ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Exploring paradoxes of native vegetation management in the context of bushfire in the 21st century in south east Australia (2013-2016)

Strategic Research Area

Woody Regrowth in Rural Landscapes



Investigators/ Researchers

Samantha Strong (PhD candidate) Supervisors Dr Catherine Allan (Principal) & Dr Rik Thwaites


CanberraThis project is exploring a range of paradoxes, or perverse ironies and contradictions, associated with complex native vegetation management issues following bushfires in Victoria, and the ACT.  As bushfire frequency and intensity increases this century, human communities and biodiversity continue to be impacted in regions that historically burn, despite considerable resources and research into the issues of vegetation and wildfire management within human communities. 

View of the 'bush capital' from Black Mountain, Canberra, ACT.

Conflict and divisive public attention create a number of policy-related paradoxes, particularly in relation to desires to 'control the uncontrollable', disconnects between research and policy, ecology and economics, as well as contradictory perceptions of risk between communities and agencies.

SculptureWhile significant research is conducted in risk management, fire ecology and emergency communications, this research provides an opportunity to unpack more nuanced public narratives around fire, woody vegetation and human landscapes.  Influences of narratives on policy development and implementation are being explored using qualitative, metaphor focused methods, within a paradox framework.  Two regional case studies are being developed: the 2003 Canberra and 2009 Victorian Central Highlands bushfires. Data include policies, interviews with land and emergency management staff and researchers, environmental histories and public art, as well as relevant mass media relating to these fires.

2009 Bushfire memorial sculpture, Marysville, Victoria. 

Thematic analysis of the cases is revealing how paradoxical framings and other  world views influence land and emergency management agency's efforts in policy implementation, particularly as an outcome of litigation. The diverse range of case study narratives contain powerful, mythological themes which contribute to the framing and construction of meaning in relation to management efforts and influences, particularly around risk management. 


The draft literature review for this project is complete.  Presentations have been made  at the Higher Research Degree Student Symposium in July 2013 and 2014 at CSU Wagga Wagga.

A poster was presented at the Friends of Grasslands Forum in Canberra, October 2014. 


Findings of this research concerning multi-layered and multi-disciplinary paradoxical issues aim to support regional communities and government agencies involved in land management.  The project will contribute to a greater awareness of the consequences linked to the paradoxical nature of contemporary vegetation management and policy, including the role that public narratives have in policy development and its implementation, particularly after major crises such as bushfires.  This has relevance for policy makers, managers and community members in their continuing efforts to  develop sustainable vegetation management and fire protection policies.

Samantha Strong
Charles Sturt University – Albury

February 2015