Enabled and embedded? Non-government protected areas in Australia

Dr Benjamin Cooke1, Associate Professor Aidan Davison, Ms Lydia Schofield, Professor James Kirkpatrick

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia


The last three decades have seen a proliferation of protected areas for nature conservation in Australia that sit outside the public land estate. Private and Indigenous owned lands now contribute over 40 per cent of Australia’s National Reserve System, counting towards Australia’s international targets and commitments for the protection of biodiversity. The growing sophistication of the non-government protected area (NGPA) sector is evidenced by the recent establishment of a peak body (Australian Lands Conservation Alliance) and the maturation of international philanthropic investment in land purchases for conservation. Our research explores the emergence and enabling conditions for this substantial shift in approach to protected areas in Australia, examining how fluctuating and retreating government support, bureaucratic discourses, First Nations sovereignty and land rights, networks of philanthropists and land trusts and biodiversity conservation mapping have cohered to produce distinct governance approaches. We outline some of the opportunities and vulnerabilities for NGPAs as globally funded, locally contingent entanglements of public and private interests.


Ben’s research explores nature conservation from a critical social science perspective, with a specific emphasis on relations between humans and nonhumans. His research covers protected areas, rural-amenity landscapes, private land conservation and urban greening politics.

Out of Bounds: Wildlife Conservation Across Private Landscapes

Mr Matthew Taylor1,2, Dr Aidan Davison1, Dr Andrew Harwood1

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

2Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Hobart, Australia


Global concern at the rapid decline of wildlife populations is leading to a renegotiation of the concept of private land and dissolution of the intangible boundaries that contribute to that decline. Wildlife is globally imperilled by human development, especially on private land, where people and native animals are in competition for space and resources. Wildlife is usually on the losing side of the competition: most native species struggle to persist in landscapes that have been fragmented and degraded by agriculture and urbanisation. Private land presents an especially challenging context for wildlife conservation, because of a fundamental tension between the boundaries inherent in the concept of private land and the movement of wildlife across the landscape. Private properties are managed at the discretion of the owner, whose worldview, management objectives and practices often differ from neighbours. Wildlife conservation initiatives on private land need to be coordinated across property boundaries, with the consent and support of many individual landholders. While property rights are important to landholders, they are not absolute, but rather socially constructed and dynamic. Wildlife conservation on private land therefore requires management approaches that adopt social-ecological methodologies, balancing the interests of landholders with the interests of wildlife and society.


Matt Taylor is a PhD candidate, researching the socio-ecology of wildlife conservation on private land. The project is a partnership between UTAS and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, where he’s worked as an ecologist for the past 10 years.

The effectiveness of conservation covenants in enhancing the breeding activity of eagles on private land in Tasmania.

Miss Erin Harris1, Dr Andrew Harwood1, Dr Sally Bryant2

1University Of Tasmania – Discipline of Geography and Spatial Sciences, Sandy Bay, Australia

2Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Lower Sandy Bay, Australia


Over the last two decades conservation covenants have become the primary mechanism for securing biodiversity outcomes on private land in Tasmania. More recently, covenants have been used to regulate and mitigate the impacts that private land management activities have on nesting eagles. Private land constitutes almost 40% of Tasmania including about 42% of known wedge-tailed eagle nests, thus a vast number of nests are exposed to human disturbances. Eagle ecology in Tasmania and the role of conservation covenants on nests is a complex issue with both environmental and social components. With a view to understanding the effectiveness of conservation covenants in providing adequate protection of eagle breeding sites we documented the activity status of eagle nests during the 2018-2019 breeding season on three land tenures: covenants; private freehold; and Permanent Timber Production Zones (PTPZ). We also conducted surveys and interviews with landholders of the covenanting and private freehold properties to understand why landholders engage in conservation covenanting programs, their attitudes towards these programs and how covenants change their land management practices. Such information is likely to provide critical context for assessing and evaluating the value of conservation covenants as a protective mechanism on private land.


Erin Harris is studying a Master of Environmental Management at the University of Tasmania’s School of Technology, Environments and Design. Erin is expected to finish this project in June 2019 and hopes to further her career in conservation and environmental management.

The rise and role of Indigenous Protected Areas in Australia. Divergence or convergence with settler colonialism?

Ms Lydia Schofield1

1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


In Australia, the Indigenous protected area (IPA) estate has recently grown larger than the public estate. The emergence of IPAs has occurred through a new conservation paradigm, with substantial shifts in approach to protected areas globally and in Australia. This change includes a significant expansion of the role of non-government actors, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’. Other elements of this shift include growing international philanthropic investment and subsequent new ‘green-black’ alliances. I offer early and formative insights into the enabling and driving forces behind the rise of IPAs, charting their emergence since the 1980s from an academic literature review and discourse analysis of institutional, policy, professional, ‘hard’ and ‘social’ media discourses. This paper addresses the relationship between the Indigenous Protected Area programme and settler colonial structuration and ordering of land and peoples through space and time. I consider the potential for IPAs to both diverge from, and converge with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ aspirations for sovereignty and decolonization.


I am a second year PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Tasmania. My PhD forms part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project: Owning nature: Investigating the political drivers, public benefits and possible futures of private protected areas. I graduated with a Master of Arts in Environmental Sociology at Lancaster University, UK (2014-2015), and I have a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK (2009-2013).


Privtising nature: government support for public and private protected areas

Prof. Jamie Kirkpatrick1, Ms Julie Fielder1, Associate Professor Aidan Davison1

1University Of Tasmania


The recent upsurge in the area of private reserves in Australia has been hypothesised to be a plot by neoliberal governments to privatise the conservation estate and relieve them of some of the obstacles to economic development that have beset national parks. We test this hypothesis by determining whether there has been a tendency for governments to divert expenditure on protected areas away from public to private reserves. Despite appallingly bad data resulting from incessant re-organisations of nature conservation agencies, we conclude that an increasing proportion of public funds went to support private reserves until recently, when nature conservation has been of such bad odor among conservative governments that money spent on public parks has been diverted to support private tourism enterprises and non-Indigenous private protected areas have been thrown to the charity wolves.


Jamie Kirkpatrick and his many students  research matters relevant to the conservation of nature, mainly in Tasmania. He teaches undergraduate units with alliterative titles, like ‘Fire, Weeds and Ferals’. He is a member of the University of Tasmania Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council. His most recent book is ‘Conservation Worrier’

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