Exploring experiences of LGBTI communities in Queensland natural disasters

16 October 2013

Professor Dale Dominey-Howes is conducting research on the social impact of natural disasters in Queensland.
Professor Dale Dominey-Howes is conducting research on the social impact of natural disasters in Queensland.

An investigation of how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Queenslanders are affected by natural disasters is being undertaken by the University of Sydney and University of Western Sydney.

They are investigating the impacts of Cyclone Yasi on residents of Far North Queensland and the 2011 floods on residents of Brisbane.

Research in other parts of the world has shown that LGBTI populations can experience significant discrimination during the impact and recovery phases of a disaster.

"We need to make sure the needs of LGBTI Australians are met by governments and other organisations. We really need Queenslanders who have been impacted by these disasters to tell us about their experiences to ensure they have a voice in the development of future policies," said Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes, from the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney.

A chief investigator on the project, Associate Professor Dominey-Howes regularly advises governments on the development of emergency management policies and procedures.
Dr Andrew Gorman-Murray, from the Urban Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney and the project's other chief investigator, said "We know that during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, for example, LGBTI people experienced significant levels of discrimination in emergency shelters."

Following Hurricane Katrina, both government and non-government agencies defined 'family' as an opposite sex couple and their biological children. Same-sex relationships weren't recognised as being a 'couple' or a 'family', meaning that many struggled to obtain support and some same-sex couples were separated and resettled in different cities.

"Similarly, in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, LGBTI people were subject to abuse and violence while trying to obtain basic support. This shows that the impacts of these disasters aren't necessarily 'natural', but are tied up with a range of social factors," said Dr Gorman-Murray.

If you identify as LGBTI, are over 18 years of age and were impacted by either the 2011 Brisbane floods or Cyclone Yasi, you can participate in this project by completing the online survey for either Brisbane or Yasi. Surveys take approximately 15 minutes to complete and are completely anonymous.

The researchers will also be conducting in-person interviews in Brisbane and Townsville in coming months. To enquire about participating in an interview, or for more information about the surveys, email

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