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).

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