Nature & Health
Research, Practice and Policy Symposium

Samantha Strong – Symposium Presenter

Social Ecological Recovery. Our bushfire reality: Exploring sense-making myths

Samantha Strong

Session type: Presentation
When: Fri 26th June (whole-day) 9.30am-4.30pm


Influences of powerful language and imagery used during and after major bushfires were the focus of Sam’s qualitative research that considered the context of two catastrophic 21st century bushfires in SE Australia. Two case studies – the ACT 2003 and Victorian 2009 Kilmore-Murrindindi complex of bushfires – were explored via print media, public memorials, bushfire and native vegetation management policies, environmental histories and interviews with fire and environmental management agency staff. The findings suggest that perceptions of the environment, and those who manage it, are shared and shaped by retelling vivid cultural sense-making myths to help comprehend the crises. There is evidence that suggest these myths are being retold following the most recent, catastrophic bushfires in Australia. The myths frame the environment and people in contradictory and polarising narratives, which result in a range of paradoxical responses not only for policy makers, communities and land managers, but how we attempt to reconnect with the environment post-crisis.

Sam will provide insights into how understanding cultural myths and the powerful archetypal language and symbols within them can assist us in understanding the evolution of simplistic, contradictory and reactive (fear-driven) responses to the environment and people following catastrophic bushfires. This presentation represents a moment for reflection: how we create narratives based on experiences and, importantly, the language we use for sharing them

Sam Strong has been influenced by nature experiences on the family farm, shaped by living among granite boulders, creeks and remoteness of the landscape near Ruffy, Victoria. She has worked as a project coordinator for volunteer and natural resource management programs, including the Parks Victoria Bushfire recovery Program in 2010-11. In 2013, she decided to explore questions that arose from experiences following the Black Saturday bushfires in a PhD at Charles Sturt University. Sam now works for the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) in Ballarat with the biodiversity team, while volunteering with Gardens for Wildlife Ballarat.