Views and Visions: Posts from our People

Oct
31

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Fiona presenting her research findings in Dunalley.
Fiona presenting her research findings in Dunalley.

Sharing PhD findings on community decision making

In September this year I presented my PhD research to approximately 170 people in two states of Australia - at the CRC's Research Forum as part of AFAC17 powered by INTERSCHUTZ in Sydney, followed by the Tasmanian Australian Association of Social Workers Green Social Work event at Campbell Town, and then to community members and other interested people at Copping and Dunalley in Tasmania. 

My research examined the psychosocial processes (decision making and actions) community members used in the 2013 Forcett Tasmania bushfire. The findings were presented to a wide range of stakeholders that included research participants, their family members, friends and other interested people involved in the Forcett fire. This also included emergency services, government and non-government representatives, social work practitioners and students, and experts in the disaster field. These presentations provided an opportunity to discuss my research and gain valuable feedback. 

Considering my research focused on a single bushfire, it was encouraging to hear that my findings resonated with people who had lived through other bushfires in Australia. Many people residing in the research setting claimed the findings resonated and validated their experience. For example, how people grappled with gravity of the event, the disparity of place and outside world, and the blurring of personal and professional roles in post disaster phase. Some residents also spoke about matters relating to the evacuation, resources, donations and bureaucracy. A defined point of interest to many residents was how the severity and impact of the Forcett bushfire was totally unexpected. The discussion that followed considered the upcoming fire season, with residents feeling that a level of complacency had stealthily returned, with one community member suggesting that ‘people have short term memories’.  

Overall, presenting my research findings to interdisciplinary audiences was extremely beneficial by providing clarity of the research usefulness and utilisation. For example, at the social work event in Campbell Town there was a discussion on the importance of social stability and its role in recovery, with social workers exploring creative ways of ways of working with community to re-establish routine and regularity.  

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC provided the financial support to attend the AFAC17 Sydney conference. The travel costs to Tasmania were part RMIT and self-funded, with my accommodation provided through the kindness of my Tasmanian friendships - thank you.    

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