The gendered dimensions of bushfire in changing rural landscapes in Australia

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Community Safety
TitleThe gendered dimensions of bushfire in changing rural landscapes in Australia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsEriksen, C, Gill, N, Head, L
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Pagination332 - 342
Date Published10/2010
AbstractThis paper examines gender differences in awareness, preparedness and attitudes towards bushfire amongst landholders in rural landscapes affected by amenity-led in-migration in southeast Australia. It considers the potential of conceptualising bushfire not as a gender-neutral natural phenomenon but as an important means by which traditional gender roles and power relations within rural landscapes are maintained. Landholders were found to uphold conventional views of bushfire management as “men’s business” despite changing social circumstances. Consequently, key gender differences exist within landholders’ bushfire risk awareness, bushfire knowledge, the perceived need for bushfire preparedness measures, the willingness to perform certain tasks, and the belief in personal capacity to act. We argue that covert and less visible as well as overt gender roles and traditions are important factors in understanding landholders’ engagement with bushfire management. When gendered dimensions of bushfire are investigated in the context of hegemony, a paradox emerges between women choosing not to take control of their own bushfire safety and women being denied the opportunity to take control. The complex and contradictory actions and attitudes to bushfire that materialise through an analysis of gendered social experiences complicate attempts to create more gender-sensitive frameworks for bushfire management. The tenacious and embedded nature of gender role divisions within both public and private spheres was furthermore found to act as economic, social and political stumbling blocks for empowerment opportunities. Using a mixed-methods research approach, this paper maps out gendered dimensions of bushfire through landholders’ narratives and actions. The implications of these dimensions for bushfire management have direct relevance to recent international discussions of the vulnerability of the growing number of people living in bushfire-prone rural–urban interface areas.
Short TitleJournal of Rural Studies
Refereed DesignationRefereed