ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Community connections, older and vulnerable community members – identifying, exploring and addressing community needs within the Blue Mountains, (2014-2015)

Strategic Research Area

Environmental Justice and Governance for Social Change


Funded equally by CSU, Blue Mountains City Council, Katoomba Neighbourhood Centre Inc., and Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Cooperative Ltd.  Each partner contributed $10 000. Total $40,000


Dr Val Ingham, and Dr Sarah Redshaw (CSU), Ms Kath Harrison, (Katoomba Neighbourhood Centre Inc.), Ms Toni Quigley, (Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Cooperative Ltd., and Ms Prue Hardgrove, Blue Mountains City Council)


This research project came out of an interest in knowing more about the Blue Mountains community, including the resilience and vulnerabilities of the community. The project was just getting started when October 2013 fires occurred in the Winmalee/Springwood area of the Blue Mountains. The fires highlighted that the knowledge of vulnerable individuals and their needs was fragmented across the community, and across multiple agencies and service providers. Initial investigations revealed that vulnerable residents within the Blue Mountains may not be actively engaged or consulted by relevant authorities prior to, or during, emergency situations.

The research undertaken for this project, which was done in partnership with the Blue Mountains City Council, Katoomba Neighbourhood Centre Inc., and the Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Cooperative Ltd., involved a survey, interviews and focus groups. The focus of the project was on measuring community resilience in the Blue Mountains and accounting for vulnerable people, particularly the aged. The project's main aim was to identify the needs of vulnerable community members and inform strategies to address their social inclusion and safety requirements.

Community Connections partmers

Photo 'Community Connections' partners (L-R) Dr Sarah Redshaw (CSU), Ms Toni Quigley (SNCC), Kath Harrison (KNCC), Ms Prue Hardgrave (BMCC) & Dr Val Ingham

The researchers' findings indicate that the Blue Mountains has a robust and largely connected community. Indicators of this are the frequency of contact with family, friends and neighbours; and the perceptions of neighbourhood with most respondents "feeling safe." However people with a chronic condition were more likely to require assistance and statistically less likely to feel connected, that support was available or that neighbours helped. Those living alone were more likely to feel that there was not enough support available to them than those living with others.


Launch of the project launch on May 27, 2014 and launch of the final report Community Connections: Vulnerability and Resilience in the Blue Mountains (PDF), March 25, 2015. In its recommendations the report included a number of strategies to better connect community members and organisations in order to inform planning for vulnerable and ageing populations both in day-to-day life and in times of emergencies. These included that:

    • That the Council, emergency services and local community services continue to network and partner in ways which recognise and utilise the capability of each organisation through to adopting strategies with promote  a shift from a top-down approach to emergency planning, response and recovery to being inclusive of the community and every level
    • Specific actions to promote a share understanding of the responsibility we each have towards ourselves, our neighbours and our community
    • The role of community organisations in assisting vulnerable people with community connections and social engagement, in preparedness as well as emergency events


Strategies that better connect members and organisations in order to better plan for vulnerable and ageing populations both in day to day life and in times of emergencies. A new project B SAFE - Blue Mountains Sustainable Approaches to Fire and Emergencies - A Community Action Model Building Resilience, Improving Preparedness and Enhancing Self Responsibility (2015-2016) funded by the Ministry of Police & Emergency Services' Community Resilience Innovation Program, will draw on the findings of this project.


Dr Val Ingham

May 2015