Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 371–384 | Cite as

Can resilience thinking provide useful insights for those examining efforts to transform contemporary agriculture?

  • Katrina SinclairEmail author
  • Allan Curtis
  • Emily Mendham
  • Michael Mitchell


Agricultural industries in developed countries may need to consider transformative change if they are to respond effectively to contemporary challenges, including a changing climate. In this paper we apply a resilience lens to analyze a deliberate attempt by Australian governments to restructure the dairy industry, and then utilize this analysis to assess the usefulness of resilience thinking for contemporary agricultural transformations. Our analysis draws on findings from a case study of market deregulation in the subtropical dairy industry. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with dairy producers, their service providers, and industry and government staff. We found the adaptive cycle concept contributed to understanding how deregulation changed industry structures and working practices, how those changes led to feedbacks within the production system and supply chain, and how the industry following deregulation has experienced periods of stability and instability. Regime shifts were associated with an increase in demand for human capital, a degradation of cognitive social capital and a reduction in farm income. Findings identified that were not readily explained by the resilience thinking conceptual framework include a producer’s ability to anticipate and make choices and the change in social and power relationships in the industry.


Australia Dairy industry Market deregulation Resilience theory Transformation 



National competition policy


New South Wales


Social-ecological system


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrina Sinclair
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allan Curtis
    • 2
  • Emily Mendham
    • 3
  • Michael Mitchell
    • 4
  1. 1.New South Wales Department of Primary IndustriesWollongbarAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  3. 3.National Centre for Groundwater Research and TrainingCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  4. 4.School of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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