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Edwina Loxton

Edwina Loxton

PhD student


Personal experiences of social impacts and responses to changes in the native forest timber industry

Australian National University

Reduced access to native forests for timber harvesting have raised questions about the potential social impacts that effect members of the native forest timber industry who rely on these forests for their livelihoods. Some of the most significant changes in Australia occurred as a result of the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process that cumulated in joint Commonwealth-State Agreements signed between 1999 and 2001 (see


The RFA process included social assessments to:

1.       Predict the negative social impacts that could result from reduced resource quotas

2.       Predict the potential for members of the industry to respond positively to the changes

3.       Assist the design of the Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Package (FISAP) to provide financial, administrative and personal support.


Since the RFAs were completed there has been very little research to follow up these predictions and evaluate the FISAP. My research helps to fill this gap by answering five questions:

1.       What are the impacts experienced by individuals as a result of changed access to public native forests for timber production?

2.       How do people respond to the changes?

3.       How do impacts and opportunities compare to initial predictions?

4.       What factors contribute to the way a person experiences the impacts of a change such as the RFA?

5.       Can the concepts of adaptive capacity, resilience and vulnerability contribute to following up predictive social assessments?


Through my field work in upper north-east NSW and south-west WA I have been privileged to speak to mill owners and contractors, their employees and family members, and representatives from industry and government. My interviews highlight the diversity of adaptive responses people have made and the positive and negative impacts they felt as a result of the combination of changes and responses. In general the process of responding to change was difficult both financially and personally and there was a significant level of anxiety experienced during the RFA process, but over time these responses often led to new, positive opportunities.

My research is undertaken with the support of my supervisors, Dr Jacki Schirmer, and Professor Peter Kanowski of the Australian National University. For further information see the recent media release.

My project is funded by Forest and Wood Products Australia. My research contributes to the CRC for Forestry's Communities Project.

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