Student researcher

Greg Ireton Research Leader

Our recent research on the longitudinal impact of bushfires on the academic achievement of school children (Gibbs et al., 2019) identified that children attending schools in affected areas showed slower development in numeracy and literacy ability than those in non-affected schools over the 2-4 years after the fires. This was an important finding, as very little is known about the longitudinal impacts. 

Through the data collection for the previous Beyond Bushfires research study, there were repeated observations that the bushfire impact on children entering primary schools in affected areas was clearly evident in the immediate aftermath and subsequent years. This manifested as issues with toileting as well as language, behavioural and developmental issues. However, there is very limited evidence in Australia or internationally to support these observations. Conducting research in the unpredictable and chaotic context of disaster environments is difficult, but major datasets exist that provide an important opportunity to conduct high-quality research to address this evidence gap.

The research will enable us to better understand:

  • the behavioural and developmental challenges of children in the years following a disaster;
  • how long these challenges are apparent; and
  • the supports and resources necessary to better enable early interventions to reduce long-term impacts on the children.

A key component of the research underlying the PhD will be appropriate knowledge translation to make the findings and outcomes valuable for government, disaster recovery service providers, schools and teachers.