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Shona Whitton

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: New South Wales Community > Public Grieving
Community > Memorials
Emergency Services > Disaster Management
To investigate methods of planning and managing disaster memorials - USA, UK, Norway, Germany

From 21 May to 25 July 2016, as part of my Churchill Fellowship I visited New York, Boston, Paris, Berlin, London and Oslo to explore the role of temporary and permanent memorials after disasters and terrorism.

As Anne Eyre has noted in her work, temporary memorialising after community crises is to be expected. Despite seeing this occur time and time again we do not consider the occurrence and evolution of temporary memorials in post disaster community recovery planning. This can have implications for community healing as well as the psychosocial wellbeing of those working to manage temporary memorials. Some key findings from Boston and Paris relating to temporary memorials include:

  • Temporary memorials will happen after collective grief events however there is little to no guidance for agencies and communities on how to manage this.
  • Preserving items left at temporary memorials is increasingly common, and in some cases expected by the affected community.
  • The people who end up doing the work of preserving temporary memorials are not involved or considered in any recovery planning.

For many communities affected by disaster and terrorism creating a lasting, permanent, tribute to who and what was lost or destroyed is integral to healing and reconstructing a changed way of life after the crisis. Permanent memorials need to be considered as part of the psychosocial healing process and not simply the building of a physical reminder of the crisis. Some key findings from New York, Berlin, London and Oslo relating to permanent memorials include:

  • Development of permanent memorials should be considered as a process not an end goal orientated project.
  • Community consultation about permanent memorials needs to be broad and transparent.
  • Being involved in the planning & development process for permanent memorials can be a healing experience for survivors and the bereaved.

Memorial planners must consider how to enable involvement of those affected at a time that is right for them. In Australia, we need to consider how to better engage communities in memorial planning and how to support community driven permanent memorial processes more effectively. We need to look at which are the most appropriate agencies to conduct the removal and preservation of temporary memorials. 

Australian Red Cross is well placed to incorporate the findings of this report into its existing post disaster community recovery programs. This will include advice to communities on the management of temporary memorials and community capacity building around the permanent memorial planning process.

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