News from the CRC


House, home, place - a visual mapping tool
House, home, place - a visual mapping tool
Release date
07 Oct 2015

House, home and place - a visual mapping tool

The following provides details on an AFAC research utilisation tool kit, developed with Bushfire CRC research.

What does it take for people to plan and prepare for bushfire or natural hazards? According to research the answer for many can depend on how they feel about their home.

To some, a house is a place where you live, but for many a home means living within a wider landscape; a place full of important emotional, social, physical and environmental connections. These connections, says University of Melbourne researcher Dr Ruth Beilin, influence how people think about managing their assets. Being home during a fire is therefore about protecting values greater than the house.

Understanding the values and priorities that people place on their home and how they think about managing their assets are the focus of a new practical tool kit published by AFAC as an online brochure.

House, home and place … a visual mapping tool is essentially a mud mapping method and interview technique, delivered in a workshop format, which can be used to understand community values and priorities for preparedness and recovery to support or enhance community safety, engagement and development programs. You can access the tool kit for free on the AFAC website.

This method can be used to build trust and interaction within at-risk communities, capture insights for fire and land management practice, engage at risk and hard to reach communities, identify obstacles to mitigation and support community and individual decision making on preparedness and recovery.

Published by AFAC as a research utilisation initiative, the tool is based on the research of Dr Ruth Beilin for the former Bushfire CRC. It has been developed with input from lead end user Mike Wouters of Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources, SA.

In her work for the Bushfire CRC’s Social Construct of Fuels in the Interface research project, Dr Beilin found that fire and land managers could benefit from understanding community values and priorities in targeting and tailoring their community safety and engagement efforts.

The tool, based on the actual social cognitive mapping method which she used in her own research, can be used by anyone seeking to engage and support communities in risk management, community safety, planning and recovery. The idea is that by considering personal as well community values and priorities you can explore mutually beneficial and sustainable outcomes.

Dr Beilin says the benefit of using visual mapping is that it enables people to speak freely and openly about their deeply held values and beliefs, giving more richness and depth to insights than traditional interview style techniques.

“If you are an interviewer watching them draw a map they never leave their own space. They are always interacting with what they are drawing because they are using that as a prompt, not you,” says Dr Beilin.

More than 800 users have already viewed the tool, spending an average of 16 minutes exploring the contents. Contents include video case studies, a how to guide and sample templates.

If you have used the tool and are interested in sharing your story or feedback, please contact

Access the House, home and place … a visual mapping tool  at

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