustained ability of a community to withstand and recover from adversity. Resilience requires participation from the whole community to improve response and recovery, and to help the community plan for the full length of disaster recovery.

Success will come as we gather the resources and skills we need to move forward. It’s about developing capabilities that help us to manage the stress of an incident and recover in a way that restores our self-sufficiency and wellbeing. An important focus of recovery is setting and establishing future goals and building a new lifestyle within our changed circumstances.

Most importantly, community resilience is about providing individuals and communities with the tools to strengthen their coping ability during the period of revitalisation. Success will be judged on whether we feel that we’ve returned to some form of stability and have more of a sense of control and future orientation over our lives.

We all have different roles to play in resilience

We understand that the community led response needs to be positive, inclusive, self-organising and spontaneous, and in order to be successful it needs to be embraced at a neighbourhood and community level. This might translate into establishing a new group in your community where people can get together or it might be running a community event.

In Canterbury we’ve learnt the importance of ensuring a service response that’s coordinated, consistent, reliable, accessible and adaptable. Services are communicating and collaborating like never before to establish new ways of working together.

“While visions, plans and committed top leadership are important, even essential; no clear vision nor detailed plan, no committed group leaders have the power to bring this image of the future into existence without the continued engagement and involvement of citizens.”
Peter Block, American author, consultant, and speaker in community building, empowerment and civic engagement

We recognise that from a wellbeing perspective, effective and inclusive communication and engagement between decision makers, service providers, communities, families/whānau and individuals is essential.

In real terms this means we all need to be talking to each other and communicating well on a regular basis – that means us, our neighbours, the organisations we work with and the communities we live in. It will be helpful to share and exchange information and celebrate our successes along the way.

Just as the city scape has changed, so too have the communities in which we all live and work.

We’d like the sense of community support that sprang up in an unplanned way in the immediate aftermath of the quakes to continue to grow. Harvesting the best bits and cultivating our resilience makes sense, so that we celebrate a new community, city, district in future years and we embrace a new sustained sense of who we are and the strength we have as a community and as individuals.

Working together to make it happen

“Collaboration, it turns out, is not a gift from the gods but a skill that requires effort and practice.”
Dr. Douglas B Reeves, author and educator

Hangi at Redcliffs Primary School.Achieving this long term goal of working together in the future calls for innovative and collaborative approaches. As a region, this is a new challenge for us and so much of this journey will be new for many people. We do know that growing our neighbourhood networks and providing opportunities for us to get together and share stories and celebrate success is an important part of that process.

Achieving this long term goal of working together in the future calls for innovative and collaborative approaches. As a region, this is a new challenge for us and so much of this journey will be new for many people. We do know that growing our neighbourhood networks and providing opportunities for us to get together and share stories and celebrate success is an important part of that process.

CERA played a role in the greater Christchurch recovery since shortly after the earthquakes. We know that it’s going to be up to individuals, neighbourhoods, communities and service providers to work together to really make the difference in continuing to build resilience and maintain the revitalisation process.

Looking after yourself: strategies for self-care

Research and experience show that those who take care of how they feel, do better in the long run than those who put feeling aside and only focus on their practical problems.

Here are some key actions that you can take to ensure that you look after yourself as well, from Dr Rob Gordon PhD:

  1. Be patient with each other and yourself. If you are frustrated or unable to achieve what you want, try to reset your expectations, slow down and get into a more constructive frame of mind.
  2. Try not to judge things or make important decisions when feeling low. It will pass. Wait until it’s possible to see things in perspective before making decisions.
  3. Don’t be tempted to swap one stress for another. Don’t fall for the feeling that a new challenge may avoid the down feeling. It will eventually catch up with you anyway, although in some other way. Nothing beats rest and recreating to antidote stress.
  4. Build routines to express what is important. As these routines are repeated week by week they become automatic and provide support. They can take energy to establish.
  5. Take stock of what you have learned and how you have changed. Ask what leads to growth? What is painful and reduces life? Then there will be a sense of getting through the experience.
  6. Remember what was important before the disaster, where you were going, what your plans were, even if they weren’t spelled out. This will help work out what you still have, and how you have changed.
  7. Some reflecting can be done alone, but talk things over with others who are interested. These people could be intimate family, friends, neighbours, others similarly affected, and long-term associates. Each opportunity offers different reflections.
  8. Think how you would like life to be in the future given the current situation, even if you don’t know how to get there. You won’t get there if you don’t know where you want to go.
  9. Give attention to what was neglected: recreation, relationships, family, leisure, communication, and private time. If things are tense, just do something small in the right direction and then build on it.
  10. Have health checks; take care of ailments and health problems that you may have neglected.
  11. Look for opportunities to talk, write, share, tell stories, compare how others are doing, and make sure you are part of a larger community. We need intimate loved ones, friends and a community to belong to.
  12. Think about positive ideas and plans, even if they can’t be realised yet. Balance the things you can’t change with those that you can do something about.
  13. Try to focus on what you can influence, and not let your peace of mind depend on what others do.

Dr Rob Gordon is an Australian psychologist with 30 years’ experience working with communities and government agencies in recovery following natural disasters.

For more information, contact:

Lucy D’Aeth
Ph:+64 3 364 1777


Information to help you, your family and your wider community

Here are a range of information and assistance links to useful websites to help you achieve positive outcomes for you, your family/whānau, your neighbours and your community.


World First All Right? Campaign

All Right? is a social marketing campaign designed to help us think about our mental health and wellbeing. It’s about helping people realise that they’re not alone, encouraging them to connect with others, and supporting them to boost their wellbeing.

Ultimately, All Right? is about ensuring wellbeing is at the heart of our recovery.

All Right? is a Healthy Christchurch project that is being led by the Mental Health Foundation and the Canterbury District Health Board.

All Right asks: What good things are you growing?

Page last updated: 25/05/2016

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