‘The trauma of the cyclone has changed us forever’: self-reliance, vulnerability and resilience among older Australians in cyclone-prone areas
Astill, S and Miller, E, The trauma of the cyclone has changed us forever': self-reliance, vulnerability and resilience among older Australians in cyclone-prone areas, Ageing and Society, 38, (2) pp. 403-429. ISSN 0144-686X (2016) [Refereed Article]
The combination of population ageing and climate change is creating a new threat for many Australian coastal hamlets vulnerable to the impact of tropical cyclones. Increasingly, elderly people are facing future tropical cyclones alone, without support from family and friends, relying instead on already stretched government and authority resources, despite Emergency Management Australia’s (EMA) policy expectation that all citizens must be self-reliant. This research explored the future self-reliance and disaster resilience of coastal hamlets through the lens of the Social Cognitive Theory by outlining the findings from focus groups, personal interviews and questionnaires involving participants aged over 65 years of age, residing in townships previously impacted by Cyclone Larry (in 2006) and Cyclone Yasi (in 2011). Participants recalled a lack of social support following the cyclones, a fear of evacuating their homes, as well as the trauma of recovering from such intense destruction. Respondents were also concerned about the physical, cognitive and financial impacts of ageing on their ability to prepare and recover from future cyclones, frightened that experiences from the past might be repeated in the future, contributing to feelings of isolation, frustration and the loss of community and a rethinking of ageing in the place of their choice. These considerations impact on the dependence EMA has that all citizens will remain self-reliant when faced with a natural hazard and should be considered when making future policy decisions in relation to more isolated coastal townships.