How do rural communities cope with drought? Exploring the role of festivals and events

Festivals and events are frequently staged to reinvigorate community and stimulate economic development – especially in rural and remote places suffering from general decline. In such circumstances festivals and events contribute far more beyond their singular purpose as an agricultural show or a music concert, promoting regional development and community cohesion. Over the past few years researchers here at AUSCCER have been documenting these sorts of contributions, on a large project funded by the Australian Research Council. A free, downloadable summary report of our project’s findings is available here.

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A selfie taken in June this year, at the Gulgong Races, NSW

As we continue to sift through our findings, we have also realised how important festivals and events are to rural communities suffering from conditions of extreme environmental stress.

When we conducted a major survey interview of festival managers across rural areas of New South Wales and Victoria in 2007-2008, it was the peak of the infamous Millennium Drought, during which repeated bush fires raged, harvests failed and many agricultural communities were hit hard, economically and psychologically.

We included questions in our survey on how the drought had affected the staging and viability of festivals and events, and whether drought had catalysed new kinds of community responses.

At the moment I am analysing answers to these questions and bringing these results together in a new paper.

The point is to show the important psychological, emotional and community-building role of events in society, beyond their immediate economic significance, and to demonstrate how, through staging festivals, rural communities display perseverance and adaptability in the face of extreme climatic conditions.

Were you involved in organising a festival or event in rural Australia during the drought years?

Did you attend a particularly memorable festival or event in rural Australia?

Do you live in a rural community that has benefited from festivals and events during tough times – whether in the Millennium Drought or in the present day?

I’d love to hear your story.

You can post a comment in the space below, or contact me by email on cgibson@uow.edu.au, or on twitter @profcgibson.

Exploring climate change in culturally diverse Australian households

Australian residents, from a range of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, are being sought to help researchers at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research answer the following questions:

How do Australians feel about climate change?
How might climate change affect Australian households?
How might Australians’ everyday lives change due to climate change?
Are Australians prepared to cope with these changes?
Are some households better prepared to cope than others? Continue reading

Oceanic matters: Call for papers, AAG 2015

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015

Session organisers: Catherine Phillips (University of Queensland) c.phillips2@uq.edu.au; Leah Gibbs (University of Wollongong) leah@uow.edu.au

This session aims to advance oceanic geographies that push in directions less ‘landlocked’ (Steinberg 2001; Anderson and Peters 2014) and more lively (Lambert et al. 2006) to examine the materiality and politics of oceans. Despite the flourishing in recent years of ‘more-than-human’ and material approaches, oceans and associated creatures have only recently come to the fore in a selection of analyses (see Bear and Eden 2008; Probyn 2011). Likewise, ocean geographies have largely neglected the materiality of the sea. This inattention to human-ocean relations and ocean materiality is puzzling given that oceans are central to so many pressing debates, including biodiversity protection, food security, climate change, water pollution and scarcity, and invasive species control. Such ocean crises highlight questions about cultures of living with/in marine environs, and processes of governance. Continue reading

Geoscientists: saints or sinners?

Professor Noel Castree has recently published in Nature Climate Change, a monthly journal dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the science of climate change, its impacts and wider implications for the economy, society and policy.

The paper argues that geoscientists must forge new alliances with social scientists and humanists to bring the climate change debate to the next level and allow society to better respond to global environmental change. Continue reading

Exploring the everyday experiences of inter-ethnic couples in Australia

New research from the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) has found that Darwin and Sydney have higher proportions of inter-ethnic couples than any other Australian city. These couples are those in which the two partners involved have different ethnic backgrounds. Continue reading

Pregnancy, motherhood and firefighting

“When I decided to make this profession my career I cried because at that point in time [early 1980s] every woman who got pregnant or got married left the profession. Then I had to deal personally with accepting that I also was gay. That was a whole other crying moment because it’s like, okay, I chose a profession over what society says you’ve got to have—family.” Continue reading

Crossing boundaries

By Chantel Carr

On August 8 I was honoured to be invited to give a keynote presentation to the Country division of the Australian Institute of Architects in Bowral. The theme of the symposium was Making Do in the Regions. The curators of the event were Illawarra design firm Takt Studio for Architecture, who described ‘making do’ as an attitude. They wanted to unpack scenarios where ‘not enough’ could be transformed into a positive guiding strategy for bringing creativity together with everyday or mundane materials, to produce richer outcomes in the built environment. The allotted hour was absolutely daunting and well outside my comfort zone. But it turned out to be a great opportunity to construct what is starting to look like a distinct path through the various research projects I’m involved with at AUSCCER. Continue reading

Unmasking gender privileges: the flipside of inequity

At first thought, many men (and some women) express a belief that gender inequality is an issue of the past that has been overcome by a generational shift within the emergency services. Upon greater reflection this notion usually turns out to be more complex than initially proclaimed. Continue reading

Eyes wide shut: bushfire, gendered norms and everyday life

“Pop-psychology”—this is the term used to define the obsession in public discourse and media with labelling of gender differences as if these differences are biologically set-in-stone. Western society’s captivation by such dichotomy-based definitions has problematic outcomes when, for example, in leadership debates men and women are portrayed as being incapable of getting along because their ways of communicating are too different.

I was witness to this very scenario at a Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference hosted by the NSW Rural Fire Service for 400-odd staff and volunteers in 2011. Continue reading

Why gender matters in emergency management

Gender is a matter of social relations—i.e. social structures with enduring or widespread patterns, rather than an expression of dichotomous biology. Social characteristics, such as gender, cannot be understood in isolation of other social characteristics, such as class, education, disability, age, race and sexuality. As argued by Connell (2010, 6):

‘People construct themselves as masculine or feminine. We claim a place in the gender order – or respond to the place we have been given – by the way we conduct ourselves in everyday life.’

Why is this important in the context of emergency management? It matters for three key reasons. Continue reading