Volume 21 Issue 4, 2006

Disaster memorials as government communication

Susan Nicholls

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


This paper discusses disaster memorials in terms of their capacity to foster dialogic communication between affected communities and government. Offering definitions of community and memorial in the context of disasters and disaster recovery, it argues that governments tread a risky path in acknowledging disaster by participating in disaster memorial creation, and that they have a triple motive in this participation: to respond appropriately to perceived community needs, to contribute to recovery, and to communicate their involvement in both the memorial process, and in the disaster itself, in a positive light. Extensive community consultation is seen as the strategy by which this can be achieved. The World Trade Center memorial site in New York, and the Port Arthur massacre memorial are used as examples of the great difficulty involved in the development of disaster memorials. The paper concludes with a detailed review of the Canberra Bushfire Memorial consultative processes which serves as a case study for a community consultation strategy in the successful development of a disaster memorial.