Year

2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Honours)

ANZSRC / FoR Code

160403 Social and Cultural Geography

Department

School of Earth & Environmental Science

Advisor(s)

Michael Adams, Leah Gibbs

Abstract

Cape York in Far North Queensland is a place of contradictions, where Aboriginal communities, pastoralists, miners and conservationists engage in decision-making over its future. Its abundance of rare ecosystems and undeveloped river systems has been noticed by global heritage experts since 1982, raising expectations of a future World Heritage listing. The Queensland state government is consulting Cape York communities about their aspirations for land and heritage management, and supported by the conservation sector, maintains a goal of submitting a World Heritage nomination by 2013. There are multiple competing visions over the contribution that World Heritage can make in Cape York. This thesis explores whether World Heritage is appropriate for Cape York, and what are the discursive structures of heritage-making that may empower or disempower those living in Cape York.

Members of key stakeholder organisations involved in World Heritage discussions were asked to provide their perspectives and contribution to World Heritage discussions through a process of semi-structured interviews. Using the conceptual frameworks of postcolonialism, social nature and „authorised heritage discourse‟ in an analysis of the stakeholder perspectives reveals an understanding of the political landscape that enables ongoing conflict around economic development in the region. Findings suggest that World Heritage is not incompatible with Cape York, and that there are recognisable opportunities for cooperation in rich, diverse economies incorporating emergent industries like the conservation economy. However, certain ideological standpoints and individual biases are having a negative impact on the overall discussion. The lack of a coordinated long-term plan for the region, combined with poor infrastructure and difficulties with restrictive tenure criteria can also be identified as key problems. Furthermore, the evaluation of heritage by „expert‟ panels has the potential to disempower local community ownership and representations of heritage. The implications of ongoing conflict are that an incomplete picture of the region‟s heritage may transpire, and certain industry sectors and communities may continue to be marginalised. This thesis can positively contribute to World Heritage discussions in Cape York through a description of opportunities for collaboration between stakeholder organisations, and by making conspicuous the potentially damaging relationships and objectives that key stakeholders may have.

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