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Trial by Fire: natural hazards, mixed-methods and cultural research

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This paper considers the issues of research 'relevance' and 'use' to reflect upon a cultural geography research project on bushfire that did not begin with any specific aim of being useful to policy makers but which has garnered considerable and ongoing interest from a broad audience. It provides an example of how the integration of quantitative and qualitative research methods and data can enhance research into cultural aspects of natural hazards whilst simultaneously playing a key role in ensuring that the research results are of interest to a wide range of groups. Using a mixed-methods research approach was found to provide insight into complex factors that influence attitudes and actions towards bushfire amongst diverse landholders in rural-urban interface areas in south-east Australia. We argue that mixed-methods research is a powerful tool in building and enhancing a cultural geography that has policy relevance, retains analytical depth, and is acceptable to risk managers. The ability of cultural geography through mixed-methods research to illuminate how socio-cultural processes are central to environmental attitudes and preparedness behaviour has direct relevance to recent international discussions of how to manage the vulnerability of the growing number of people living in bushfire-prone rural-urban interface areas.
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Keywords: Australia; applied research; bushfire; cultural geography; mixed-methods research; natural hazards; policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Australian Centre of Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong, 2: Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfire, University of Wollongong,

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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