Shared responsibility and community engagement: Community narratives of bushfire risk information in Victoria, Australia
Cooper, V and Fairbrother, P and Elliott, G and Walker, M and Ch'ng, H-Y, Shared responsibility and community engagement: Community narratives of bushfire risk information in Victoria, Australia, Journal of Rural Studies, 80 pp. 259-272. ISSN 0743-0167 (2020) [Refereed Article]
Bushfires (wildfires) present an increasing threat to rural Australia. Effective messaging about planning and preparing for bushfires is essential, as is the provision of accurate and timely information to residents when they come under bushfire threat. We argue that an understanding of the ways in which collective narratives about disaster events are developed at a locality level is required, and that these narratives are influenced by features of locality, community and rural life which act as filters that enable residents to shape their perceptions of bushfire risk and views on what constitutes 'good information'. This process eventually drives their choice of bushfire information sources and communication pathways. The outcome is a preference for local sources of information and a level of mistrust of information provided by centrally orchestrated bushfire information sources. This conclusion raises challenging questions about the idea of shared responsibility in relation to disaster events between agencies and communities. We propose that bushfire safety initiatives must be tailored to take into consideration locality and community features. Of note, these processes are likely to be ineffective unless they are also tailored in relation to the narratives and understandings of these communities within the localities that define specific populations confronted by the prospect of bushfire events. We present three case studies of contrasting rural towns in Australia to identify how locality and community features inform resident perceptions of bushfire risk and preferences for bushfire information.
bushfire/wildfire, community engagement, risk communication, rural self-reliance, shared responsibility