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Abstract

This paper examines community responses to a rapidly changing social and economic environment through the theoretical lens of community resilience. The paper adopts an integrated approach to community resilience, incorporating aspects of social-ecological systems and psychological adaptation to change (Berkes and Ross, 2012), to describe a community of approximately 5,000 residents (Chinchilla in southern Queensland) responding to changes in the face of a burgeoning coal seam gas industry. Rather than centring analysis solely on social impacts and a community's vulnerabilities, the resilience approach investigates responding to change and resilience building qualities. We investigate this at the community group level in a context of CSG, addressing the research question: what aspects of community group functioning assists them to be resilient, and contribute to wider community resilience?

Analysis of qualitative data from approximately 80 participants (including key stakeholder informants and focus group participants) in October and November, 2012, together with media and public documents, suggested a community responding and adapting to change. We identify five dimensions particularly important for community group resilience: strategic thinking, links within communities, effective use of resources, commitment, and building meaningful relationships. We suggest that these dimensions, and the qualities underpinning them, also contribute to resilience of the wider community. A diversity of groups, groups acting as bridging organisations, and groups involved at different scales all provide resilience to the wider system. Understanding how a community affected by coal seam gas demonstrates resilience enables policy makers to support and enhance strengths that are emerging within the community. Moreover, it suggests ways of building resilience in communities potentially facing future CSG activities.

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