Children's knowledge of bushfire hazards

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Fire Note 89: Pioneering Bushfire CRC research is helping children learn about bushfires and other hazards as well as helping education, emergency service and other authorities enhance the effectiveness of bushfire education campaigns.

Before Bushfire CRC PhD scholar Briony Towers began talking to children as part of research into children’s knowledge of bushfire hazards, few if any researchers into disasters and hazards had asked what children knew about such matters.

Briony interviewed 131 children aged from five to 12 in high-risk locations in Victoria and Tasmania  Through the use of child-friendly qualitative research methods, such as group discussion, drawing, structured scenarios and puppet play, the children were able to articulate their knowledge of bushfire hazards and ways to mitigate or prevent them.

“The research challenges the notion that children lack the abilities to participate in bushfire hazard management,” says Briony.  “Rather, when provided with the opportunity to engage in fire-related discussions and activities that respect their perspectives and capacities, they are able to comprehend many of the concepts and processes that reduce bushfire risk. As such, children represent an important, albeit currently under-used, resource for the development of resilient households and communities.”

Briony’s work has been recognised as so outstanding that various authorities began drawing on it well before she presented her PhD thesis in late 2011.

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