In pursuit of lifestyle change, affordable property, and proximity to nature, people from all walks of life are moving to the rural-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. Since early 2007 I have been studying perceptions of risk and levels of bushfire awareness and preparedness amongst women and men living and working with fire at the rural-urban interface in southeast Australia and the west coast of the United States. Many of the amazing stories people have shared with me as well as the lessons I have learnt over the past five years will be available in a book early next year (Gender and Wildfire at the Wildland-Urban Interface).
I presented a taster of my book as part of the Research Forum at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and Australasian Fire & Emergency Service Authorities Council in Perth last week (AFAC Knowledge Web). In addition to a reading from the opening pages, I discussed the culturally and historically distinct gender relations that underpin bushfire resilience. By comparing current-day intended actions (e.g. prepare, stay and defend, or leave early) with historical bushfire fatality trends in activities at time of death, I highlighted why a greater appreciation of gender roles and gendered norms within households as well as bushfire management agencies is crucial in our endeavours to co-exist with bushfire.
You can listen to a part of my discussion via this recorded conference-related interview with Melanie Tait on ABC Radio Illawarra.
Follow Christine on Twitter: @DrCEriksen