Year

2010

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

University of Wollongong - School of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Abstract

This research project seeks to challenge the historical and contemporary exclusion of Aboriginal people by negotiating more effective and collaborative relationships between settler and Aboriginal Australians. This is achieved through a cross-cultural and collaborative design which employs two primary theories within environmental management and conservation topics; „nature is contested‟ and „nature is more than human‟. The thesis explores the questions of how Aboriginal and settler knowledge systems, conceptualisations of space and cultural values are represented and how, in comparison, they form commonalities and differences. In acknowledgement of Australia‟s diverse ecological systems and the heterogeneity of the people who constitute a part of those systems, the thesis questions are most appropriately applied to a small scale geographic location within a focused field. Subsequently, the thesis questions are examined through the fields of human geography and environmental management, and are specifically applied to a well recognised species in the study area; the White-bellied Sea-Eagle. The geographic location for the research is the Jervis Bay region on the south coast of NSW.

The research provides insight into both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous experiences pertaining to conservation in the Jervis Bay region, with considerable overlap between the two study-groups, each informing the other. The research findings from both participant groups highlight a continued contestation of Aboriginal knowledge and management practices, due to privileged methods of measurement and comparison to „traditional‟ Aboriginal contexts which rely upon continuity and very little change. Results also indicated conflict between cross-cultural conceptualisations of space, promoting disparity between the two Aboriginal Communities in the study area as well as highlighting existing gaps in the acknowledgement and understanding of Aboriginal and ecological conceptualisations. Finally, the research indicates some commonality between the two groups regarding the cultural significance of the White-bellied Sea-Eagle as well as challenging the science based human-nature dichotomy. The embodied and affective dimensions of human-nonhuman encounters, demonstrates that the Settler science model thus reveals the falsity of its own binary logic. These research findings assist in negotiating cross-cultural differences, encourage further understanding, and empower both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous knowledge systems, conceptualisations of space, and cultural values for the overall interest of improved environmental conservation and management.

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