IUCN World Parks conference – Australia Environment Minister Greg Hunt media release

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment

World Parks Congress gets underway in Sydney

12 November 2014


Our protected areas are huge economic and social assets. In Australia, nature-based tourism attracts around 36 million visitors, delivering more than $30 billion a year to our economy.

Parks are an intrinsic part of our way of life, delivering social and health benefits for our families and communities. Our protected areas help to deliver the clean air, clean land and clean water that help to keep Australia healthy.

Australia’s Indigenous land managers and rangers play a big role in this. By managing parks and Indigenous Protected Areas they are keeping culture and country strong, benefitting all Australians, while providing meaningful jobs and business development opportunities back to their own communities.

That’s why it’s important Australia contributes to the conversation at IUCN World Parks Congress.

The Congress will set the agenda for protected areas for the next decade – a huge mandate. Over the next seven days we’ll be tackling some of the complex problems facing our people, parks and planet.

full media release



IUCN World Parks Conference in Sydney in November

Australia’s first national park, south of Sydney NSW, was named the National Park. It is said to be the world’s second national park.

The National Park was renamed the ‘Royal National Park’ to commemorate a passing visit of the British Queen in the early in 1950s.

There is no recognition of the tradition First Peoples on whose country the RNP is located, nor any recognition in the name of the park.

With the IUCN holding its World Park Conference in Sydney this month, the time has come to recognise the role of First Peoples and their practices in the management of such areas.

We shall soon see if the official rhetoric is matched with any real movment.

From the conference website – New Social Compact.


The process of speaking with and listening to one another with a new sense of urgency is part of the outcome of this theme. Professional facilitators convene dialogues with delegates from diverse constituencies to speak frankly about ethical, social, cultural, economic and political relationships between humans and what is required to find a shared commitment to address and reverse the anthropogenic drivers of climate change and biodiversity loss.

There will also be three major public events at the Congress, where women, youth and Indigenous Peoples respectively will take the floor to speak about their views on a sustainable future and their relationships with protected areas and conservation.

Out of each dialogue, there will be opportunities for projects, processes, and policies, expressed as a New Social Compact for Just and Effective Conservation of Biological and Cultural Diversity.

The New Social Compact will build on the legacies of the Earth Charter, Agenda 21 and the Durban Accord, signalling a new era of a global commitment to saving the planet. This time has now come; let us find the courage to have these conversations.

Did you know?

The previous Congress, held in Durban, South Africa in 2003 , produced outcomes that continue to influence global protected areas policy and practice. For example, the message to the Convention on Biological Diversity resulted in the adoption by 188 countries of the Convention’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas, considered one of their most successful.

The recognition in Durban and in the CBD’s Programme of Work, of the vital role of good governance, especially involving Indigenous Peoples and local communities, has led to profound changes in the way nature conservation is conducted globally. This legacy will inform the objectives and achievements of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014.”


World Heritage listing for Royal National Park, NSW vis-a-vis recognition of First Peoples

Conservationists are seeking World Heritage listing for the Royal National Park; the Heathcote National Park and the Garawarra State Conservation Area south of Sydney, New South Wales.

They document their case in a new book (2012):

“First National Park, A Natural for World Heritage” By Dr G Mosley.

Free download at http://www.firstnationalpark.org.au/

But how can we celebrate the creation of national parks in Australia (and elsewhere) when they do not include recognition of the original First Peoples?

For my critique see “‘A Natural’ sounds a bum note” at:

Nation and Nature – Royal National Park

“The study of national history in all its forms has been at the core of Royal National Park, one of the first national parks in the world, since its very beginnings in 1879. Along with the neighbouring Heathcote National Park, it has played an important part in the foundation of the conservation movement in Australia and the basis for national park management throughout the country. “

So begins the recent (2011) paper “Natural History in the Royal National Park and the Need to Better Integrate Research into Park Management” by outgoing NPWS Manager of the Royal National Park, Michael Treanor.

National history? A typo surely for “Natural history” since the story of national history (in all its forms) has not been at the core of the RNP since 1879.

And while not wishing to place any great analytical weight on such a slip, as it happens it does serve to alert us to the very close connection in Australia to the expropriation of ‘nature’ on the intellectual level and – on the practical level – the expropriation of First Peoples living countries and resources in the name of ‘nationalism’ and ‘national interest’ (by the clusters of vested interests which align with nationalism).

“Nation – Nature” –  an ideology to the exclusion of Australia’s First Peoples and their claims to the resources of this country. First Peoples, their languages, their cultures and land management practices are missing from the modern Australian nation.

The Treanor paper typo, if that is indeed what it is, should also serve as an opportunity to remind us that what follows in the paper (and the collection of which it is part) is a fable of a kind . A myth which parallels the ritual practices  involved in the creation and maintenance of the mentifact of a National Park – formed by displacing, excluding and surpressing indigenous peoples and their prior cosmologies from these forms of representation.

The exclusion of First Peoples is not the only feature of this modern fable. For example, the now  ‘Royal’ National Park was equally founded to serve recreational purposes, not merely for conservation purposes. But this important purpose too is omitted from the introduction.

A ‘Royal’ National Park – where is the acknowledgement of the traditional owners in that title?

In modern forms of representation First Peoples interests are systematically depicted as remote and in the past. In the 20th century  standards of adequacy in scholarship were subtly shaped not by a concern for comprehensive knowledge but by a state-funded agenda. “Terra nullius of the mind” reigned supreme.

These standards are no longer acceptable in the 21st century.

And while a slip of the pen by the hardworking RNP Manager is hardly indicative of anything of great significance, the whole nature-nation mindset has riddled past RNP Plans of Management.

These plans are very carefully crafted to put into words the vast body of interests which operate via the state bureaucrats to give effect to their master’s wishes. What they contain – and what they systematically exclude – is the result of very careful deliberation.

What is truly important is the extent to which the 20th century nature-nation thinking, excluding First Peoples and their practices, informs the draft  RNP Plan of Management now in its final stages of preparation. This PoM is the key document for all that takes place in the RNP, and we need one with a new spirit – one which leads us into the 21st century, not one which repeats and perpetuates the mistakes of the past.

We have to ask, given the chronic mismanagement of these lands by the state (which are a chaotic mess by indigenous standards):

Where does the accumulated knowledge of countless generations of indigenous people in Australia feature in the projected management of the RoyalNational Park?

The healing challenges which face us in this century require us to fashion new forms of representation – new forms which factor back-in what was factored out in modern thinking.

From the titles in the 2011 Linnean Society of NSW Symposium collection (see below) – some careful reading will be required to see if those wedded to ‘natural’ history are able to make the transition into present realities.

On the face of it though, neither modern science nor Natural history is the answer. Modern science in this country has been half-brained.

New forms of representation will represent an epistemic shift – not merely those of a ‘new paradigm’ which, while appearing to offer change, merely mask the ongoing priviliging of otherwise obsolete practices.

We now need new thinking – which understands the importance of connecting management and users of national parks with country and with a living cosmos – new thinking which (at least) matches bureaucratic policies with a spirit moving in step to the new songs and dances of a genuine cultural partnership.

That is, a full-brainer.

Continue reading “Nation and Nature – Royal National Park”

Dual rainbows – beyond ‘official’ Anglo-Australian recognition

I was staying at the shack at Era in the Royal National Park last weekend to provide assistance with the BBQ for a heritage week event and –  as much as i was enjoying myself after the bean soup, sausage sandwich and a cool beer – the recurring thought i had was:

“And still no official recognition (by Anglo-Australian authorities) of First Peoples for this country we know as the Royal National Park.”

Sunday evening produced a great sight in the rare air which i managed to capture on the phone camera:

You may be able to make out the second rainbow – but what you make not know is that (according to anthropo-linguist C.G. von Brandenstein) there are two Rainbow Serpents in indigenous cosmology, not one. A male and a female serpent ‘dos-a-dos’.

What you may not also know is that the pink and grey shading in the evening sky is also a sign of the two moieties which (by way of a process of complementary opposition) make life complete. Neither moiety can be complete in itself.

Well-formed life, according to the wisdom which informs First Peoples Ways (such as among Warumungu people in the NT) always requires two (‘yin and yang’) complementary opposites to tango. Wurlurru and Kingili in the Warumungu case. Similar formations associated with Eaglehawk and Crow in much of South Eastern Australia.

So, while there is still  no official recognition of First Peoples in this country, there are signs from life’s higher authorities for those who have the eyes to see them.

Beyond the self-privileging European narratives of naturalists regarding the Royal National Park, a far richer indigenous cosmos awaits. The whole of life is subject to trans-signification.

By contrast, that blocked form of energy- the Anglo-Australia State as presently constituted (c 1901) –  remains wilfully officially blind.

The process of forming the next Plan of Management for the Royal National Park provides us with a crucial opportunity to help dissolve some of those blockages and help us all gain new eyes to more clearly see our true Australian surroundings.

But it will take some good and combined healing energy to bring our forms of representation into proper focus and better alignment with a truly cosmic reality.


C. G. von Brandenstein “Names and Substance of the Australian Subsection System.” 1982:62.

Also W.E.H. Stanner 1934 fireldwork report  and Kimberly Christen 2008  “Aboriginal Business”  for Warumungu moieties Wurlurru and Kingili.

Last exit from main street.

“For if the entire history of landscape in the West is indeed just a mindless race towards a machine-driven universe, uncomplicated by myth, metaphor, and allegory, where measurement, not memory is the absolute arbiter of value, where our ingenuity is our tragedy, then we are indeed trapped within the engine of our self-destruction.”

Simon Schama.

“Landscape and Memory”1995:14

Alfred A, Knoff New York

Deconstructing the Royal National Park – 8. A major social transformation

The next bit we need to be aware of is the importance of the transformation from a Royal mode of social life (based on some notion of a divine right) to the rise of the modern Gentlemen (with a right to rule based on other more ‘secular’ considerations).

In other words, how one elite were replaced by another elite.

We can trace this out with the material of Schama – from a Court based on knights who could hunt with the king to the new English gentlemen who, as has been already mentioned, did not have courts but solitary country estates. The sources of their social position lay elsewhere, even if ownership of land continued to be a marker of their place in the scheme of things.

Schama says, of the hunt:

“Outside of war itself, it was the most important blood ritual through which the hierarchy of status and honor around the king was ordered…It may not be too much to characterize it as an alternative court where, free of the clerical domination of regular administration, clans of nobles could compete for proximity to the king. Not surprisingly, the offices of Masters of the Horse and Hunt were fiercely competed for and jealously preserved within the family. And since the dominant weapon of Norman arms was the mounted knight,  the hunt served as an apprenticeship in martial equestrianism for young nobles…From beginning to end …the hunt was not merely a kill that gave potency and authority to the aura of the royal warlord, it was also a ritual demonstration of the discipline and order of his court.” (page 145)

“…the churchmen forbidden from hunting and therefore excluded from the king’s mounted retinue.” (P 145)

“During the first half of the eighteenth century a regulating role (in relation to oak-BR) for the Crown seemed out of the question. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 had, after all, established a parliamentary monarchy presumed to support, rather than infringe on, the interests of the propertied aristocracy…Parliamentary statutes were much more likely to reinforce, than to weaken, the property rights of the Whig aristocracy, who had, after all become the heirs of the Norman and Angevin forester-hunters – their mastery of the county hunts symbolising their political and social supremacy.” (page 165)

(“Silva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees” John Evelyn 1664.) “The book had originated in a request to the Royal Society from the Crown commissioners of the navy for a fresh plan for replanting timber trees. Evelyn was one of four Fellows of the Society approached for ideas, and asked to make a digest of all their proposals along with his own. The learned editor, however, quickly turned author…Silva may still be the greatest of all forestry books published in English…”(p 159)

“In point of fact, it was the fifth edition , published in 1776, long after Evelyn’s death, which, as we shall see, would truly revolutionize British sensibilities about the woodlands.” (p. 162)

(Note – 1600s – 1664-67 Dutch English, shift to French English end of 1600s – Heart of Oak bulwark of liberty standing between ‘freeborn Englishmen and Catholic slavery and idolatry” page 163. BR)

(Note – Seven Years war against France – need for hull and mast timbers – 1763 “Heart of Oak: the British Bullwark” Parliamentary report. BR)

(War with France 1793) “And with each ship of the line blown out the water by the enemy’s broadsides, British lords of the Admiralty and Jacobin citizen commissioners searched desperately for the next two thousand oaks … that could replace it.” (p 180)

“…their British competitors were combing the empire for supplies to make up the shortfall in native (British- R) forests.” (p181) (Canada, brazilwood, Cape stinkwood, New Zealand kauri Sierra Leone teak. But great rivers of NE Europe flowed into Baltic…)

“…the physician Dr Alexander Hunter published a new edition of John Evelyn’s Silva in 1776…Though Hunter looked to the Crown to rouse what was left of the spirit of patriotic planting, he was also enough of a pragmatist to realise that the fate of the British woods would be decided not by the king but by his aristocracy…So he must have been gratified by the subscription list (at two guinea a copy), dominated as it was by the greatest and grandest among the Whig nobility…The duke of Portland …two copies … the marquis of Rockingham, usually associated with the opposition Whigs, proclaimed his oaken patriotism by ordering no fewer than five … James Boswell … the Anglo-Dutch banker James Hope … the dukes of Argyll, Atholl, Buccleuch, Beaufort, Grafton, and Devonshire and the earls of Egremont,  Cholmondeley, Radnor,  and Pembroke. Obviously, subscriptions to the Hunterian Silva was a requirement of fashion.  But among this roll call of landed magnates and political grandees were many who, as the Royal Society of Arts’ prize lists indicate, had already become the pioneers of planting programs on their estates.” (page 169)

Unpacking all of this – with its dense interplay between social formations, economic factors, and fashion may take some time and effort. The alignment of a market place mentality (capitalism) and the emerging modern nation-state is a process which takes many centuries to come into full maturity.

The there is a shift in the unconscious-in-culture, cosmology, world-views, values from Feudal times to a new arrangement, which may be best termed a plutocracy.