Understanding the relationship between social change and its impacts: The experience of rural land use change in south-eastern Australia

Kathryn J H Williams, Jacki Schirmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


This study investigated socio-economic impacts of land use change, giving explicit attention to the relationships between independently observed land use change and associated socio-economic changes, perceived land use change and socio-economic change, attributed cause of change, and experienced impacts of change. Using a case study region in south-east Australia, we examined the impacts of growth in use of land for dairy farming, cropping, blue gum plantations and rural residential development on (i) rural population trends, and (ii) the amount and nature of employment available in the study region. Perceptions and impacts of change were assessed using multiple qualitative and quantitative methods. Results demonstrate that local residents were not always aware of the extent and nature of land use change, and had difficulty attributing social changes and their impacts to the land use changes that underlie them. Furthermore, the felt impacts of land use change appeared dependent on a person's awareness of that change, and on their beliefs about the causes of social change. These findings highlight avenues for theoretical development to better specify the processes by which social change processes are experienced as human impacts. The findings also have implications for land use policy and social impact assessment, illustrating the importance of understanding both perceived and actual social change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-548
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


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