Of two different worlds: Bushfire, rurality, and risk perceptions in peri-urban Melbourne

Travis Young

Penn State University

 

As Australian cities increase in population and area, the contrast between urban and rural is diminishing. This growth has led to changes in the demographic and socioeconomic structure of the suburbs and small towns on the urban periphery as it pushes new populations to unfamiliar landscapes with new environmental considerations. These residential experiences contrast starkly in the bushfire prone areas of Greater Melbourne.  Drawing from in-depth interviews with homeowners, exploratory mapping, and textual analysis of official planning documents, we examine the roles that local knowledge and place identity play in house and contents insurance decision-making, micro-level mitigation and preparation activities, and broader perceptions of bushfire risk. While our preliminary findings do not show significant differences in house and contents insurance uptake along the urban-rural continuum, they do highlight discursive and structural mechanisms that link insurance and mitigation decisions to a distinct sense of place. These findings contribute to a growing body of research examining underinsurance in high risk areas, as well as to research on landscape, identity, and vulnerability.

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