In this paper we examine the nature of loss in the context of environmental disasters. When the places people call home are irrevocably changed by disasters, people experience a profound sense of loss—loss that includes both tangible and intangible elements. Tangible aspects of
loss include the loss of homes and infrastructure. Intangible losses are less evident but are associated with a loss of identity, of social cohesion, of belonging and community, and of health and wellbeing that are so integrally linked to one’s place. Social work academics across the
world are developing environmental and ecological theories for practice that signal the need for social workers to be more engaged with the physical environment and the significance of place. Drawing on research conducted following the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, we highlight the
nature of loss in the context of damaged “places”.
Social workers and others involved in disaster recovery need to be aware of both tangible and intangible losses and their impact on post-traumatic stress
In the immediate postdisaster period, tangible losses such as homes and infrastructure are often the focus of disaster recovery efforts.
Intangible losses of identity, community, and a sense of
place and belonging may be of equal or greater significance than tangible losses for those affected by disasters.
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Social Work Practice
Document Type: Research Article
Department of Social Work, and the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit, Monash University Caulfield, Caulfield East, Victoria, Australia
School of Social Work and Human Services, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
Publication date: October 2, 2018