‘This is about men being men, as they see themselves, as we see ourselves, in response to disasters. The implications are that in public we are strong and fearless and not affected, but the implications for many women is that when we come home, we don’t cope at all.’Tim Cartwright
At the heart of a gendered approach to emergency management is the understanding that social expectations placed on women and men can increase vulnerabilities for both in the aftermath of a disaster. Survival techniques and risk perceptions are often different for men and women, as are the ways each seek help in times of psychological distress. Pressure on men to conform to idealised notions of masculinity, particularly for those considered ‘heroes’ during the crisis, can inhibit recovery from the trauma.
After the Black Saturday bushfires, men, women and emergency and support workers spoke of men’s harmful behaviours to themselves and others resulting from their experiences on the day of the fires and in its long aftermath. Women spoke of increased domestic violence and of men’s reluctance to seek help. Both recalled the censure that followed disclosures of not coping. The result is post-disaster communities struggling not only with the every day stresses of relocation and reconstruction, but also with increased alcohol and drug abuse, greater prevalence of mental health problems, increased marriage/relationship breakdown, increased violence against women and children, heightened community violence, and higher rates of suicide.
WHGNE researchers in partnership with Monash Injury Research Institute (MIRI) spoke with 32 men who experienced the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires to inform future disaster planning.
The research on men’s experiences of health and wellbeing during and after Black Saturday evolved from concerns from women and workers about men’s coping, or not coping, after Black Saturday. There is a lack of information in this area globally and nationally, and current disaster risk management practices do not incorporate a specific focus on men in their work with disaster resilience.
Download Printed version: Vols. 1 and 2 or download each of the three volumes separately:
2013 Conference: ‘Just ask: Experiences of men after disaster’
Melbourne, 26 November 2013
Presented by Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE) and Monash University’s Injury Research Institute (MIRI), with funding from the National Disaster Resilience Grants Scheme (NDRGS).
This 2013 conference brought together representatives from the emergency management sector, the Federal, State and Local Governments, and other key organisations. The aim of the conference was to inform responses to men in future disasters, and is premised on the belief that if men can be helped in a more effective and timely way post-disaster, adverse consequences for themselves and the women and children around them will be reduced.
Australian Journal of Emergency Management (AJEM)
In April 2013 the AJEM featured a special edition on gender and emergency management (Vol. 28 No. 2). Three articles were of particular relevance to men and disaster:
Gendered communication and public safety: women, men and incident management
Dr Christine Owen, University of Tasmania, details research into the effects of gender on team communication and discusses ways to overcome the negative impacts.
Gender, masculinity and bushfire: Australia in an international context
Dr Meagan Tyler, Victoria University and Professor Peter Fairbrother, RMIT University offer some reasons as to why a gendered analysis of disaster and emergency management is important and how this applies specifically to bushfire.