Fostering resilience: Empowering rural communities in the face of hardship
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.