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Volume 2002-2

The Australasian Journal of Disaster
and Trauma Studies
ISSN:  1174-4707
Volume : 2002-2

Douglas Paton, School of Psychology, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Phone +64 6 350-5799 Ext 2064   Fax +64 6 350-5673   Email: D.Paton@massey.ac.nz

Volume : 2002-2

Douglas Paton

School of Psychology,
Massey University, Palmerston North,
New Zealand


This edition of the Journal appears in the wake of the Bali bombing. On behalf of the Journal, I would like to take this opportunity to express our support for the survivors of this atrocity, and to extend our condolences to those who lost loved ones, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

The Bali bombing planted the spectre of terrorism firmly on Australian shores. The potential for growth in this extreme type of political violence has significant research and practice implications. In addition to researching the consequences of terrorism for direct and indirect survivors, the emergence of terrorism within the Australasian hazardscape has additional implications for risk management. In contrast to natural disasters and events of technological or human origin, terrorist hazards are characterised by considerably greater uncertainty and socio-political complexity.

These characteristics impose new demands on reduction and readiness activities within the emergency management process. Furthermore, the strategies and resources required for effective risk reduction must be conceptualised and utilised in ways that accommodate the unique parameters and contexts of terrorist hazards. For example, hazard analysis and risk assessment procedures must expand to accommodate the political, cultural, religious, psychological, sociological aspects of terrorist phenomena that readily transcend geographical boundaries. This represents a significant challenge for those researching trauma and disaster and for the emergency management agencies responsible for their management, and it is a task that can only tackled at a multi-disciplinary level.

Another act of politically motivated violence, the hostage taking action in Moscow, provided a further illustration of the unpredictability that is a characteristic of such events. This unpredictability makes it imperative that we build our understanding of the consequences of direct and indirect involvement in terrorist action. Armed with this knowledge, we will be better placed to develop interventions that can be delivered in a timely manner and that are capable of meeting the specific needs associated with exposure to different kinds of terrorist hazards. This edition of the journal includes two articles whose contents contribute to the attainment of this goal. One deals with the consequences of being held hostage for political ends and the other deals with the population displacement that can accompany political and other natural disasters.

Taylor, Nailatikau and Walkey present a description of the experience of politicians and their families following a political hostage crisis in Fiji. Psychometric analyses illustrate the psychological impact and incidence of posttraumatic stress in all groups. Their analyses signal the importance of including value and belief systems and perceptions of social justice in diagnostic and prognostic processes.

A common consequence of many natural disasters and political oppression in third world countries is population displacement and subsequent resettlement. McDowall draws upon sustainable livelihood research to develop a risk management model of impoverishment under such circumstances. McDowall’s model provides valuable insights into the manner in which resettlement and the development of sustainable livelihoods can be integrated within response and reconstruction planning.

Interestingly, Taylor et al. and McDowall both discuss the potential of exposure to the kinds of extreme adversity described in their respective articles to produce positive and negative consequences. These observations emphasise the importance of expanding research paradigms to ensure that the diversity of outcomes, and the factors that contribute to them, can be adequately identified. McDowall’s model also emphasises the importance of including time as a dimension in disaster planning.

Time is a key element in Lindorff’s account of the experiences of World War II veterans who fought in the Isurawa battle on the Kokoda Track in Papua in 1942. The accounts in this article reiterate the potential of exposure to extreme adversity to generate psychological consequences that are both severe and that persist well beyond the point when exposure to the hazard has terminated. Lindorff discusses how such outcomes are more a function of the manner in which the agencies and institutions charged with the responsibility of meeting the needs of those affected accept those needs and provide services accordingly than of the events per se.

Taylor et al. and McDowall also discuss the importance of institutional competence and commitment in mitigating disaster and traumatic stress. In so doing they signal the need for research to play more attention to the environmental context within which disaster and traumatic events are experienced and their consequences managed. At a time of greater uncertainty with regard to risk from natural, technological and terrorist hazards, these observations post a warning to, for example, emergency management, government and social welfare agencies, of the importance of including the development of a capability to meet the needs of survivors and communities within their disaster continuity planning.


Douglas Paton 2002. The author assigns to the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies at Massey University a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to Massey University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the author.

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