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From museum to living cultural landscape: governing Tasmania's wilderness world heritage

Lee, E and Richardson, BJ ORCID: 0000-0002-3249-5648 2018 , 'From museum to living cultural landscape: governing Tasmania's wilderness world heritage' , Australian Indigenous Law Review, vol. 20 , pp. 78-107 .

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At Melaleuca, in the remote southwest of the Tasmanian Wilderness WorldHeritage Area (‘TWWHA’), visitors may encounter the Needwonnee AboriginalWalk. Established in 2011 by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service inconsultation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, the Walk isan interpretive nature trail over 1.2 kilometres that educates visitors about thelives of this ancient Aboriginal culture and their environs. Most of theinterpretive installations are ephemeral, fashioned from organic materials in thelocal landscape, and include huts, tools, baskets, shell necklaces and a paperbarkcanoe. The area today is unoccupied except for the few intrepid tourists seekingan iconic ‘wilderness’ experience. Despite the good intentions behind creation ofthe Needwonnee Aboriginal Walk, it conveys the impression of a past or extinctculture now memorialised in an outdoors museum, without any voice and nolonger heard. Yet many Aboriginal representatives in Tasmania see the TWWHAas ‘belonging to a much larger living cultural landscape and seascape’ that shouldbe managed jointly with Aboriginal communities.The evolving governance of the TWWHA, which now recognises thatTasmania’s southwest region is a living cultural landscape rather than a museum,evokes a broader policy issue about how nature conservation often also involvesdecisions about the place of people. This issue sometimes gets framed negativelyand rigidly around the ‘parks versus people’ dichotomy, 2 as though effectiveconservation depends on excluding the human presence. Not only is the notion of‘pristine wilderness’, a nature without people, untrue for nearly all of thebiosphere, this troubling narrative can undermine caring for country whosehuman inhabitants have evolved bespoke environmental knowledge and husbandry skills, as well as wrongly bleach from history the legal claims of suchpeople. Of course, these observations are hardly insightful, especially inAustralia whose environments have been socialised through some 50 000 yearsof Aboriginal occupation. More difficult to understand, as we tackle in ourarticle, is how can Indigenous participation in environmental governance occurwhere such people were subject to genocide and whose survivors have struggledagainst the dominant culture‘s pernicious ideology of biological or cultural‘extinction’.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Lee, E and Richardson, BJ
Keywords: Environmental law; Aboriginal legal issues; Tasmania
Journal or Publication Title: Australian Indigenous Law Review
Publisher: Indigenous Law Centre, University of New South Wales
ISSN: 1835-0186
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2018 The Authors

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