Eriksen, Christine Dr.

Senior Lecturer

  • Faculty of Social Sciences
  • School of Geography and Sustainable Communities
  • Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space

Overview


Dr Christine Eriksen's work focuses on social dimensions that underpin disaster vulnerability and resilience. It untangles a mesh of human-environment relations to better understand changing political and environmental contexts.

Her current research in Australia and North America, as well as previous work in Africa, examines the trade-offs people make between risks and benefits in the context of wildfire. She contextualises these trade-offs at scales ranging from individual households and community networks to official management agencies.

Christine was selected as a World Social Science Risk Interpretation and Action Fellow in 2013, awarded the Australian Research Council's Discovery Early Career Research Award in 2015 and a Discovery Project in 2017, and was named as a UOW Woman of Impact in 2016 as part of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program.

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • Research interests and expertise:

    • Social, cultural and political dimensions of disasters
    • Gendered dimensions of disaster management and coping capacity
    • Trauma, self-care, and ethics
    • Resilience and vulnerability driven by faith – sacred and secular
    • Indigenous and local environmental knowledge and land stewardship
    Overview:
    Dr Christine Eriksen joined the University of Wollongong in 2007 to establish a research program that examines social dimensions of bushfire vulnerability and resilience. Since then the program has evolved into multiple partnerships across Australia and North America with whom Christine has conducted interviews, focus groups, and surveys to directly engage with residents in at-risk areas, bushfire survivors, rural fire services, Indigenous fire stewards, firefighters and wildfire management.

    Broadly, the research has established expert knowledge on how people engage with social and environmental uncertainty in everyday life by focusing on the trade-offs people make between risks and benefits at scales ranging from individuals and community networks to official management agencies.

    Specifically, the research provided clear evidence of how:
    (i) a gender divide in activities at time of death during bushfires historically correlates with the plans of actions of men and women during bushfires today. Women often deprioritising bushfire preparation in the context of other pressing everyday issues, while societal pressure sees men perform protective roles that many have neither the knowledge nor ability to attempt to fulfil safely;
    (ii) a firefighting-masculinity that trades on ageism, sexism and homophobia, disputes the worth of women and other types of male firefighters on the fireline with significant consequences for operational procedures and workplace gender equality.
     
    The holistic understanding of bushfire vulnerability and resilience developed through Christine's research, has accelerated and legitimised recognition of gender as a key issue affecting bushfire management and safety processes.

    The research has informed organisational approaches to community engagement, workplace culture, and bushfire management policy and practice, nationally and internationally. It has championed the benefits of gender awareness, equity and equality through a sustained, long-term research commitment that built trust and awareness.

    As a point of reference in public, policy and media discourses, the research has benefited emergency management and outreach organisations, firefighters, marginalised groups, and communities in fire-affected and at-risk areas.

    Current Research Projects:
    Bushfire, faith and community cohesion
    This project focuses on the affective and embodied experiences of coping and caring narrated by disaster recovery workers in Australia in the context of adapting to extreme but increasingly frequent natural hazard events, such as bushfires. The study extends the concept of the holding environment to disaster geographies. Here, the holding environment comprise the strategies that individuals and groups have developed to cope with risks and exposure, through their embodied responses, and the observed responses of others, to the impact of potential and actual harm. Each component within the holding environment aligns with one of two types of faith, which provide safe spaces (mentally, spiritually, physically and geographically) for disaster recovery workers to confide, grow and heal. These safe spaces, in turn, provide anchor points and sense of purpose. They also accentuate the individual and collective choices we face in terms of mitigating and adapting to changing natural and political climates. An Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award (DE150101242) funds this project.

    Gender and wildfire
    This project has since 2007 followed women’s and men’s stories of surviving, fighting, living and working with wildfire in Australia and North America. It has revealed the cultural norms and historical behavioral patterns that underpin vulnerability and resilience among firefighters, wildfire survivors, residents at-risk, and Aboriginal land stewards. To learn about the research findings, see the publications section, as well as the videos, web-links and case studies.

    When disaster strikes: under-insurance in an age of volatility
    There is a growing concern in Australia and internationally of the extensive social and economic costs of disasters, and with it an acknowledgement of our inadequate understanding of the role of insurance in disaster mitigation, preparation and recovery. A 2017 report by Deloitte Access Economics outlined how in the ten years leading up to 2016, the total cost of ‘natural’ disasters in Australia averaged $18.2 billion per annum. When disasters strike, home and contents insurance provides a safety net but many households are under-insured or not insured at all. The average uninsured loss for each ‘natural’ disaster in Australia between 2004 and 2011 was estimated by Lloyds at almost $1 billion. Little is known about the factors that contribute to these rates of inadequate insurance cover. This project attempts to bridge this knowledge gap by examining perceptions of risk and insurance amongst residents both with and without direct personal experience of bushfires. It strives to assist the development of insurance policies and implementation strategies that meet the needs of residents. An ARC Discovery Project (DP170100096) with Dr Booth (UTAS), Prof Tranter (UTAS), Ass/Prof French (Uni. of Nottingham) funds this project.

Selected Publications


Presentations


Impact Story


  • <p>In 2007, I set out to examine social dimensions of bushfire vulnerability and resilience in New South Wales. Since then the project has evolved into multiple partnerships following women and men’s stories of living and working with bushfires in Australia and North America.</p>Interviews and surveys with householders and firefighters revealed that gender roles and gendered norms structure levels of risk tolerance. This, in turn, shapes engagement with risk mitigation. There was clear evidence of how a gender divide in activities at time of death during bushfires historically correlates with the plans of actions of men and women during bushfires today. This points to hard-won but unlearned lessons about the gendered dimensions of bushfires in which many women deprioritise bushfire preparation in the context of other pressing issues in everyday life. At the same time, societal pressure sees men perform protective roles that many have neither the knowledge nor ability to attempt to fulfil safely. <br /><br />A further finding has been how a firefighting masculinity that trades on ageism, sexism and homophobia, disputes the worth of women and other types of male firefighters on the fireline. My research has demonstrated that examining bushfire awareness and preparedness behaviour as explicitly gendered social experiences is paramount to building communities that are more resilient to disasters.

Potential Supervision Topics


    • Social, cultural and political dimensions of natural hazards related disasters.
    • Gendered dimensions of vulnerability, resilience and coping capacity.

Teaching Activities


Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy Community Resilience on the Move: Co-learning Disaster Resilience with Refugees and Migrants in the Illawarra Lakhina, Shefali
    Doctor of Philosophy Exploring the climatic and anthropogenic challenges to build livelihood vulnerability and resilience of Tanguar Haor in Bangladesh Malak, Md Abdul

Professional Service Activities


Teaching Overview


  • I am interested in experiential and participatory learning strategies that use real-world scenarios to engage students with social dimensions of disasters, emergency management and political ecology. I use applied geography to teach about issues that are topical across multiple time frames and geographical scales.

Keywords


  • disasters, natural hazards, wildfire / bushfire, vulnerability, resilience, gender, local and Indigenous environmental knowledge, risk engagement and communication

Full Name


  • Dr Christine Eriksen

Mailing Address


  • School of Geography and Sustainable Communities

    Faculty of Social Sciences

    University of Wollongong

    NSW

    2522

    Australia

Web Of Science Researcher Id


  • J-6912-2012

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • Research interests and expertise:

    • Social, cultural and political dimensions of disasters
    • Gendered dimensions of disaster management and coping capacity
    • Trauma, self-care, and ethics
    • Resilience and vulnerability driven by faith – sacred and secular
    • Indigenous and local environmental knowledge and land stewardship
    Overview:
    Dr Christine Eriksen joined the University of Wollongong in 2007 to establish a research program that examines social dimensions of bushfire vulnerability and resilience. Since then the program has evolved into multiple partnerships across Australia and North America with whom Christine has conducted interviews, focus groups, and surveys to directly engage with residents in at-risk areas, bushfire survivors, rural fire services, Indigenous fire stewards, firefighters and wildfire management.

    Broadly, the research has established expert knowledge on how people engage with social and environmental uncertainty in everyday life by focusing on the trade-offs people make between risks and benefits at scales ranging from individuals and community networks to official management agencies.

    Specifically, the research provided clear evidence of how:
    (i) a gender divide in activities at time of death during bushfires historically correlates with the plans of actions of men and women during bushfires today. Women often deprioritising bushfire preparation in the context of other pressing everyday issues, while societal pressure sees men perform protective roles that many have neither the knowledge nor ability to attempt to fulfil safely;
    (ii) a firefighting-masculinity that trades on ageism, sexism and homophobia, disputes the worth of women and other types of male firefighters on the fireline with significant consequences for operational procedures and workplace gender equality.
     
    The holistic understanding of bushfire vulnerability and resilience developed through Christine's research, has accelerated and legitimised recognition of gender as a key issue affecting bushfire management and safety processes.

    The research has informed organisational approaches to community engagement, workplace culture, and bushfire management policy and practice, nationally and internationally. It has championed the benefits of gender awareness, equity and equality through a sustained, long-term research commitment that built trust and awareness.

    As a point of reference in public, policy and media discourses, the research has benefited emergency management and outreach organisations, firefighters, marginalised groups, and communities in fire-affected and at-risk areas.

    Current Research Projects:
    Bushfire, faith and community cohesion
    This project focuses on the affective and embodied experiences of coping and caring narrated by disaster recovery workers in Australia in the context of adapting to extreme but increasingly frequent natural hazard events, such as bushfires. The study extends the concept of the holding environment to disaster geographies. Here, the holding environment comprise the strategies that individuals and groups have developed to cope with risks and exposure, through their embodied responses, and the observed responses of others, to the impact of potential and actual harm. Each component within the holding environment aligns with one of two types of faith, which provide safe spaces (mentally, spiritually, physically and geographically) for disaster recovery workers to confide, grow and heal. These safe spaces, in turn, provide anchor points and sense of purpose. They also accentuate the individual and collective choices we face in terms of mitigating and adapting to changing natural and political climates. An Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award (DE150101242) funds this project.

    Gender and wildfire
    This project has since 2007 followed women’s and men’s stories of surviving, fighting, living and working with wildfire in Australia and North America. It has revealed the cultural norms and historical behavioral patterns that underpin vulnerability and resilience among firefighters, wildfire survivors, residents at-risk, and Aboriginal land stewards. To learn about the research findings, see the publications section, as well as the videos, web-links and case studies.

    When disaster strikes: under-insurance in an age of volatility
    There is a growing concern in Australia and internationally of the extensive social and economic costs of disasters, and with it an acknowledgement of our inadequate understanding of the role of insurance in disaster mitigation, preparation and recovery. A 2017 report by Deloitte Access Economics outlined how in the ten years leading up to 2016, the total cost of ‘natural’ disasters in Australia averaged $18.2 billion per annum. When disasters strike, home and contents insurance provides a safety net but many households are under-insured or not insured at all. The average uninsured loss for each ‘natural’ disaster in Australia between 2004 and 2011 was estimated by Lloyds at almost $1 billion. Little is known about the factors that contribute to these rates of inadequate insurance cover. This project attempts to bridge this knowledge gap by examining perceptions of risk and insurance amongst residents both with and without direct personal experience of bushfires. It strives to assist the development of insurance policies and implementation strategies that meet the needs of residents. An ARC Discovery Project (DP170100096) with Dr Booth (UTAS), Prof Tranter (UTAS), Ass/Prof French (Uni. of Nottingham) funds this project.

Selected Publications


Presentations


Impact Story


  • <p>In 2007, I set out to examine social dimensions of bushfire vulnerability and resilience in New South Wales. Since then the project has evolved into multiple partnerships following women and men’s stories of living and working with bushfires in Australia and North America.</p>Interviews and surveys with householders and firefighters revealed that gender roles and gendered norms structure levels of risk tolerance. This, in turn, shapes engagement with risk mitigation. There was clear evidence of how a gender divide in activities at time of death during bushfires historically correlates with the plans of actions of men and women during bushfires today. This points to hard-won but unlearned lessons about the gendered dimensions of bushfires in which many women deprioritise bushfire preparation in the context of other pressing issues in everyday life. At the same time, societal pressure sees men perform protective roles that many have neither the knowledge nor ability to attempt to fulfil safely. <br /><br />A further finding has been how a firefighting masculinity that trades on ageism, sexism and homophobia, disputes the worth of women and other types of male firefighters on the fireline. My research has demonstrated that examining bushfire awareness and preparedness behaviour as explicitly gendered social experiences is paramount to building communities that are more resilient to disasters.

Potential Supervision Topics


    • Social, cultural and political dimensions of natural hazards related disasters.
    • Gendered dimensions of vulnerability, resilience and coping capacity.

Teaching Activities


Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy Community Resilience on the Move: Co-learning Disaster Resilience with Refugees and Migrants in the Illawarra Lakhina, Shefali
    Doctor of Philosophy Exploring the climatic and anthropogenic challenges to build livelihood vulnerability and resilience of Tanguar Haor in Bangladesh Malak, Md Abdul

Professional Service Activities


Teaching Overview


  • I am interested in experiential and participatory learning strategies that use real-world scenarios to engage students with social dimensions of disasters, emergency management and political ecology. I use applied geography to teach about issues that are topical across multiple time frames and geographical scales.

Keywords


  • disasters, natural hazards, wildfire / bushfire, vulnerability, resilience, gender, local and Indigenous environmental knowledge, risk engagement and communication

Full Name


  • Dr Christine Eriksen

Mailing Address


  • School of Geography and Sustainable Communities

    Faculty of Social Sciences

    University of Wollongong

    NSW

    2522

    Australia

Web Of Science Researcher Id


  • J-6912-2012

Research Areas

Geographic Focus