Transition initiatives in Australia, as elsewhere, have been mooted as a means of increasing community resilience to the threats posed by peak oil, climate change and economic uncertainty. Their emergence has attracted researchers to ask questions around their purpose, effectiveness and attraction for those who participate, as well as their likely future prospects in changing attitudes and habits in their respective communities and in society as a whole. This paper contributes to the broader understanding of transition initiatives in Australia by analysing the findings from a survey conducted amongst those involved in such initiatives within a deinstitutional theory framework. It is concluded that although the emergence of these initiatives are somewhat indicative of deinstitutionalisation, this is limited. In addition, the concepts and concerns on which they are based flow only slowly into the broader community.
The 'transition town' or transition initiative, as it is often now described, is the brainchild of Rob Hopkins who launched the concept in Totnes, Britain, in 2005. The concept has spawned some hundreds of similar such initiatives in a range of countries around the world as a means for communities to increase their resilience to the future challenges from two major environmental concerns: peak oil and climate change. Although some such initiatives have been very successful, this is not the case with all. Drawing on concepts from institutional theory, I report the findings from discussions held with individuals involved in specific transition initiatives in New Zealand in order to identify and explore the range of characteristics of successful such initiatives. I also discuss some of the challenges and difficulties facing such initiatives and highlight some of the conflicts and ironies that emerge from their establishment and growth.