Components of Resilience of an Australian Rural Community

The components of resilience – perceptions of an Australian rural community Prof. Helen Ross, Elizabeth Buikstra, Peter Baker, Dr Christine King, Kathryn Mclachlan, Cath Rogers-Clark, Desley Hegney In the article “The Components of Resilience – Perceptions of an Australian Rural Community” reports the results of a study into community and individual resilience in rural Australians. The purpose of the study was to develop, implement and evaluate a model that brings increased psychological wellness in rural people and communities.

The study used an essential participatory methodology to work in partnership with key individuals and groups in a rural community in Queensland which was identified by its community representatives as having confronted and responded positively to and dealt with adversities such as drought, hailstorms and bushfire. A focus in the project was to identify vulnerable as well as resilient elements in individuals and the community, with an emphasis on identifying and then using existing individual, group and community resilience as standards for those who are less resilient.

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The study recognized that not all members of the community were resilient; clearly there are more and less resilient groups within this community. Additionally, it was acknowledged that resilience was not a steady state within an individual. Rather, an individual’s level of resilience could vary over their lifetime. A participatory action research design was chosen for this study which aimed to identify individual and community resilience factors in a community. The study is being undertaken in three phases.

In phase 1 the exploratory stage of the study was designed to explore key informant’s conceptions of resilience, as both an individual and a community characteristic. Phase 2 reported, used a convergent interviewing strategy with six groups with the community to identify and explore the components of community and individual resilience in detail; thus, capturing the community’s knowledge about resilience, as an evidence base for the future resilience-building initiatives.

Phase 3 involved the design, trailing, and evaluation by community members of the resilience toolkit based on resilience concepts identified in phase 2. Individuals identified by a network of community service providers as being particularly resilient The article continues to report on the factors identified that impact on the individual resilience of rural people. Analysis of the qualitative data surrounding individual resilience revealed several themes: images of resilience; characteristics of resilient people and environmental influences that increase personal resilience.

The break down added up to eleven major concepts identified: social networks, and support, positive outlook, learning, early experience, environment and lifestyle, infrastructure and support services, sense of purpose, diverse and innovative economy, embracing differences, beliefs, and leadership The findings of this study support existing theoretical concepts of resilience, with an added dimension not previously reported.

The major finding of this study is that connection to the land, which is strongly embedded in the literature on Indigenous peoples and acknowledged as part of Indigenous culture and cosmology, may also be a factor that enhances the resilience of non-Indigenous people who have built up a relationship with the land over time. The extent of this connection and its impact on individual and community resilience was, however, not established in this study, but should also be a major focus of future research.

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