Australians to be studied in Ash Wednesday follow-up

Monday, 12 May 2003

More than 1500 Australians who were children during the Ash Wednesday bushfires 20 years ago will be re-examined by researchers from the University of Adelaide as part of a world-first study into the impact of traumatic events.

The research team, from the University's Department of Psychiatry, aims to find out if the childhood trauma of Ash Wednesday continues to affect people's health and well being in adulthood.

The study is a 20-year follow-up to research conducted after the Ash Wednesday bushfires, which was among the first of its kind in Australia looking at the traumatic impact of natural disasters.

The new study will re-examine 809 adults who were exposed to the bushfires, and compare them to a control population of 735 adults who did not experience the bushfires.

"This is the world's first study to do a long-term follow up of children who were exposed to a natural disaster by comparing them to a control population who were not exposed," says Research Officer Miranda Van Hooff.

"It is also one of the largest studies in Australia to examine the effects of a natural disaster and other childhood traumatic events on a rural population," she says.

"The results will enhance our understanding of the psychological needs of people, especially children, recovering from accidents and other traumatic events, with the aim to devise better methods of treating associated problems.

"We hope to recontact all 1544 people involved in the original study even if they feel they were not affected by the bushfire," Ms Van Hooff says.

The original study involved children who attended one of eight rural primary schools in South Australia's south-east: Kangaroo Inn Area School, Kalangadoo Primary School, Tarpeena Primary, Nangwarry Primary, Mt Burr Primary, Penola Primary and Naracoorte and Naracoorte South Primary.

"We are very keen to speak to anyone who attended one of these primary schools in the years 1983-1985," Ms Van Hooff says. While many of these people may still be living in or near the areas where they grew up, many others will have moved within South Australia or interstate, she says.

They are urged to call the research team on (08) 8222 6907 (work hours) or 0421 616 351 (after hours).


Contact Details

Dr Miranda Van Hooff
Research Manager, Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
School of Population Health
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5356
Mobile: 0412 189 624