Institute of Australian Geographers Conference “Landscapes of Change, Challenge and Creativity

University of New England, Armidale, 6-9 July, 2020

Call For Papers due 20 March 2020, for the panel:



Unsettling ‘collaborative’ environmental management between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people


Vanessa Cavanagh, University of Wollongong

Jessica Weir, Western Sydney University

Will Smith, Deakin University


 Sponsored by the Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledges and Rights Study group


The recent catastrophic bushfires have led to renewed calls to support Indigenous peoples’ cultural and cool burns to look after ecological life and reduce fuel loads, bringing renewed focus to collaborative environmental management matters. Environmental management is an important site of collaboration between Indigenous peoples, and the many other people and institutions who have environmental management interests on Indigenous peoples’ homelands – including nation-states, the academy, corporations, civil society and individuals (Mackie and Meacheam 2016). Nonetheless, Indigenous peoples routinely contest its purposes as well as forms, and call for systemic reform across matters of power and epistemology (Whyte 2018; Hemming et al. 2010). These geographies of conflict, injustice and miscommunication are often smoothed over through discourses of ‘community-based’, ‘local’, and ‘collaborative’ environmental management (Muller et al. 2019; Smith 2005). Environmental management itself is often presented in benign terms as a worthy activity, without the need for dispute resolution processes (Neale 2017). Critical scholars investigating these disjunctures and alignments face a series of important questions:


This panel invites papers that look beyond slogans and bureaucratic platitudes, to grapple with the political and epistemological implications of collaborative environmental management in Australia and elsewhere. We particularly encourage perspectives from Indigenous scholars and practitioners, and other scholars with ethical research agreements with Indigenous peoples. In addition to work focusing on Indigenous peoples’ perspectives and experiences, we also welcome papers that hold scientists and government officials, and their discourse and practices, as the focal points of exploration.


Hemming, Steve, Daryl Rigney and Shaun Berg. 2010. Researching on Ngarrindjeri Ruwe/Ruwar: Methodologies for positive transformation. Australian Aboriginal Studies. 2, 92-106.

Mackie K. and D. Meacheam. 2016. ‘Working on Country: A Case Study of Unusual Environmental Program Success.’ Australasian Journal of Environmental Management. 23(2):157–174.

Muller, S, Hemming, S and D Rigney. 2019. Indigenous Sovereignties: Relational Ontologies and Environmental Management. Geographical Research 57(4): 399-410.

Neale T. 2017. Wild Articulations: Environmentalism and Indigeneity in Northern Australia, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Smith, B R. 2005. ‘We Got Our Own Management’: Local Knowledge, Government and Development in Cape York Peninsula, Australian Aboriginal Studies 2: 4-15.

Whyte, K P. 2018/ Indigenous Science (fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral Dystopias and Fantasies of Climate Change Crises. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space (1)1-2: 224-42.


Please submit your abstract to the Conference website by 20 March 2020 indicating your interest in the Unsettling Environmental Collaborations panel and email a copy to us as well.


Thanks and cheers,


Jess, and (on behalf of), Ness & Will


Vanessa Cavanagh, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong,  

Jessica Weir, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University,

Will Smith, Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University,  




Jessica K Weir (PhD) | Senior Research Fellow

Institute for Culture and Society




Recent Publications

Weir, JK, Sutton, S and G Catt, 2020. ‘Indigenous peoples’ fire management and the theory/practice of disaster justice’, in A Lukasiewicz and C Baldwin (eds), Natural Hazards and Disaster Justice: Challenges for Australia and its Neighbours, Palgrave Macmillan: Chicago.

Williamson, B, Weir JK and V Cavanagh, 2020. Strength from perpetual grief: how Aboriginal people experience the bushfire crisis, The Conversation, 10 January 2020.

Schultz, L, Weir JK and H Langley, 2020. Living with fire demands a long term perspective. Policy Forum, 14 January 2020.

Schultz, L, Weir JK and H Langley, 2019. Changing fire policy for the Good Earth. Policy Forum, 3 October 2019.

Weir, JK, Woelfle-Erskine, C, Diver, S, Fuller, S, and M Higgins, 2019. ‘Investigating Best Practice: Doctoral Fieldwork with and without Indigenous Communities in Settler-Colonial Societies’, ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(6): 1300-20.

Thomassin, A, Neale T and JK Weir, 2019 ‘The natural hazard sector’s engagement with Indigenous peoples: a critical review of CANZUS countries’, Geographical Research, 57(2): 164-77.