Publication Details

Gill, N. J. & Anderson, K. (2005). Improvement in the inland: culture and nature in the Australian rangelands. Australian Humanities Review, 34 1-18.


Few practices were as intimately implicated in effecting the extension of British selves and surfaces to the colonies of Australia, as agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Said Governor Arthur Phillip, soon after the founding of New South Wales: 'There are few things more pleasing than the contemplation of order and useful arrangement on the land arising gradually out of tumult and confusion; and perhaps this satisfaction cannot anywhere be more fully enjoyed than where a settlement of civilised people is fixing itself upon a newly discovered and savage coast' (Phillips, 1789, p.122). Over the course of the subsequent century, the enactment of this ideal of settled cultivation, enshrined in John Locke's influential notion of property rights, discredited and eradicated other, more nomadic modes of relation to land. More than a cultural ideal, however, settled cultivation materialised a specific humanist ontology of human distinction from the nonhuman world, according to which cultivation would not only release the land's potential, but signal the passage of a universalised human out of a 'state of nature' and ultimately into a space of civilised accommodation with other humans and nonhumans Anderson (Forthcoming).

Link to publisher version (URL)

Australian Humanities Review