Zoe D’Arcy – Australian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference

MoDDD Student Zoe D’Arcy was invited to present at the Australian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference held at the Opal Cove Resort, Coffs Harbour, from May 17-19 May.

Zoe presented a paper on her final Industry Project titled “Community engagement in the post-disaster landscape: An evaluation of the effectiveness of the Hotspots Fire Project in facilitating community-led disaster recovery and promoting community resilience in Carwoola NSW”.

Below is Zoe’s summation of her research and findings and her thoughts on how MoDDD aided her analysis.

Zoe fire conference
Presenting my Industry Project findings to the 2018 Australia Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference.

I’ve found the Industry Project component of MoDDD to be both the most challenging, and rewarding, part of the course. One of the most rewarding parts so far has been the opportunity to discuss my research with people at the 2018 Australian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness conference held at Coffs Harbour.

My Industry Project has been in partnership with NSW community program Hotspots Fire Project. I’ve been evaluating how useful Hotspots was in helping to facilitate the recovery process of a peri-urban community, Carwoola, from a major bushfire that occurred in 2017.

Hotspots Fire Project is run jointly by the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW. It teaches rural land owners how fire can be used as a land management technique to promote biodiversity, as well as to protect assets.

The work done with Carwoola residents was the first time Hotspots has run with a disaster-affected community, and the program managers were keen to find out if they had been successful in helping to build community resilience to future bushfires. I was really excited to be able to take this on, as it gave me an opportunity to explore some of the key concepts I’d learnt about in MoDDD, such as community-led recovery and resilience, and to see what they might look like in practice.

A map of Hotspots program participants against the fire footprint in Carwoola, NSW.

A key part of my analysis was trying to understand which residents of the Carwoola community were looking to the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Hotspots Fire Project for assistance and information, and why. By mapping out the program participants against the fire footprint, I could see that the majority of them lived on properties that had come close to the fire, but had not been burnt out by it. An online survey confirmed that most Hotspots workshop participants had been emotionally, rather than physically, affected by the bushfire.

— Zoe D’arcy