Fostering resilience: Empowering rural communities in the face of hardship

Darryl Maybery, Rod Pope, Gene Hodgins, Yvonne Hitchenor


Abstract

Australian rural communities are experiencing some of the worst climactic and economic conditions in decades. Unfortunately, the multiple government and non-government agency responses have reportedly been uncoordinated, sometimes losing sight of their consumers. This article describes a program designed to strengthen and empower resilience in small rural communities and summarises the outcomes, including needs and action planning undertaken. The 97 participants were from eight outer regional or remote towns and communities in the northern Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia. As groups representing their communities, they attended meetings and responded to a series of questions regarding issues arising from the drought, community needs, and actions their community could take to address these issues and needs. The study findings highlight the stress and strain of the climatic conditions and the insecurity of rural incomes, as well as problems with the high cost of transport. The communities recognised a degree of social disintegration but also expressed considerable hope that, by working together and better utilising social agencies, they could develop a social connectedness that would make their communities more resilient. Approaches that empower and facilitate community resilience are suggested as an effective model that governments and non-government agencies can use to encourage social groups that are struggling to build resilience.

Full Text

PDF

References

Aisbett, D, Boyd, C, Francis, K, Newnham, K & Newnham, K 2007, 'Understanding barriers to mental health service utilization for adolescents in rural Australia', Rural and Remote Health, vol. 7, no. 624.

Alston, M & Kent, J 2004, Social impacts of drought: A report to NSW Agriculture, Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Alston, M & Kent, J 2006, The impact of drought on secondary education access for rural and remote areas. A report for DEST, Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2004, Rural, regional and remote health: A guide to remoteness classifications, Rural Health Series no. 4, cat. no. PHE 53, AIHW, Canberra.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2007, Rural, regional and remote health: A study on mortality, 2nd edn, Rural Health Series no. 8, cat. no. PHE 95, AIHW, Canberra.

Catholic Welfare Australia 2006, Lessons from the field: Family relationship services in rural and remote Australia – challenges and good practice, discussion paper, Catholic Welfare Australia and the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra, viewed 23 October 2008, www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/families/pubs/rural_remote/ lessons_from_field-frs_rural_remote_aus/Pages/default.aspx.

Cohen, S & Wills, T 1985, 'Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis', Psychological Bulletin, vol. 98, pp. 310–57.

Country Matters 2008, Social atlas of rural & regional Australia, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, viewed 14 April 2010, http://adl.brs.gov.au/socialatlas/.

Dempsey, I & Keen, D 2008, 'A review of processes and outcomes in family-centered services for children with a disability', Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 42–52.

Drought Policy Review Expert Social Panel (DPRESP) 2008, It's about people: Changing perspectives on dryness. A report to government by an expert social panel, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, September.

Dunst, C, Trivette, C & Hamby, D 2007, 'Meta-analysis of family-centered helpgiving practices research', Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 370–78.

Fuller, A, McGraw, K & Goodyear, M 1999, 'Bungy jumping through life: What young people say promotes well-being and resilience', Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 159–68.

Grotberg, E 1995, A guide to promoting resilience in children: Strengthening the human spirit, Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Hague, Netherlands.

Landau, J 2007, 'Enhancing resilience: Families and communities as agents for change', Family Process, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 351–65.

Landau, J & Saul, J 2004, 'Facilitating family and community resilience in response to major disaster', in F Walsh & M McGoldrick (eds), Living beyond loss, Norton, New York.

Lincoln, Y & Guba, E 1985, Naturalistic inquiry, Sage, London.

Luthar, S 2006, 'Resilience in development: A synthesis of research across five decades', in D Cicchetti & DJ Cohen (eds), Developmental psychopathology: Risk, disorder, and adaptation, 2nd edn, vol. 3, Wiley, New York, pp. 740–95.

Luthar, S & Brown, P 2007, 'Maximizing resilience through diverse levels of inquiry: Prevailing paradigms, possibilities, and priorities for the future', Development and Psychopathology, vol. 19, pp. 931–55.

Maybery, D, Pope, R, Hodgins, G, Hitchenor, Y & Shepherd, A 2009, 'Resilience and wellbeing of small inland communities: Community assets as key determinants', Rural Society, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 326–39.

Mowbray, C, Woolley, M, Grogan-Kaylor, A, Gant, L, Gilster, M & Shanks, T 2007, 'Neighborhood research from a spatially oriented strengths perspective', Journal of Community Psychology, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 667–80.

Murray, G, Judd, F, Jackson, H, Fraser, C, Komiti, A, Hodgins, G, Pattison, P, Humprehys, J & Robins, G 2004, 'Rurality and mental health: The role of accessibility', Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 38, no. 8, pp. 629–34.

Productivity Commission, Australia 2008, Inquiry into government drought support: Issues paper, Productivity Commission, Canberra, viewed 11 November 2008, www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/81880/ government-drought-support-issues.pdf.

Resnick, M, Harris, L & Blum, R 1993, 'The impact of caring and connectedness on adolescent health and well-being', Journal of Paediatrics & Child Health, vol. 29, suppl. 1, s3–s9.

Rutter, M 1987, 'Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms', American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 316–31.

Scales, T & Streeter, C 2004, 'Asset building to sustain rural communities', in T Scales & C Streeter (eds), Rural social work: Building and sustaining community assets, Brooks/Cole/Thomson Learning, Belmont, CA.

Walsh, F 2007, 'Traumatic loss and major disasters: Strengthening family and community resilience', Family Process, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 207–27.

Werner, E & Smith, R 1982, Vulnerable, but invincible: A longitudinal study of resilient children & youth, McGraw-Hill, New York