Community Wellbeing

This research stream is conducted by Federation University Australia in collaboration with researchers from the Monash School of Rural Health, University of Newcastle and the James Cook University.

Who we are                                                     

Dr Susan Yell (Federation University) (Stream Lead)
Dr Larissa Walker (Federation University)
Assoc Prof Michelle Duffy (University of Newcastle)
Dr Matthew Carroll (Monash Rural Health)
Prof Damian Morgan (James Cook University)

What is community wellbeing?                     

Community wellbeing is a concept that describes the way a community functions, sees itself and talks about itself. It is influenced by multiple things such as: access to education, affordable housing, employment, health services and social opportunities, the look and feel of a place, and whether you know and trust people in the community.

What we do                                                      

We research various aspects of community wellbeing in the Latrobe Valley. Our initial focus has been on the impact of the Hazelwood mine fire on community wellbeing.

The following video clip is an excerpt from the 2022 Community Briefing presented to the public.

In Phase 1 of the study (2015-2019), we researched the community perceptions of the fire and smoke event’s impact on community wellbeing, the effectiveness of community rebuilding activities and the elements needed for effective communication during and after an event such as the mine fire.

More recently, in Phase 2 of the study (2020-2024) we continue to look at recovery from the mine fire, but have expanded our focus to look at how events and initiatives since the mine fire have impacted on the Latrobe Valley’s sense of wellbeing.

As part of this work, we are collaborating with researchers from other Hazelwood Health Study research streams. One of the first outcomes of the study was a review of the impacts on older people. This work adopted a similar approach to ours, and identified similar concerns within the community. Because of this commonality, the Older People and Community Wellbeing streams agreed to merge, and we will ensure that our future work with the community includes a focus on older people.

In addition, we recognise that the wellbeing of a community is due, in part, to the wellbeing of the individuals that make up that community. We are working with the Psychological Impacts stream of the study to explore these connections.


Our research aims in Phase 1 (2015-2019) were to investigate community perceptions on:

  • the impact of the smoke event on community wellbeing;
  • effective communication during and after the smoke event; and
  • the effectiveness of community rebuilding activities.

Our current research aims in Phase 2 (2020-2024) are to:

  • Continue to assess perceptions of the community’s wellbeing and recovery after the mine fire, taking into account subsequent events and initiatives;
  • Develop a community wellbeing barometer to identify factors indicative of community wellbeing relevant to this community at a particular point in time;
  • Examine the relationship between individual wellbeing and community wellbeing (in conjunction with the Psychological Impacts Stream).

Planned activities                                     

  • Conduct another round of interviews in 2023 (following on from those conducted in 2020-2021) to see how community wellbeing is changing.
  • Continue designing and testing the community wellbeing barometer, before sharing it as a tool for use by other organisations.
  • Continue to focus on older people and to consider age in the analyses being undertaken by other streams.

Study Findings                                                    

  • Social media plugged the communication gap during the Hazelwood mine fire, and was used by the community to have a voice.
    Read a short summary and watch a video report on this finding here.
  • Impacts of the Hazelwood mine fire on the community included a loss of trust in authorities.
    Read a plain language Research Summary here.
  • Problems with official communication played a major part in the community’s distress.
    Read a plain language Research Summary here.
  • Recovery for the community should include the development of a long-term vision and effective planning for future similar events.
    Read a plain language Research Summary here.
  • Policy review of the impacts of the Hazelwood mine fire on older people.
    Read a plain language Research Summary here.

Events and activities                                         

Photographic exhibition ‘Our hopes for the future of Morwell’

See a slideshow of the photos here.

In 2016 we started working with community organisations on a project to foster community recovery and wellbeing. The project investigated what people like about living in Morwell, what needs to change and their hopes for the future of the Morwell community and the town.

In 2017, in collaboration with Morwell Neighbourhood House and Gippsland Centre for Art and Design (Federation University), we invited community organisations to be part of a photographic exhibition: ‘Our hopes for the future of Morwell’. 
See a link to a news story about this here. This story featured on Nine News Gippsland and WIN News Gippsland on Friday, 18 August.

The ‘Our hopes for the future of Morwell’ photographic exhibition was officially launched at Switchback Gallery, Churchill on Monday, 13 November.  
See a news story about this event here. This story featured on Nine News Gippsland and WIN News Gippsland on Monday, 13 November.

The exhibition travelled to the Victorian State Parliament and was exhibited there in May 2018. For more information and images, click this link. From October to December the photographs were on show at Mid-Valley Shopping Centre in Morwell. In August 2019 the exhibition was shown at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

Our Partners

Acknowledgement to Country

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders and Traditional Owners of the land where our Study teams are based, particularly the Gunaikurnai peoples of Gippsland.