Agents of change in bushfire recovery: young people's acts of citizenship in a youth-focused, animal-welfare and environmental program

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MacDonald, Fiona ORCID: 0000-0003-1966-0810, Lanyon, Chris, Munnery, Leah, Ryan, Derm, Ellis, Katherine and Champion, Sam (2023) Agents of change in bushfire recovery: young people's acts of citizenship in a youth-focused, animal-welfare and environmental program. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 87. ISSN 2212-4209


Bushfires and natural hazard disasters have a significant impact on young people and risk reduction strategies have largely focused on addressing their vulnerability and mitigating the effects of trauma. In the 21st century practitioners, researchers and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, are calling for young people to become ‘agents of change’ in disaster management. When young people are included in disaster management there are benefits for themselves, their peers, community and the environment at local, state and national levels. Our program, with young people affected by Australia's 2019–2020 Black Summer bushfires, highlighted their frustrations at the limited opportunities to be actively involved in relief and recovery, and their concerns about the combined impact of the climate crisis and bushfires. Their focus aligns with a shift in young people's acts of citizenship and community involvement as they seek opportunities to engage with issues that impact them and their future. Young people's engagement in a youth-focused, empowerment-oriented, animal-welfare program in the Australian state of Victoria, The Activators, demonstrates how young people join the dots between bushfire recovery, the climate crisis and environmental issues to undertake local acts of citizenship. This article focuses on young people's experiences and a young person's powerful narrative of Loss, urgency, grief and loneliness. We draw on the challenges and opportunities of young people's individual and collective experience of the program. Our analysis investigates how a programmatic intervention empowered young people to become agents of change through acts of citizenship in their local communities. Adopting similar approaches would enable young people to be actively involved in disaster, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery, across all levels of planning and community engagement.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2023.103551
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3902 Education policy, sociology and philosophy
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords citizenship, youth, natural disaster, environmentalism, animal welfare, youth focus
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