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ISLAND Resilience Initiative

Contact person: Duncan Sinclair

The ISLAND Resilience Initiative - understanding and mitigating impacts of bushfire on brain health

Across our lifespan, many of us will experience traumatic events which impact our brain health. These include natural disasters such as bushfire, which are becoming increasingly common across Australia. Trauma such as bushfires can lead to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, while smoke exposure can also impact our physical and mental health. Older people can be at increased risk of adverse outcomes after bushfire, while trauma and smoke exposure also increase risk for dementia.

Among older people, the factors which influence physical and mental health outcomes after bushfire are still uncertain because the unpredictable nature of bushfires makes prospective (pre-planned), longitudinal (across-time) research on bushfires very challenging to conduct. Similarly, the effectiveness of measures to increase bushfire preparedness has never been tested.

To meet this need, we have launched the ISLAND Resilience Initiative. The initiative aims to build bushfire-related health literacy, resilience and bushfire preparedness among older Tasmanians. It is part of an unprecedented, ten year research study- the ISLAND Project- which involves 14,000+ participants aged 50+ years across Tasmania. By conducting the study across time throughout the state, we will be able to compare participants’ health before and after bushfire exposure and shed new light on health impacts of bushfire. We will also develop and make available a short course, Bushfires and Your Health, to build stress resilience, health literacy and bushfire preparedness. We will be able to determine whether completion of resilience-focussed education is associated with better outcomes after bushfire, providing evidence for the development and refinement of resilience educational initiatives in the future.


  • To identify biological, physiological and psychological determinants of health outcomes among older people across Tasmania after bushfire-related trauma and smoke exposure;
  • To build bushfire-related health literacy, resilience and bushfire preparedness in older Tasmanians in order to improve health outcomes following bushfires and smoke exposure.

Research Team:


Commonwealth Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Grants Program