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Conserving cultural values in Australian national parks and reserves, with particular reference to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

Cubit, S 2003 , 'Conserving cultural values in Australian national parks and reserves, with particular reference to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Beginning in the 1970s and extending into the 1990s community groups, academics
and cultural heritage managers in Australia noted with concern the expression of a
management philosophy which encouraged the devaluing and removal of European
cultural heritage in national parks and protected areas. In the 1990s when the
phenomenon became the subject of academic and professional analysis, it was
attributed to a longstanding separation in Western notions of culture and nature
which underpinned a conflict between the ascendant concept of wilderness and the
artefacts of human use and association. As the century drew to a close, these
expressions of concern began to fade in line with the emergence of new
international valuations of the natural world which rejected wilderness in favour of
the conservation of biodiversity. Rather than see cultural heritage as an impediment,
this new model saw the values, traditions and diversity of human groups as vital
assets in the conservation project. This thesis examines these two shifts in
conservation practice and their wider implications for the management of cultural
Following an interpretation of Western cultural philosophy and its translation to
Australia, a review of the literature established that the first shift was a product of an
ecocentric value system adopted by national park managers from the 1970s.
Ecocentrism reinforced and extended cultural assumptions implicit in the American
'Yellowstone' national park model influential in Australia and generated a new
appreciation of the value of wilderness as a place where non-human species could
evolve without human interference. In this way it served to broaden the existing
separation of humans from nature. The implication of this shift for the management
of cultural values in wild areas was profound. An in-depth case study of the
establishment of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) in the
late 1980s, a major part of the thesis, documented an active misanthropism which, it
is argued, was based on the moral authority offered by ecocentrism. A 1992
management plan constructed the TWWHA as wilderness refuge with intrinsically
valuable ecological communities and processes. Important cultural values of the
TWWHA were not identified and those that were tended to be poorly managed and
inadequately resourced.
The second shift, it is argued from the literature, had its origins in the 1970s and
1980s in a growing international awareness that the powerful Yellowstone model with its focus on spectacular natural features and unpopulated parks, was
structurally limited in its ability to conserve biodiversity and slow to respond to the
aspirations of indigenous people. These problems fuelled the development of
alternate conservation models and prompted new research culminating in the 1990s
rejection of wilderness in favour of bio-regional strategies. The new strategies
accepted that humans have a positive role to play in conserving biodiversity and
recognise that culture and nature are inextricably entwined. A number of
contemporary conservation initiatives at national and international levels, including
the details of a new 1999 management plan for the TWWHA, were used to provide
evidence of this shift. Each embodied a rejection of wilderness for its own sake,
revealed a consistent focus on the conservation of biodiversity and integrated the
management of natural and cultural values to varying degrees.
These findings confirm the two shifts in conservation practice. The thesis makes
contributions to the literature in a number of areas. These include enhancing
understandings of the rationales that have underpinned Australian protected area
management; in providing an analysis of the impact of ecocentrism of particular
interest in relation to emerging trends in environmental history which seek to
understand the social implications of conservation initiatives, and in placing the
Tasmanian experience in protected area management in a wider context.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Cubit, S
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