Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Tourism Management

School

School of Business

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Professor Ross Dowling

Second Advisor

Dr Greg Wilson

Abstract

Since the early 2000s, park management approaches to protected area governance have undergone a significant transformation, driven by the realisation that long-term conservation outcomes depend on participation in decision-making by stakeholders. To meet these challenges one of the measures being adopted by park managers is to engage in joint management arrangements. Recent changes to the conservation legislation in Western Australia provides the capacity for the Department of Parks and Wildlife (Parks and Wildlife) to enter into joint management arrangements with Aboriginal traditional owners and others for the management of protected areas, regardless of the land vesting or tenure. Joint management activities provide both formal and informal opportunities for mentoring, skills building, resource sharing, and knowledge mobilisation.

Aboriginal traditional owners, through native title settlements, are regaining rights and control over land and resources. Successful native title claims have the potential to contribute to the advancement of social and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal communities. One compatible type of economic development occurring in parks is sustainable tourism - specifically ecotourism and cultural tourism. It is argued that tourism can assist in achieving conservation goals, as the need for ecological sustainability and biological conservation becomes greater due to habitat loss, population increases, hunting wildlife and poverty. Some specialists advocate for the resource management process to fully integrate tourism, since the base of the parks-tourism partnership is resource sustainability.

This qualitative study used multi-method triangulation (participant observation, interviews, document analysis, case study) with the intent of identifying the place of Aboriginal tourism development within the shared governance structure of joint management. The research highlighted successful Aboriginal tourism development outcomes brought about through the capacity building that occurs within strong working relationships, forged over many years between Parks and Wildlife staff and local Aboriginal communities.

One important research finding is the emergence of a parks - tourism – Aboriginal people – joint management nexus, as revealed by those directly involved in joint management strongly viewing Aboriginal tourism development as an important outcome. However, the research found that government, tourism professionals and the public had difficulty in understanding the concept of joint management and its value in facilitating Aboriginal tourism. Evidence of the disconnect is seen in the government’s failure to provide adequate funding for these activities and highlights an opportunity for educating the tourism industry and government about joint management’s potential to assist with Aboriginal tourism development. The State Government could do more to support the important component of capacity building facilitated through joint management, which fosters cross-cultural awareness, skill enhancement, and economic and social development amongst the stakeholders.

An equally important finding is the ability of the Conservation and Land Management Regulations 2002 to provide a mechanism for Aboriginal joint management partners to adequately manage visitors and tour operators on their lands, as Aboriginal communities currently have very limited powers to regulate access.

Joint management provides a vehicle to achieve sustainable benefits for conservation, communities and country including supporting Aboriginal tourism development. Therefore it is paramount that joint management partners are cognitive of the important role of tourism when they undertake the task of preparing management plans for protected areas, and Governments provide adequate funding to sustain joint management activities.

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