Vital bushfire research

University of Wollongong clinical psychological researcher Anna Cavanagh is studying the response to the bushfires.
University of Wollongong clinical psychological researcher Anna Cavanagh is studying the response to the bushfires.

A new study on the impact of the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires is much more than an academic exercise for researcher Anna Cavanagh.

The Sydney-based PhD student has family in the Mountains who felt the stress and anxiety of last October firsthand.

"My family here fortunately weren't directly affected but they live in Springwood and they had to be evacuated," she said.

This connection has given added significance to the study on the impact of the bushfires on the community's mental health and well-being.

"I think it's hard if you come as a complete outsider to a community [like the Blue Mountains]. I was quite conscious about doing this research sensitively and making sure it's a positive thing for people to participate in," said Ms Cavanagh, a clinical psychology student with the University of Wollongong.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has given his backing to the research, which aims to "find out how we can be better equipped to support this community after the October 2013 bushfires, as well as bushfires in the future".

People who take part will be asked to complete an anonymous online or paper survey. Taking about 15-20 minutes to complete, the survey will ask questions about people's experience of the bushfires as well as indicators of their health and mental health.

Ms Cavanagh said the results will be used to help "build resilience in the community" and improve future responses to bushfires.

"The data will be used in a practical way. It's not research that will just disappear. It's important for people to know it will have an impact for their community when they participate," she said.

The study is a joint project between Dr Coralie Wilson and Associate Professor Peter Caputi from the University of Wollongong, Professor David Cavanagh from the Queensland University of Technology and Ms Cavanagh.

To take part in the survey, go to, email Anna Cavanagh at or call 4221 4164 (Tuesday and Thursday).

Who can take part:

The study is open to men and women over the age of 18 who live in Springwood, Winmalee, Yellow Rock, Faulconbridge, Mt Riverview, Mt Victoria, Mt Irvine, Mt Wilson, Mt York, Bilpin, Mt Tomah and Blackheath.


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