Black Country, White Wilderness: Conservation, Colonialism, and Conflict in Tasmania


  • Daniel Ross Southwestern University



In 2015, Tasmania‘s land management plan for the expansive Wilderness World Heritage Area, covering around a fifth of the entire island of south and central Tasmania, was dramatically revised. The new plan expanded dual management of the area with Aboriginal Tasmanians and the Tasmanian state through the creation of an Aboriginal Cultural Business Unit that would generate financial management opportunities for Aboriginals. However, Aboriginal perspectives on the meaning of land often conflicted with white conservationists‘ wilderness values of remoteness and isolation. In this article, I argue that the reactions from white conservationists to the new plan are illustrative of a wilderness ideology that attempts to limit interactions with nature and consequently marginalizes Aboriginals. Reflexivity is an important aspect of this paper as these critiques of conservation are also critiques of my own beliefs and identity, and my reactions to what I encountered in this research add a layer that would have been absent otherwise. Through reflexive analysis of interviews and participant observation with individuals from environmental organizations, the Tasmanian government, the timber industry, tourism, and an Aboriginal corporation, along with printed materials and websites connected to the Wilderness World Heritage Area, I show that conservationists in Tasmania perpetuate colonial desires and white privilege at the expense of Tasmanian Aboriginals through the racialized ideology of wilderness.