University Of Tasmania
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Children's knowledge of vulnerability and resilience to bushfires

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:19 authored by Towers, BC
Following the Black Saturday bushfire disaster in 2009, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission strongly recommended that bushfire education be incorporated in the national school curriculum. This recommendation, and its adoption by state governments around Australia, represents a unique opportunity to address the long neglected area of bushfire education for children. However, an extensive literature argues that the success of any hazards education program depends on the degree to which it accommodates the existing knowledge and perspectives of the learner. Yet, to date, there has been no research on children's knowledge of bushfire hazards and disasters or the actions that can be taken to mitigate or prevent their impacts. To address this research gap, this thesis presents a detailed analysis and theoretical rendering of children's knowledge of bushfire hazards in south-eastern Australia, as studied from children's own perspectives. A constructivist grounded theory methodology and childcentred qualitative research techniques, such as focus groups, drawing and puppet play, were employed to examine children's knowledge of the conditions and processes that cause bushfire hazards and disasters and the conditions and processes that mitigate or prevent them. The role of environmental and socio-cultural context in the development of children's hazards knowledge was also examined in-depth. The analyses of children's knowledge and perspectives culminated in the development of a substantive grounded theory titled Seeking Adaptation. The theory is comprised of three major components: the problem of perceiving vulnerability; the process of building resilience; and a set of contextual and modifying conditions which include direct experience with fire, the school, the family, and the research process itself. The theory of Seeking Adaptation identifies children as active participants in bushfire management who have the potential to make substantial contributions to household and community resilience. However, capitalising on this potential will require education programs that accommodate their perspectives and provide ample opportunities for genuine and purposeful engagement with the physical and social world.


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Copyright 2012 the author

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