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Bec, AR 2016 'Harnessing resilience for tourism and resource-based communities', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright AR Bec 2016


The tourism and resources sectors are two of Australia’s largest sectors, both significantly contributing to the national economy (Pham, Bailey, & Spurr, 2013a). Both have shaped regional development in Australia by redefining the economic and social structure of communities (Bebbington, et al., 2008; Cheer, 2013; Kumral, & Onder, 2012). Yet, the tourism and resources sectors are major forces of structural change that can dramatically impact regions, communities and the environment (Farrell, & Twining-Ward, 2004; Tonts, Plummer, & Lawrie, 2012). Although change is an inevitable process (Davoudi et al., 2012), the prominence of economic structural change within many Australian regions is shifting attention to the management of change within community systems (Connolly & Lewis, 2010).

The change management literature for regional development has presented a number of theories to deal with and respond to economic structural change, such as Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) and Sustainable Development (Kretzmann & McKnight, 2007; So, 1990). However, such approaches have been criticised for not always considering the process of long-term structural change. Resilience is an emerging change management theory, which focuses on how change can be leveraged to achieve the most desirable outcome (Holling & Gunderson, 2002; Masten, 2001).

Resilience has been extensively applied as a change management approach within regional communities, stemming from a range of disciplinary interpretations. From a socio-ecological perspective, resilience applications often focus on crisis and disaster situations which encompass rapid forces of change. However, limited literature is available exploring resilience approaches to manage regional development and long-term structural change. The literature postulates that applications of resilience are limited, given the complexity of the term resilience and the limited availability of instruments to measure resilience to different forces of change (Holladay & Powell, 2012). Furthermore, there is minimal research that examines regional development strategies by considering these two sectors simultaneously within a single community. By examining the dimensions of community resilience and the process of long-term structural change, this research aims to explore how resilience can be harnessed to address long-term structural change driven by the tourism and resources sectors in Australia as both sectors create opportunity and disruption.

This research employed a quantitative, sequential mixed mode approach using two case studies. Through this method, the research seeks to devise an instrument to measure community resilience to long-term structural change. Using the developed instrument, the research then seeks to measure the resilience of different community segments, as well as explore possible guidelines to build resilience within the two regions, through the use of a resident survey.

The results of this research have led to the development of instruments to measure resilience to long-term structural change. Multiple instruments were required to measure different facets of community resilience, resulting in three scales developed to measure the residents’ perceptions of change, a scale to measure the emotional stability of residents, and an index to measure resilience across the broader community system. The instruments provided insight into the resilience of specific community groups, where it was found that the level of community resilience was largely influenced by the emotional stability of individuals. It was also identified that men were found to be more resilient than women, particularly in resource-based communities, due to skills being more adaptable and transferrable in predominantly male dominated industries. Comparisons between tourism and resource-based communities are also made, revealing the resources sector to have a greater negative impact on the emotional stability of community members, resulting in lower levels of community resilience. The findings also uncovered potential guidelines to build resilience within the two regions, specifically focusing on improving economic diversification, stakeholder cooperation, and communication and planning.

This research has advanced the resilience literature as a tool for managing long-term structural change within tourism and resource-based communities. The research contributes instruments that can be used by regional planners to assess the level of resilience within the community, to identify strengths and vulnerabilities within the community system. The development of instruments to measure resilience to long-term structural change also has methodological implications for future research. The guidelines uncovered within this research also have implications for policy makers, particularly for long-term planning and change management.