A damaged house following the floods in Lismore, NSW

Addressing mental health impacts of flood-related displacement

24 May 2024
Informing ongoing disaster planning and recovery efforts in Australia and internationally.
A collaboration led by Sydney Environment Institute and the University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore is planning to investigate experiences of housing displacement in the Northern Rivers.

Climate change is one of the leading causes of displacement across the world. In 2022 alone, more than 19 million people were displaced by floods. Increases in frequency of climate related disasters are increasing risk of people experiencing housing displacement, including in Australia.

Floods in the Northern Rivers region of NSW in 2022 were demonstrative of this trend. Over 13,000 people used formal emergency accommodation, with many also drawing upon the informal support of family and friends.

Displacement related disruption of livelihoods, education, social support networks and health services can pose significant threats to mental health and wellbeing.

Researchers from SEI and University Centre for Rural Health, led by Professor Ross Bailie, submitted an Australian Research Council ‘Linkage’ grant in May 2024 with 16 partner organisations, 3 partner investigators and 16 academics from local, state, and national levels.

“Some of the work we’ve done in the past 2 years has been unprecedented,” said Uniting NSW Operations Manager North Coast,  Niki Gill.

“We’ve worked with people in emergency evacuation centres, emergency accommodation and temporary measures such as pod villages. There are lots of learnings we’re keen to capture and want to understand the extent and inequity of impacts.”

The proposal demonstrates the multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach required to address complex issues linked with climate change. Expertise of the team includes social scientists, health, adaptation and housing experts, as well as disaster recovery, social services, disability and Aboriginal organisations.

If successful, the proposed research will co-investigate the impacts and solutions for priority populations such as people living with a disability, older people and Aboriginal communities.

The research would capture learning from across numerous organisations and provide evidence to inform ongoing disaster planning and recovery efforts locally, in Australia and internationally.


Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre 2023, Global Report on Internal Displacement, Geneva, Switzerland.

Beggs, P et al. 2024, ‘The 2023 report of the MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: sustainability needed in Australia's health care sector’, Med J Aus, vol. 1, no.220

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