‘Cyclones are fun’: Negotiations of Risk and Insurance in Far North Queensland

Dr Nick Osbaldiston1

1James Cook University, Cairns, Australia


Understanding how people interpret their vulnerability to risks is imperative to unpacking how they negotiate insurance. In Far North Queensland, residents have experienced dramatic rises in insurance costs in recent time prompting state and federal investigations into pricing and subsequent take up of this risk mitigation strategy. In this paper, research conducted in 2017 will be analysed on residents of the coastal community of Cairns. While it is clear from quantitative data that one of the reasons people do not take up insurance at all is cost, other reasons also add weight to this decision. These include self-efficacy and the perception of risks that individuals believe they face. Using cultural sociological tools, this paper argues that the institution of insurance is narrated as inherently corrupt. Distrust with insurers in particular leads many to avoid insurance and find ways to self-insure. One strategy employed is to consciously reduce risks through reflecting on what potentially could happen and the likelihood of such events. This paper argues that these individual and cultural forms of risk/danger reflexivity permeate local communities often producing small myths that reduce feelings of vulnerability.


Nick Osbaldiston is a senior lecturer in sociology at James Cook University. His research interests include internal and international lifestyle migration, environmental risks in coastal places and cultural sociologies of risk. He has recently published a book titled ‘Towards a sociology of coast’ (Palgrave, 2018).


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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