PhD research targets engagement at Kakadu 


Engagement practices at Kakadu National Park need to be reconsidered if growing tensions between state authorities and the Park’s traditional owners are to be relieved.

Dr Chris Haynes, who was recently awarded a PhD from Charles Darwin University, examined the unique relationship between the two groups of stakeholders currently in place at Kakadu National Park.

Dr Haynes said that despite Kakadu being regarded as a “best practice” example of shared management between state and Indigenous people who “own” the land, refinement of the current model of engagement was essential.

“This now-idealised model of joint management comprises vesting the land in the traditional Aboriginal owners, leasing it back to the state, an active board of management with an Aboriginal majority, and regular consultation between the partners – traditional owners and white officials,” he said.

Dr Haynes said that while these conditions were met technically, contradictory forces at many levels constantly threatened their actual fulfillment – and that most members of both groups found the experience of joint management deeply disturbing and failed to meet their expectations.

“Simple social structures and activities already in place could be effectively boosted to relieve some of these tensions that have developed over the past three decades,” he said.