Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Geography and Sustainable Communities


Rural geography has become an increasingly important subdiscipline of human geography since the 1980s. Over the past decades, farming in most developed countries has been transformed at a speed and to an extent that is unprecedented. Much of rural Australia has been experiencing constant financial difficulties which drove the restructuring of agricultural industries. Despite the importance of supporting family farmers and rural communities in terms of food security and sovereignty, there is still very limited theoretical and empirical knowledge regarding how the multiple forces over the past decades have intertwined and impacted farm development pathways. By focusing on dairy farmers‘ (in the Illawarra region, New South Wales) experiences of and responses to agricultural restructuring, this thesis aims to characterise and interpret change in contemporary agriculture.

Conceptually, agricultural restructuring has been researched from political economy and socio-cultural perspectives, which have alternately dominated the research agenda of human geography, and are both deployed in this study. Dairy farming dominates Illawarra agriculture, and has been constantly pressured by neoliberal policy reform (especially nationwide deregulation of the dairy industry in 2000), industry restructuring and the inflow of urban middle-class groups into rural areas. To maintain the century-long tradition of family farming, Illawarra dairy farmers do not just work hard but seek to improve their business from various angles. This process drives continued productivism, the rise of alternative agri-food networks, and the multifunctional transition of local agriculture. The thesis brings together scholarship examinng the pathways of agricultural transformation, changing perspectives of farming businesses, and on-farm development.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.