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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Individual resilience in rural people: a Queensland study, Australia

D G Hegney, E Buikstra, P Baker, C Rogers-Clark, S Pearce, H Ross, C King, A Watson-Luke
Rural and Remote Health 2007, 7 (4): 620
17961001

INTRODUCTION: This article reports the results of phase 1 of a study into community and individual resilience in rural Australians. The aim of the study was to develop, implement and evaluate a model that enhances psychological wellness in rural people and communities. The study used a critical participatory action research methodology to work in partnership with key individuals and groups in a rural community in Queensland which, anecdotally, was identified by its community representatives as having confronted and responded positively to and dealt with adversities such as drought, hailstorms and bushfire. A focus in the project was to identify vulnerable as well as resilient elements in individuals and the community, with an emphasis on identifying and then using existing individual, group and community resilience as exemplars for those who are less resilient. The study recognised that not all members of the community were resilient; clearly there are more and less resilient groups within this community. Additionally, it was acknowledged that resilience was not a steady state within an individual. Rather, an individual's level of resilience could vary over their lifetime.

METHODS: A participatory action research design was chosen for this study which aimed to identify individual and community resilience factors in a community. The study is being undertaken in three phases. In phase 1 of the study (the focus of this article), 10 in-depth interviews and one focus group (with four participants) were conducted. Individuals identified by a network of community service providers as being particularly resilient were selected to participate in this phase, with the aim of identifying these individuals' perceptions of individual and community resilience. This article reports on the factors identified that impact on the individual resilience of rural people.

RESULTS: Thematic analysis of the qualitative data surrounding individual resilience revealed three themes: images of resilience; characteristics of resilient people and shapers of resilience (environmental influences that increase personal resilience).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study support existing theoretical concepts of resilience, with an added dimension not previously reported. The major finding of this study is that connection to the land, which is strongly embedded in the literature on Indigenous peoples (eg human ecology) and acknowledged as part of Indigenous culture and cosmology, may also be a factor that enhances the resilience of non-Indigenous people who have built up a relationship with the land over time. The extent of this connection and its impact on individual and community resilience was, however, not established in this study, but should also be a major focus of future research.

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