‘Recovery capitals’ are resources that can be maintained, increased and drawn upon to support wellbeing.

In the ReCap project, there are seven recovery capitals – natural, social, financial, cultural, built, political, and human.

This concept can be used to support strengths-based, holistic and community-led approaches to recovery.

Read more about recovery capitals below.

The Recovery Capitals (ReCap) Framework

The Recovery Capitals Framework underpins the ReCap resources. We took the Community Capitals Framework1 as a starting point and applied this to disaster recovery, drawing on the practice expertise and knowledge of ReCap contributors. The result is a multidimensional framework intended to support strengths-based, holistic and inclusive approaches to recovery. You can read more about the Recovery Capitals Framework and the process of developing it in this peer reviewed paper.

ReCap uses an adapted version of the Community Capitals Framework which was originally outlined in the context of community development (1). It consists of seven capitals – natural, social, financial, cultural, built, political, and human.


Definitions of each of the seven recovery capitals have been developed based on the literature and consultation with project end-users, and abbreviated versions are provided in the Guide to Recovery Capitals (available online and in PDF).

The experiences of Indigenous people have largely been overlooked in the field of disaster recovery in Australia. We are grateful to Williamson, Weir, Cavanagh and Markham for their valuable insights on this issue(3,4)., which have been included in this guide.

Few resources exist to guide recovery workers and organisations in supporting Indigenous peoples affected by disasters. The ‘Recovery Capitals and Indigenous Peoples’ resource aims to provide a useful starting point.

A note on terminology

Much of the knowledge included in this resource regarding Indigenous peoples relates specifically to Aboriginal peoples, and in these cases the term ‘Aboriginal’ has been used when describing what we know. However, as this resource is intended to be applicable in all contexts within Australia, the term ‘Indigenous’ has been used when outlining what to consider, so as to be inclusive of Torres Strait Islander peoples.



Put simply, people and communities are recovered when they are leading a life they value living, even if it is different to life before the disaster event (as described in the AIDR Community Recovery Handbook). Within ReCap, this is understood as a complex, non-linear, multi-layered process that occurs as people and communities work to resolve the impacts of a disaster. Recovery is intertwined with disaster prevention, preparedness and response, and can provide an opportunity to improve upon pre-disaster circumstances and increase resilience.

The Recovery Capitals Framework draws from a socioecological model (5) to explore multiple levels and dimensions of recovery, and the interactions between them.

People, households, communities

In terms of people, each of the capitals can be conceptualised at an individual level, a family/household level, and a community level (with varying meanings of the term ‘community’ e.g. based on place, identity, interest or experience). This multilevel approach allowed us to explore the interplay between the recovery of people and communities.

We note that these distinctions between individuals and communities are based on a non-Indigenous perspective, and may not align with collectivist worldviews.

Place: Local, regional & macro scales 

In terms of systems and infrastructure, capitals can also be understood at multiple levels which intersect and interact with each other: local (neighbourhood or town), regional (city or state) and macro (national or global).

It is important to recognise that people impacted by disaster may live across a wide geographic area, and to consider those that may be left out of place-based approaches to community recovery.

Time: prevention, preparedness, response, recovery 

Capitals fluctuate and transform over time and have a dynamic influence on disaster recovery. Recovery is a lengthy process, and the experiences in the short-term aftermath of a disaster will not necessarily reflect the circumstances over the following years.

Looking at the complexities of time also allows for a nuanced approach to the ‘phases’ of disasters – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. ReCap treats these as interdependent and overlapping rather than discrete and linear. The focus of ReCap is recovery, but this is not at the exclusion of the other phases: for example, preparedness activities influence recovery, and recovery processes can affect preparedness for future disasters. In prolonged disasters, such as pandemics and long fire seasons, these lines are blurred even further with prevention, preparedness, response and recovery activities occurring simultaneously.


The ReCap project uses the concept of ‘recovery capitals’ to help understand the ways that many factors interact and influence recovery in diverse disaster contexts, and how resources can be drawn upon to support wellbeing.

Capitals are traditionally defined as resources that can be used to generate more or new resources. However it is important to define how these capitals may support recovery (2), because it is not always the case that ‘more is more’. The ReCap project sees the value of capitals as lying primarily in their usefulness for supporting wellbeing. Therefore, within the Recovery Capitals Framework, capitals are defined as resources that can be maintained, increased and drawn upon to support wellbeing.

Capitals are dynamic: they can increase, decrease and transform over time.

By paying attention to recovery capitals, each person or community can assess their existing strengths and resources, and identify priorities for enhancing their capitals to support their recovery based on what is important to them. This aligns with strengths-based and community-led approaches to resilience and recovery.


The Recovery Capitals Framework separates recovery into seven domains which, in this project, assists in the process of mapping evidence and producing useful outputs. However, of course, these aspects of life do not exist in isolation from each other, and the attempt to separate may be particularly incongruent with Indigenous worldviews.

ReCap emphasises the deep connections between the seven recovery capitals, and recognises that some things cannot be neatly categorised as part of one capital or another. Instead of being treated in separate silos, the capitals should be understood as interacting elements to be addressed together. Accordingly, this guide focuses on how the capitals all influence each other.

This artwork by Frances Belle Parker highlights the particular importance of this holistic understanding for Indigenous peoples. It shows the seven recovery capitals as deeply interrelated. The ‘Recovery Capitals and Indigenous Peoples’ page includes descriptions of each of the icons.

ReCap does not just focus on the amount of capital available within communities, but also on the distribution of capital within and between groups of people. This reflects a commitment to social justice and an understanding that disasters do not affect all people equally – instead, disaster impacts and recovery trajectories tend to reflect existing social inequities and often exacerbate them, particularly for people who are disadvantaged in multiple

ReCap recognises that differences in disaster vulnerability are created and perpetuated by systems of inequity within societies. By focusing on recovery capitals, ReCap emphasises the strengths that exist within each community despite these inequities and highlights how these can be drawn upon to support community recovery.

ReCap frames each recovery capital broadly, to account for the richness of experience and diversity amongst people and communities. Each type of capital will have different meanings and relationships to other forms of capital for different people, communities and contexts. As a collaboration across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand involving Māori, Aboriginal and non-Indigenous contributors, ReCap benefits from different perspectives based on cultural, environmental and societal contexts.

Each disaster is different. Hazard types and scales vary, as do the characteristics of the communities impacted. These contextual factors affect how the various forms of community capital manifest, interact and influence each other and recovery outcomes. The ReCap project aims to support recovery decision-making that is community-led and responsive to different hazards and local contexts.

ReCap Background Materials

Click through for reports, academic publications and other background materials from the ReCap project

ReCap Background Materials

ReCap Acknowledgements


ReCap was funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Academic and creative team

Contributing partners

The ReCap project has drawn upon relevant data and findings from the Beyond Bushfires study and related research conducted by the University of Melbourne, Australia; on Resilient Wellington and related research conducted by Massey University and QuakeCoRE partners, New Zealand; and other relevant disaster recovery research. The authors gratefully acknowledge the specific contributions of Prof Daniel Aldrich (Northeastern University, USA), Prof Louise Harms, Greg Ireton, Dr Karen Block and Robyn Molyneaux (University of Melbourne); Dr Melissa Parsons (University of New England, Australia), Prof Mehmet Ulubasoglu and Farah Beaini (Deakin University, Australia), Assoc Prof Mel Taylor (Macquarie University), Dr H. Colin Gallagher (Swinburne University); Prof Colin MacDougall (Flinders University); Prof Meaghan O’Donnell (Phoenix Australia), Bhiamie Williamson (Australian National University) and Martín García Cartagena (Massey University) and the conceptual contributions of all academic, end-user organisations and other stakeholder partners including:

  • Australian Red Cross
  • Leadbeater Group
  • Victoria State Emergency Service
  • Country Fire Authority
  • University of Melbourne Department of Social Work
  • Wellington Region Emergency Management Office
  • New Zealand Red Cross
  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand
  • Phoenix Australia
  • Social Recovery Reference Group
  • Australian Department of Home Affairs
  • Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia
  • Emergency Management Victoria
  • Resilient Melbourne
  • Creative Recovery Network
  • Regional Arts Victoria
  • Flourish Kia Puāwai
  • Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group
  • Maroondah City Council
  • Victorian Council of Social Service
  • Bushfire Recovery Victoria

ReCap is a collaboration across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work, and pay our respects to the cultures, Country and Elders past and present of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia. We also acknowledge Māori as tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand. The ReCap project has been deeply enhanced by contributions of Indigenous team members and partners across both countries. We recognise the continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community of Indigenous peoples and the role this plays in disaster recovery.



  1. Emery M, Fey S, Flora C. Using community capitals to develop assets for positive community change. CD Practice. 2006;13:1–19.
  2. García Cartagena M. Community resilience, capitals, and power relations: stories from the Waimakariri District about the aftermath of the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes in New Zealand: a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Resource and Environmental Planning. Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand; 2019.
  3. Williamson B, Weir J, Cavanagh V. Strength from perpetual grief: how Aboriginal people experience the bushfire crisis. The Conversation. 2020;
  4. Williamson B, Markham F, Weir J. Aboriginal peoples and the response to the 2019–2020 bushfires, Working Paper No. 134/2020. Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra; 2020.
  5. Bronfenbrenner U. The ecology of developmental processes. In: Damon W, Lerner RM, editors. Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol 1: Theoretical Models of Human Development. New York: Wiley; 1998. p. 993–1028.

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Please contact Phoebe Quinn with any comments or enquiries: (03) 8344 3097, phoebeq@unimelb.edu.au or info-beyondbushfires@unimelb.edu.au.

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