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CQUniversity researchers are helping Queensland businesses to prepare for the unimaginable

Published:28 January 2021

L-R: Dr Robyn Preston and Ms Joanne Harding are two researchers from the CQUniversity Townsville ‘Preparing for the unimaginable’ project.

CQUniversity Townsville researchers are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, in a new study to develop guidelines for organisational response and staff support before, during and after a disaster.

In an initiative jointly funded under the Commonwealth/State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, CQUniversity Townsville received a $73 822 grant through the Far North Queensland and North Queensland monsoon trough scheme to support the ‘Preparing for the unimaginable’ research project.

Project researcher Dr Robyn Preston explained that further research into staff support strategies was needed after the devastating Townsville monsoon events of 2019.

“After the Townsville floods we saw that CQU Townsville campus employees supported each other and received support from our colleagues at other campuses, but in both the literature and disaster management guidelines there was little information about employers’ support for employees or colleague support,” she said.

“We initially undertook a small internally funded project with our colleagues called ‘A sting in the tail’ which found that irrespective of the level of destruction and difficulty experienced by the participants, everyone reported some degree of feeling anxious about such a disaster happening again.

“All of the participants recognised that they were affected in some way by the floods. Not all had damage to property, but their lives had been disrupted to some degree with some element of stress.”

The project team were interested to see how these results impacted the wider community, specifically in Townsville City Council and McKinlay Shire Council areas.

“We can hear things anecdotally, but unless we research things systematically, we cannot make an impact on policy.

"Our research aims to create evidence-based policy and guidelines that will help employers and communities before, during and after disaster events,” Dr Preston said.

“We are currently in the process of data collection and analysis. Qualitative research is obtained by interviewing key people who were employed and lived in affected areas during the monsoon event alongside  social media analysis of sites from Townsville and McKinlay Shire.”

CQUni Lecturer and project member, Joanne Harding explained how research had already begun in McKinlay Shire in early December 2020 with Townsville data collection due to begin in the coming weeks.

“McKinlay Shire was in drought for many years – so it was a disaster on top of disaster for them!

"But our initial research actually found small businesses owners were more concerned about people and cattle on the properties, and for us here in Townsville.”

The project team is currently calling for Townsville residents to participate in the study by undertaking a 30-minute face-to-face or Zoom interviews.

“We are looking for different levels of impact and experience – all eligible and interested Townsville locals are welcome to participate,” Ms Harding explained.

“We are interested to hear from Townsville people as we know this will be a different experience to McKinlay Shire.”

To become involved in the ‘Preparing for the unimaginable: Guidelines for organisational response and staff support before, during and after disaster’ project contact: Monsoon19@cqu.edu.au or 0488 073 419