Return to 'a new normal': discourses of resilience to natural disasters in Australian newspapers 2006–2010

Leitch, Anne M., and Bohensky, Erin L. (2014) Return to 'a new normal': discourses of resilience to natural disasters in Australian newspapers 2006–2010. Global Environmental Change, 26. pp. 14-26.

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Resilience, as a concept that conceptualises response to change, is gaining currency in the public discourse. In Australia, the term 'resilience' is frequently used by the news media in connection with natural disasters. Media representation of resilience to natural disasters—as rapid onset events characterised by visible thresholds—provides an instructive lens through which to learn about resilience, and bring into focus, differences between academic and broader public perspectives on the concept. In this paper we analyse resilience discourses in Australian newspaper articles from 2006 to 2010. We consider the use of the term 'resilience' and three attributes of resilience that are important in determining how communities respond to disasters: structure and function, self-organisation, and learning and adaptation. Our results show that while the media discourse helps to illuminate what makes communities resilient to disasters, it also highlights how resilience can be undermined when: the term, used most often by actors at from outside the affected community, becomes an 'aspirational rhetorical device'; place attachment manifests as 'lock in' whereby individuals cannot easily leave a disaster-affected community; emphasis post disaster is on reinstating the status quo rather than encouraging transformation; and excessive or inequitably distributed external assistance to a community threatens self-efficacy and cohesion. Media discourse tends to lack reflection on learning beyond formal preparedness programs, but places value on sharing experience. Our analysis has theoretical and practical outcomes: theoretically, this analysis further enriches the descriptions of the three attributes as central concepts in resilience theory. Practically, this work highlights the difficulty in communicating about resilience to encourage constructive response to disasters, but also provides insight into making resilience theory more accessible and relevant to the disaster management community for Australia and globally.

Item ID: 32690
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-9495
Keywords: resilience; disaster; media; Australia
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2014 00:01
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200104 Media Studies @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950204 The Media @ 50%
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