Deconstructing the Royal National Park – 6. People in parks

The process of imperial colonistation can be compared with a kind of meta-cloning, which seeks to knock out the indigenous cultural core from the ecosystem, suppress it, and forcefully insert the alien culture (and keep it in place).

We need to keep this in mind when non-indigenous people raise the example of “people” having a place in national parks – if then proceed to exclude First Peoples from the picture (using past tense) and seek to promote people who share the writer’s entirely Western idea of what kind of ‘people’ should be found in National Parks.

In the forthcoming work by Dr Geoff Mosley, which traces the rise of the conservation movement in Australia, there is mention of how that movement’s cultural hero Dunphy saw humans as part of nature. (draft chapter 4, page 16). This is contrasted to others who argued for the protection of areas of land without any people.

 The various viewpoints expressed during the 1945-46 split over the Kosciusko Primitive Area issue are of interest in relation to the future of wilderness conservation. In essence, Dunphy and the NPPAC argued that not only do bushwalkers do no harm to nature in primitive areas but they have a natural disposition to be protective of it. Marie Byles (1945 and 1946) expressed the view that to preserve nature so that mankind might enjoy it was selfish. Even though, as she conceded, the bushwalkers would not ruin it they would have some effect and there would inevitably be demands for tracks and huts even though roads and motorists were excluded.

At the level of fundamental differences in this debate Myles Dunphy saw humans as a part of nature, returning to it and benefiting in health and education from the experience, whereas Marie Byles viewed nature as a separate living thing with ’rights  of its own’ and saw leaving primitive areas completely alone as a way of compensating for the damage humans were doing elsewhere. They were at one in believing that primitive areas could contribute to a more general change in human attitude to nature. What they differed on  was how they could do this.

But which people and which cultural practices? There is no mention of Dunphy seeking to ensure that indigenous people should be recognised as part of the country he was seeking to preserve.

And there was an earlier United States precedent for such inclusion with the work of Caitlin in connection with the early Yosemite park. More on this later.

But first we have to deal with some history stemming from the Norman invasion in 1066 (and all the subsequent invasions which followed from that).