Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Natural Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Professor Pierre Horwitz

Second Supervisor

Professor Sherry Saggers


This thesis explores the conflict between conservationists and Indigenous communities over the hunting of marine turtles and dugong in Australia, with a view to finding a way to overcome the barriers that prevent the resolution of this issue. I approached this exploration as an ecologist, using the framework of Berkes (2004) who proposed three shifts for the field of ecology. This meant taking a systems approach and investigating the intertwining threads of the issue as possible, with a specific focus on integrating the human aspects of the problem in a participatory manner. By doing so my work entered into a third space where multiple possibilities for investigation opened up. Through listening to others with expertise on the matter (from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures) I have created a hybrid account of the ecology of marine turtles and dugong in Australia. The methodology used in undertaking this research was reflexive in nature, with a focus upon both my own and Bardi and Jawi culture, utilising interviews and participant observation as my primary methods of data collection. Wherever possible, a collaborative and participatory approach to the research was undertaken, with many people assisting me in my growing understandings of this issue. I have made use of various text-based resources, including the current scientific literature, historical accounts and records and my own field diaries to support the interview data that I collected. This account traces the origins of the conflict over marine turtle and dugong in Australia and focuses on a few key moments where attempts to resolve the issue have occurred over the past twenty years. By viewing these moments through the lens of the ecological discourses described by Manuel-Naverrete et al. (2008), it can be seen that progress towards the resolution of the conflict is unlikely to occur when participants retain a strongly normative worldview, and that movement towards an ecosystemic-pluralistic framework allows for a more flexible and adaptive response to this problem. Furthermore I argue that many of the underlying causes of the conflict are based on non-Indigenous cultures’ painful grappling with our current disassociation from the other-than-human world and that the adoption of a transformative-collaborative approach to our relationship with country may provide an opportunity to heal this rift.