Living with Bushfire at the Wildland-Urban Interface: A Comparative Study of California and New South Wales

Presentation at Research Forum of the 2012 Bushfire CRC and AFAC Annual Conference.

In pursuit of lifestyle change, affordable property, and proximity to nature, people from all walks of life are moving to the wildland-urban interface. Tragic bushfires and a predicted increase in high fire danger weather with climate change have triggered concern for the safety of such amenity-led migrants in bushfire-prone landscapes. This paper summarises some of the key findings from a book on gender and wildfire that will be available from Routledge later this year. It examines bushfire awareness and preparedness amongst women, men, households, and communities at the interface between city and beyond. It is based on extensive qualitative (in situ interviews) and quantitative (postal/online surveys) research over the past five years in two regions where bushfires are common and disastrous: California and New South Wales. It follows women's and men's stories of surviving, fighting, evacuating, living and working with bushfire to reveal the intimate inner workings of bushfire response – and especially the culturally and historically distinct gender relations that underpin bushfire resilience. Bushfire is revealed as much more than a ‘natural' hazard – it is far from gender-neutral. Rather, bushfire is an important means through which traditional gender roles and power relations are maintained despite changing social circumstances. Women's and men's subjectivities are shaped by varying senses of inclusion, exclusion, engagement and disengagement with bushfire management. This leads to the reproduction of gender identities with clear ramifications for if, how and to what extent women and men prepare for bushfire at the wildland-urban interface.

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