Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Anthropology and Conservation Virtual Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference


Date of panel - 28 October 2021

Panel title - Priorities for the 21st Century: Land Back First, Environmental Concerns to Follow

Paper title - From stakeholders to collaborators to Hosts: Centralising Indigenous Epistemologies in Research and Climate Mitigation, a perspective from Australia

Abstract -
In her keynote address to the 2020 RAI conference, Marcia Langford railed against the destruction of the Juukan Gorge site by mining company Rio Tinto, marking the end of what had been an uneasy and unequal alliance between Indigenous traditional owners and extractive capitalism. Just as traditional owners and mining interests hold what Aileen Moreton-Robinson calls incommensurate epistemologies towards land, so too, the history of environmentalism and ecological concern in Australia is often characterised by a similar uneasy ideological incompatibility. From the 1980s, conservationists’ highly successful use of tropes of ancient “wilderness” hinged on the erasure of Indigenous peoples from those very landscapes, and claims to “world heritage” simultaneously asserted moral ownership of Indigenous lands to the greater, and presumably better-knowing, world. While progress has been made in the last 40 years, with Indigenous peoples incorporated in environmental protection models first as stakeholders and then as partners, this paper advocates use of Russell and McNiven’s host-guest model in ecological care and climate mitigation efforts. This is predicated on not just acknowledgement of Indigenous sovereignty, but the environment movement – and the academy – prioritising Indigenous leadership of campaigns and research. I use the examples of the 1983 fight to save the Franklin River in Tasmania and the 2019 World Heritage listing of the Budj Bim Cultural Site to show the evolution in conservation practice, and the importance of Indigenous-led paradigms, which hinge on recognition that the land – as the local catchcry asserts – “Always was, Always will be, Aboriginal land.”
Period25 Oct 202129 Oct 2021
Event typeConference
LocationLondon , United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • First Nations Peoples
  • Cultural Heritage Protection
  • Tasmanian History
  • Budj Bim Cultural Site
  • Conservation Practice
  • Indigenous-led Paradigms