Understanding Communities

To increase community resilience to bushfires, people need a better understanding of how government policy and public perceptions interact. There is a need for a better understanding of how the expectations of service providers, communities and agencies agree or differ.

Using the urban community living in a forested environment at Thuringowa in Townsville as a case study, this project developed methods to enhance agreement and resolve differences that resulted from different expectations within bushfire-prone communities. They were then evaluated for their effectiveness in meeting the needs of communities and service providers for bushfire mitigation, response and recovery.

The project developed a better understanding of community perceptions and attitudes to bushfires and incorporated research from other hazard studies that can be successfully adapted to these communities. This was evident in the 2007 book Communities Living with Hazards, co-edited by project leader Dr Alison Cottrell at James Cook University, which included much of the work of this project. Regular bulletins kept research colleagues and agencies up to date with the progress of this project.

The project also helped agencies to profile their at risk communities –  Dr Cottrell produced a Know Your Patch, Grow Your Patch guide for this task. It worked on developing guidelines for working with disadvantaged communities including Indigenous communities in Cape York, and Sudanese communities in Townsville.

Related News

Fire agency workers can better understand their local communities’ perceptions, beliefs and needs with a handy guide – Know Your Patch to Grow Your Patch – produced by Bushfire CRC researcher Dr Alison Cottrell.
Australia is at the forefront of research on community bushfire safety and resilience according to a new book. Community Bushfire Safety brings together in one comprehensive volume the results of the most important community safety research being undertaken within the Australian Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. Using perspectives derived from social science, economics and law, Community Bushfire Safety supports the increasing emphasis on community self-reliance and the vital role it plays in bushfire management.
Bushfires are only one focus of a new book out of the Centre for Disaster Studies at James Cook University in Townsville.
Call it peri-urban, the rural-urban interface or the i-Zone, the spread of urban populations into the bushland fringe is creating new challenges for fire services.
A James Cook University study investigating Sudanese refugees and their knowledge of fire safety has won a Safer Communities Award from Emergency Management Australia (EMA). “The Sudanese Refugees and Fire Hazard Study”, a collaboration between Bushfire CRC researchers at JCU and the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, was conducted in Toowoomba, which is home to about 800 Sudanese refugees.

Publications from this Project

Book Chapter

Journal Article


S. Bushnell; A. Cottrell; M. Spillman; D. Lowe


Conference Proceedings

Conference Paper