From the Fire into the Frying Pan

Reflections on Enhancing Resilience and Adaptive Capacity in Bush Fire Recovery


  • Louise Morley University of New England
  • Stuart Robertson


Bushfire, resilience, adaptive capacity community, community development


The repeated occurrence of natural disasters is impacting communities globally and these effects are expected to worsen as the global temperatures continue to rise. In Australia, communities on the East Coast are now bracing for another dry hot summer along with the accompanying threat of bushfire. In this context, many governments have promoted the idea of building resilient communities in order to try to mitigate the danger and threat to communities. The idea of enhancing resilience is both appealing and problematic: appealing, because it signifies the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity: problematic, because such a term can easily be exploited to support ideological beliefs about independence and self-sufficiency. This paper explores the notion of enhancing resilience in smaller rural communities, specifically in the context of recovery from the fires in 2019/2020. By adopting a case study approach, we argue first, that whilst the idea of resilience has value, it needs to be equalised by a robust understanding of the contextual factors that may increase vulnerability (Solangaarachchi Griffin & Doherty, 2012); with this in mind, we suggest that developing adaptive capacity is more fitting because of the way it draws our attention to the changes that are necessary for responding to the changes in climate. Second, we argue that if communities are to be assisted to adapt in order to survive the effects of climate change, this work will require an increased focus on community development in the medium and long-term stages of recovery, so that communities are assisted, supported and empowered to engage preparedness projects in the event of disasters occurring in the future.


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