The Human Face of a Crisis - Lessons from Beaconsfield

The Human Face of a Crisis

Lessons From Beaconsfield

Dr Robert Long


Dr Robert Long
Human Dymensions Pty Ltd
10 Jens Place
Kambah   ACT   2902

Mobile: 0424547115

ABN: 34 123 347 080

1.0   Introduction

The rockfall tragedy of 25 April 2006 at Beaconsfield captured intense Australian and international interest, with a focus on the recovery and rescue underground. Attention often concentrates on technical details: the recovery of Larry Knight; the traumatic experiences of Todd Russell and Brant Webb; engineering of the rescue; and the experiences of the rescuers. The Beaconsfield crisis presented many challenges and lessons for all involved, not just for those underground.

A great deal was learned for those above ground, inside and outside the mine fence including: how the crisis affected mine employees; mine families; volunteers; the Beaconsfield community; the media; political groups; experts and the Emergency Coordination Operations Group (ECOG).

This paper has a focus on lessons learned above ground with a particular focus on psychological and cultural aspects of the crisis.   The structure of the paper discusses the general nature of crisis on communities, the nature of ‘mindfulness’ as articulated by Prof. K. E. Weick, the uniqueness of the Beaconsfield crisis, the presence of ‘mindfulness’ in the Beaconsfield story and finally, lessons and strategies learned from the Beaconsfield event.

2.0   Crisis, Communities and Impact

Before exploring specific issues about Beaconsfield it may be helpful to review the nature of how a crisis affects a community.

A crisis is 'a testing time' or 'emergency event'.   A crisis incident involves a threat with the potential to seriously damage the status quo.   A crisis is also an emotional, psychosocial and physical disruption to normal day-to-day functioning. A crisis provokes moments of...