Ethical Use and Impact of Participatory Approaches to Research in Post-Disaster Environments: An Australian Bushfire Case Study

Biomed Res Int. 2018 Jun 11;2018:5621609. doi: 10.1155/2018/5621609. eCollection 2018.


This paper presents a case study of Beyond Bushfires, a large, multisite, mixed method study of the psychosocial impacts of major bushfires in Victoria, Australia. A participatory approach was employed throughout the study which was led by a team of academic investigators in partnership with service providers and government representatives and used on-site visits and multiple methods of communication with communities across the state to inform decision-making throughout the study. The ethics and impacts of conducting and adapting the approach within a post-disaster context will be discussed in reference to theories and models of participatory health research. The challenges of balancing local interests with state-wide implications will also be explored in the description of the methods of engagement and the study processes and outcomes. Beyond Bushfires demonstrates the feasibility of incorporating participatory methods in large, post-disaster research studies and achieving rigorous findings and multilevel impacts, while recognising the potential for some of the empowering aspects of the participatory experience to be reduced by the scaled-up approach.

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning*
  • Disasters
  • Ethics*
  • Fires*
  • Research
  • Victoria