Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Geosciences


This thesis addresses the relationship between representations of place and embodied activity and experience. To translate this question into the context of the East Kimberley in the late 1990s, I focus on the manner in which planning processes since the 1960s have represented the East Kimberley as a place and ascribed value to land. Employing the concept of 'land interests', I describe in detail changing relationships to land for Aboriginal people, farmers and tourists since the 1960s. I focus on mobility, as an indicator of their embodied experience, and tease out aspects of the social identities of these groups that are produced through their changing relationships with land. Each land interest has produced representations of place, and I explore the paths by which these representations have gained a pubhc or pohtical audience over time.

In the late 1990s two developments dominated spatial pohtics in the region. A significant Native Tide claim was lodged in the Federal Court of AustraUa by the Miriuwung and Gajerrong Aboriginal groups, and the Wesfarmers-Marubeni consortium put forward a proposal to greatiy expand the existing area of irrigated agriculture in the Ord Valley for corporate farming of sugar cane. At the same time the region's tourism industry continued to expand. I analyse these developments in order to expose the iterative processes that operate between the production of place-images and rhetoric about place, and changes to land tenure, land use and management. In particular, 1 show how place-images, narratives and discourses about change and the past are mobilised in the context of contemporary' spatial pohtics and planning processes.

Central to my analysis is Bourdieu's concept of 'symbohc capital'. Contemporar)- planning processes deploy specific forms of symbohc capital tiiat ahgn more closely with die interests of farmers and tourists than with Aboriginal people. In Chapter 8 I concentrate on 'autiienticity' as a form of symbohc capital operating in both tourism and native tide. In Chapter 9 I focus on die Ord Stage Two proposal, highhghting tiie manner in which 'productivity' and 'sustainabhity' are deployed as key forms of symbohc capital that justify why die scheme should proceed. The legal concepts of Aboriginal Land Rights and Native Titie generate a new form of symbohc capital associated with continuity of Aboriginal cultural traditions and relationships with place. I analyse the potential for this to influence the way concepts such as 'authenticity' and 'sustainabhity' are interpreted. Planning associated with Ord Stage Two and with the various national parks in the East Kimberly rehes on a notion of bounded or stratified space, which may be chaUenged by the recognition of co-existing Aboriginal land interests.

In conclusion, I consider how planning processes might better accommodate the fluid nature of people's relations to place and to each other. The history of unequal power relations and the differential influence of some representations of place over others structures the spatial politics in which any planning occurs. However, processes that recognise emerging forms of symbolic capital that are shared by different land interests are more Ukely to allow synergies to occur. A 'progressive sense of place' (Massey 1993) could then develop in which both places and social relations would be recognised as always in a state of becoming.

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