Future challenges for older adults residing in ageing coastal hamlets on Queensland's cyclone-prone coastline

Astill, Sandra (2016) Future challenges for older adults residing in ageing coastal hamlets on Queensland's cyclone-prone coastline. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/qwa6-s877


The contemporary political shift towards self-reliant natural hazard disaster management assumes all citizens possess the resources necessary to mitigate the risks they face (Council of Australian Governments (COAG) 2011). Despite the expanding body of literature identifying the potential vulnerability of older adults during a natural hazard, few authors have questioned the neo-liberalist shift in natural hazard disaster management in relation to the impact of these policies on older adults. Moreover, there is limited knowledge in regard to how ageing coastal hamlets will prepare and recover from the impacts of climate-induced natural hazards in the future, particularly in the face of climate change predictions. This dissertation addresses this knowledge gap from the perspectives of 36 older adults aged 65 years or more, ten emergency services officers, seven in situ community health care providers and four local government disaster managers located in townships impacted by both Cyclone Larry (2006) and Cyclone Yasi (2011) in Far North Queensland, Australia. This research presents an insight into the issues facing both older adults, and those who are charged with caring for them on a day-to-day basis and during times of an emergency, by providing an in-depth understanding of the lived cyclone experience of older adults residing in more remote communities impacted by successive cyclones. As such, this dissertation focuses on the self-reliance expectations of national policies and of local government disaster managers, highlighting a contradiction between what is expected and what is achievable.

Past post-disaster policies and decisions have negatively impacted the region's fragile economy, resulting in an out-migration by those seeking employment and a consequential reduction in population statistics-reliant health and community services. Those who remained, many of whom were older adults, did so because of their lack of capacity to migrate, creating an over-representation of social disadvantage, raising questions as to the future adaptive capacity and resilience of these ageing, exposed remote communities.

Consequentially, increasing numbers of older adults are facing future tropical cyclones alone, without support from family and friends, relying instead on already stretched government resources, despite policy expectations that all citizens must be self-reliant. Conceptually, this dissertation explored the future adaptive capacities and disaster resilience of ageing coastal hamlets through the lens of Paton's (2003) Social Cognitive Theory, focusing on the influence of individual and collective efficacies on future selfreliance capabilities. By using Paton's (2003) model, the factors that motivate a person to prepare for the impact of a natural hazard, could be identified, thus outlining a simple, clear link between motivation and intention. Paton's (2003) model provided an understanding of the impacts of past political decisions on a community's normative beliefs and the consequential influence normative beliefs have on an individual's outcome expectancy, by focusing on the important role played by self-efficacy in relation to outcome expectancy.

Using a mixed-methods approach, with a focus on phenomenological qualitative analysis, this dissertation utilised a self-administered questionnaire, focus groups and face-to-face interviews to examine the cyclone experience of independent-living older adults residing in vulnerable coastal Far North Queensland locations. Results revealed that in order for independent-living older adults in remote communities to remain self-reliant, natural hazard management authorities need to develop policies that consider the needs, preferences and capacities of these people. In order to do so it is acknowledged that older people's voices need to be heard by engaging them in policy development. Disaster policy must recognise that self-reliance is not simply the ability to utilise individual and community strengths, it must also acknowledge the increasing dependence more fragile communities have on the provision of institutional resources. The findings of this research have significant implications for disaster policy in the future, particularly in light of climate change and population ageing predictions. This dissertation makes an important contribution to the field of emergency management and gerontological disaster research.

Item ID: 49405
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: ageing populations, coastal hamlets, cyclone-prone, cyclones, disaster policy, disaster management, elderly people, Far North Queensland, isolated, natural disasters, natural hazards, older people, remote, resilience, rural, safety measures, self-reliance, tropical cyclones, Tropics, vulnerable people
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For this thesis, Sandra Astill received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2018.

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 7: Astill, Sandra, and Miller, Evonne (2016) The trauma of the cyclone has changed us forever: self-reliance, vulnerability and resilience among older Australians in cyclone prone areas. Ageing and Society. pp. 1-27. (In Press)

Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2017 04:32
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160499 Human Geography not elsewhere classified @ 60%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160599 Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified @ 20%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1603 Demography > 160399 Demography not elsewhere classified @ 20%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940103 Ageing and Older People @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961002 Natural Hazards in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 50%
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