Risk as collectively produced: advancing empirical understandings of human-human interactions that affect risk

Peter Kamstra1, Brian Cook1, Tim Edensor2, David Kennedy1

1University Of Melbourne, Carlton, VIC, Australia

2Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom 


Risk tends to be conceptualized at the individual scale, with risk management targeting individual’s knowledge, practices, and behaviors. However, an individual’s risk perceptions and practices are undoubtedly influenced by those around them, yet, these human-human interactions that affect risk tend to be excluded from decision-making. This article diverges from treating risk as individualized, instead, analyzing the collective practices that affect risk while fishing on hazardous rocky coasts. Importantly, these collective practices between public participants are not choreographed responses friends, but are more organic, collective responses between fishers who are often unfamiliar with one another. The aim is to push against the tendency to individualize risk analyses by instead, examining the under-explored ways that risk is produced and responded to collectively. Analytically, the authors integrate participant observations, video, GPS tracking, and sketch-map interviews to substantiate the long-standing but rare conceptualizations of risk as relational. In doing so, we demonstrate that many of the high-risk events that emerge during rock fishing are managed collectively, including ‘landing fish’ and responding to wave hazards. Broadly, this study lends empirical support to long-standing attacks on the individualized framing of risk research, offering an example that is attuned to the dynamism of collective responses.


Peter Kamstra is a PhD student in the School of Geography at The University of Melbourne. He is currently investigating the relationship between individual’s risk perceptions and their behavior on high-risk rocky coasts, with an emphasis on qualitative GIS-based analysis.

Addressing who is not at the table?: Including diverse children’s ‘Voices’ in ‘Participatory’ Processes

Dr Lisa Stafford1

1Queensland University of Technology

It is hard not to find some reference to how being involved in public discourse and policy is every citizen’s fundamental right. Yet, exercising this right is privileged for only a certain few.  There are many voices who are not being recognised and thus invited to the participatory democratic table.  And if invited, restrictive processes permit some a platform while denying others “voices”. Children, in particular, children with disabilities, are one of the most marginalised voices when it comes to participatory processes in public engagement and research processes. Children with disabilities are rarely recognised as being a citizen and thus rarely provided the opportunity within “participatory” processes to comment on matters that affect their lives now and into the future. Questions over legitimacy of “voices” is often heard as an excuse for excluding children, particularly those with a disability or in systems like child safety. This is reinforced by Ableist and Adultist thinking.  In this presentation, I seek to dispel these assumptions, through presenting participant focused research and engagement processes that provide children with and without disabilities an opportunity to have their voices heard, to be acknowledged and to be treated as knowledgeable citizens with valid perspectives.


Dr Lisa Stafford, is an Lecturer in School of Public Health and Social Work and a 2019 ARC DECRA Fellow.
She is a social scientist, human geographer and social planner. Her research is in inclusive communities, disabled children and diverse children geographies, and participatory process to hear the most maginalised ‘voices’ in community and research practices

Alternatives to consensus decision-making in New Zealand’s freshwater collaboration

Dr Nicholas Kirk1

1Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand


Consensus decision-making is an integral feature of the New Zealand model of freshwater collaboration. Prior to collaboration, New Zealand’s freshwater management was typified by adversarial interest groups seeking to influence policy through court action. Collaboration was promoted as an alternative which would reduce tensions between different interest groups through reaching consensus on difficult issues. This paper asks if consensus decision-making is the only way to do collaboration in New Zealand, and if there are forms of collaborative decision-making that can encourage productive disagreements? Consensus decision-making in the context of collaboration has been criticized for recreating status-quo policy and for favouring developmental interests over environmental interest. This paper investigates those criticisms while offering alternatives to consensus decision-making which aim for a balance between adversarial opportunism and status-quo consensus.


Nicholas Kirk is an Environmental Social Researcher at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. His research investigates alternative processes for managing natural resources.

Public Participation in the Digital Age: Social Media Reactions about an Iconic Species

Miss Montannia Chabau-gibson1

1Griffith University, City of Gold Coast , Australia


Democracy can be classified as a system of parliamentary decision-making processes that can shape a cities character. Political systems aim to minimise citizen distrust by engaging with all levels of governance to learn about the values of inhabitant human’s and non-human’s. Public participation is usually achieved through traditional methods such as surveys, and focus groups. However, these methods can be limited by spatial and temporal scale, cost, and can introduce unintentional bias from the creators.

With the emergence of the digital age, social media data can provide complementary information for human geography by utilising user created content. With the introduction of new data collection methods, this can assist in providing the social license for public members that do not usually participate in engagement due to their differences, disadvantages, or barriers.

With the City of Gold Coast experiencing a significant growth in population, accommodating for this has resulted in pressure for environments to change. The development of native ecosystems has subjected species to vulnerability, this includes icons of national heritage such as the Koala (Phascolarctos Cinereus).

A comparison analysis will investigate user created content derived from Twitter and Google Trends data to learn about how the public communicate online about Koalas.


Fourth year Urban and Environmental Planning (honour) student Montannia Chabau-Gibson is using Twitter to examine people’s attitudes and feelings about Koala’s on the City of  Gold Coast, including responses to key news items and initiatives.

This research follows her previous work with co authors Prof Catherine Pickering’s and Jesse Raneng investigating conservation, planning, and recreation use of natural areas including the Spit, City of Gold Coast. The findings from this research was presented at the 9th International Conference on Monitoring and Management of Visitors in Recreational and Protected Areas in Bordeaux, France.

Email address: montannia.chabau-gibson@griffithuni.edu.au

Making space for divergence: Academics, plane travel and climate change. Insights from South Australia

A/Prof. Melissa Nursey-Bray1, Dr Robert Palmer1, Dr Thomas Wanner1, Dr  Cris Birzer1, Ms Catriona Bride Meyer-Mclean1

1University Of Adelaide, Adelaide, AU


This paper explores the rationales driving the academic community to undertake plane travel and in what ways theory and practice about climate change converge and diverge in the academe. What responsibility do academics have to both advance discourses of institutional and behavioral change, and become active participants in the processes of decision making about this issue? What processes for participatory input exist within academic institutions to influence core expectations about the requirement to travel? We report on a year-long study at the University of Adelaide that investigated the tension between academic requirements to travel and the University of Adelaide’s formal commitment to achieve carbon neutrality. While many academics were worried about climate change very few were willing to change their current practice and travel less; they are not institutionally incentivized to do so. The politics of participation mean divergence from travel norms are punished. We conclude with a discussion of the opportunities for individual academics to create spaces of divergence in their travel practice and entry points for greater participatory input into institutional climate policy. We explore how universities could become spaces of convergence and role models to the wider community in the context of effecting behavioral change.


Melissa is a human geographer who is interested in the relationship between people and place, and the ways in which communities become involved in environmental decision making. She has explored this relationship in the context of marine/coastal spaces, Indigenous country and urban settlements. Her current work focuses on the geographies of climate adaptation and what inhibits and drives community engagement in this space. She is the Director of the ACE (Adaptation, Community, Environment) Research Cluster, and Head of Department of the Department of Geography, Environment and Population.

From Imposition to Agonism: Voluntary Poverty Alleviation Resettlement in China

Dr Kate Gomersall1

1University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia


Implementation of voluntary Poverty Alleviation Resettlement (PAR) in China is a function of the democratic processes of village governance under the Organic Law of Villages Committees and Assemblies. Democratic governance infers liberal notions of free will, but in this context ‘free will’ is thought of multi-dimensionally and reflects the historical-geographical context of rural governance in China. Competing ideologies such as those associated with authoritarian socialism or Confucianism appear in dialectical tension with liberal governance, but these configure to shape resettlement decision making in rural villages. Analysis of the contingencies of local governance practices reveal a process of cultural hybridisation in which local government and village actors enact a strategy of struggle to configure a politics of place. In particular, villagers enact resistance to forms of domination through hybrid politics which is expressed as agonism and not the imposition of liberal rule on non-western countries.


Kate finished her PhD in human geography at the University of Melbourne in 2017 and is now a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne. In her current project she is a gender and social science researcher on an ACIAR funded rural development project in Myanmar.

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