The Rise of the Phoenix: Gender Equity in Wildland Fire — Dr. Christine Eriksen

Geology Lecture Theatre
Geography & Environmental Studies building Rm 211
Sandy Bay Campus
University of Tasmania
1 Feb 2019

The Fire Centre Research Hub and the University of Tasmania are proud to present the the Fire Centre Seminar Series. This time we welcome Dr. Christine Eriksen, an internationally recognised leader in the field of disaster geographies. She will be discussing gender equity in wildland fire. Light refreshments will be served afterwards.

Here’s a recording of the seminar for those of you who missed it:


Notwithstanding decades of affirmative action, and training techniques breaking the link between physical body strength and capability, different gender expectations and experiences persist for men and women in wildland firefighting. This presentation will discuss how both women and men suffer from structural biases when it comes to gendered aspects of agencies that manage fire, and highlight the potential operational benefits of heightened awareness of unquestioned gender biases. Narratives about “being” and “becoming” a man within the context of wildland firefighting reveal how historical ideas that frame gender, particularly with respect to outdoors work, still powerfully define acceptable and unacceptable gendered behaviour. The work-place and identity of the wildland firefighter is seemingly stabilised through the performance of a white, heterosexual firefighting masculinity. This performance trades on ageism, sexism, homophobia and racism that disputes the worth of the bodies of women and other types of male firefighters. The presence of women (and ethnic minority groups) on the fire-line both challenges and reinscribes gendered concepts and practices of the bodies of individuals-who-manage fire. From reduced stress, mental health, and legal costs to a more sustainable and efficient workforce, gender equity has much to offer wildland fire given the challenges of our flammable future. This presentation builds on ten years of research with wildland firefighters, Indigenous land stewards, wildfire survivors, and residents living in fire-prone landscapes in Australia and North America.


Christine Eriksen is a Senior Lecturer with the Australian Centre of Culture, Environment, Society and Space at the University of Wollongong. By bringing natural hazards into dialogue with cultural geography, Christine has gained international recognition in the field of gender and disasters. With a particular interest in social dimensions of disasters, her research in Australia, North America and Africa, examines the trade-offs people make between risks and benefits. She contextualises these trade-offs at scales ranging from individual households and community networks, to official management agencies. Her book Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty (2014) is a cutting-edge exploration of how cultural norms and social characteristics impact on vulnerability, resilience and gender equity. Christine was selected as aWorld Social Science Risk Interpretation and Action Fellow by the International Social Science Council in 2013, and named as a2016 Woman of Impact for outstanding contributions to research at the University of Wollongong as part of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program. She was recently recognised as one of 145Women Leaders in Fire Science by the journal Fire. Follow Christine on Twitter @DrCEriksen.

Photo: University of Wollongong