Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Geosciences


There are many points of intersection between the interests of Aboriginal communities and organisations, and the interests of state conservation departments. While these intersections more often generate conflict and confrontation than co-operation and trust, attempts by governments to implement resolutions to these apparently different interests often lead to policy failure. Unresolved conflict over Aboriginal land claims, native title, and jointmanagement regimes for national parks are clearly evident in N e w South Wales and Queensland.

State conservation agencies, as subsets of mainstream Australian culture, hold normative cultural constructs which may be only tenuously linked to the 'realities' they symbolise. These constructs are institutionalised in the structure and processes of conservation agencies, and, as such, have a constant presence in the policy and decision-making process. Significant cultural constructions include those focusing on 'nature' and 'Aboriginality' and a spectrum of detailed issues around these. Contemporary Aboriginal interests in conservation issues have to engage and negotiate with this culture of conservation. Aboriginal constructions of nature and indigeneity may differ strongly from those held by conservation agencies. Importantly, many Aboriginal organisations, and the legal concept of native title, are both situated at points between non-Aboriginal Australian culture and Aboriginal culture, rather than simply reflecting Aboriginal culture.

This thesis argues that differences and corrrespondences between government conservation department and Aboriginal cultures are at the core of contested approaches to conservation landscapes. Empirical and theoretical analysis of a range of situations in Australia leads to the development of new theoretical positions. The thesis identifies the recognition spaces where new meetings can occur, and new relationships can be created. The recognition spaces are both theoretical conditions and geographic places. Focusing on concepts of epistemological and practical complementarity, new intellectual and practical approaches can be discovered. Complementarity can generate new understandings between different but equivalent worldviews, with possibilities for positive outcomes for both biodiversity conservation and Aboriginal social justice.

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