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Introducing the multispecies justice working group

This blog post is an invitation to join the new multispecies justice working group, written by Geography and Planning’s Associate Professor Andrew McGregor, Associate Professor Donna Houston, Alinta Pilkington, Jack Vanzino, Sophia Amini and Tanmay Kulkarni.

In 2020 the new unit GEOP3000 Environmental Justice in the Anthropocene was taught for the first time at MQ.  Both a social movement and a research agenda, environmental justice highlights how responsibility for, and the burdens of, environmental degradation are unevenly distributed across space and scale, and divided between and within social categories such as race, class, gender, and ethnicity.  Practical improvements are sought through more informed, flexible, representative and inclusive decision-making processes.  The Anthropocene refers to a new geological epoch in which humans, and some humans in particular, have become a geological force driving planetary change.  The Anthropocene amplifies the uneven impacts of global heating, pollution and landscape change on people, plants, animals and places.

Throughout the unit students developed new concepts and skills that could be applied to improve environmental decision making.  One concept that stood out for many was multi-species justice, whereby the considerations of non-human species are also taken into account in decision making.  Multi-species justice was employed as a frame to analyse a range of issues within assignments, including animals in zoos, shark management and kangaroo culls. 

After the unit concluded a small inspired interdisciplinary group of students have worked with staff from Geography and Planning to form a multispecies justice working group.  The group meets fortnightly via zoom to discuss relevant readings and developments relating to multispecies justice, such as recent changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.  The group has since grown to include Masters, PhD students and staff and is open to all. 

Community gardens are making space for multispecies. Photo: Donna Houston

Multispecies justice is a novel concept but one with great potential to generate new practices and ideas. As Danielle Celermajer and her co-authors argue, as a novel concept multispecies justice has a lot of tensions and disagreements. Chief among these tensions is the question of how justice can be more-than-human?  How can we avoid ‘extensionist’ and ‘hierarchical’ approaches that extend the human-centric ‘subject’ of justice and how can we understand justice in more plural and relational ways?  In what follows we share some of the ideas the group founders, Sophia, Jack, Alinta and Tanmay, associated with multispecies justice.

What is multispecies justice?

Multi-species justice means recognising that human life is entangled with all other forms of life and ecological processes. It means acknowledging that our wellbeing is directly dependent on the wellbeing of other species, and acting in a way that is genuinely considerate of other species to create a healthier way of living on our planet (Sophia).

Multispecies justice is a new, generative concept that refers to the recognition of injustice caused to non-human species as a result of anthropocentric environmental decision-making processes (Jack).

Multi-species justice ensures that all interests are not only acknowledged, but adequately represented. It is an all-inclusive concept, highlighting the interconnectivity between species, including our own (Tanmay).

It forces us to make spaces in our thinking, communities, planning, and resource use and so on that actively involve the consideration of other life – how they live, where they shelter, their food and water needs and so on (Alinta).

Why are you interested in multispecies justice?

I think it’s a critical concept because we’re facing a period of history likely to be the 6th mass extinction event – and it’s an event directly attributable to humanity and our unchecked appetites for resources. Placing nature back into the frame of rights forces us to check these exploitative lifestyles and simultaneously enables us to innovate new ways to live within our means (Alinta).

An approach that sees humans embedded within, rather than exceptional from the rest of the natural world, will enable more just and equitable outcomes for the largest number of stakeholders within environmental decision-making processes (Jack).

I think it’s inevitable that we will have to deeply reconsider our exploitative relationships with other species – not just for their sake, but also for our own survival. Multi-species justice provides a vital and exciting avenue for exploring how to establish this consideration in our decision-making processes (Sophia).

It is a concept that repositions humanity alongside other species, instead of above them, finally recognising that humanity is not distinct from nature, but a part of it. This is the sort of thinking that will enable environmental issues to be adequately addressed in the future (Tanmay).

Multispecies justice is a part of activism in response to the last Australian bushfire season. Photo: Donna Houston

How can multispecies justice inform practice / policy?

Coming from a legal background, my immediate thoughts are that multispecies justice can inform the law. We have already seen this in the legal personhood of rivers and nature itself (i.e. rights of nature). It can also play a major role in establishing conservation measures as it encourages conservationists to truly think about what other species need, as opposed to just what we think they need. But multispecies justice can also influence our choices in daily life – what we eat, what we throw out, and how we get around (Tanmay).

Elevating non-human species into our sphere of concern provides an opportunity to transform our practices in a way that is sensitive to contemporary research and will leave our planet in a healthier state for future generations of life (Sophia).

Every component of human civilisation has been built on an illusion of a divorce of humanity to the rest of the natural world. Reintegrating the rights of nature will force an active re-think into every single facet of the way we live our lives, plan our cities, and use resources (Alinta).

Non-anthropocentric ethics must be considered in order to shift societal perceptions of ethical responsibility so that just outcomes are generated for as many stakeholders as possible within the current environmental decision-making system (Jack).

Going forward

We are all very excited to be part of this creative, multidisciplinary and non-hierarchical working group and invite others to join us.  We are open to new ideas and suggestions and are currently planning a major resource for pursuing everyday spaces and practices of multispecies justice.  If you would like to join us please get in contact with Andrew McGregor Andrew.mcgregor@mq.edu.au or Donna Houston donna.houston@mq.edu.au.

A social impact assessment should be bona fide, no matter what you call it

Dr Alison Ziller, Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography and Planning, evaluates recent SIA dilemmas in Newcastle, NSW:

An unresolved issue in social impact assessment [SIA] is the extent to which a proposed planning project or policy change requires a full SIA or a less comprehensive assessment. The dilemma is exemplified in the high level of detail required by the Department of Planning’s SIA Guideline for State Significant Resource Projects and the lesser amount of information required by many councils in the form of a SIA statement.

The Planning Institute of Australia’s SIA Policy Statement avoids the dilemma by stating that the requirement for a SIA should be commensurate with the significance of the likely impacts or the project or policy. However, this does not sit well with many planners for whom the size of a project is determined by the floor space ratio, number of floors or building height – the size of the building, not the extent of the impact. The basic problem with the building size approach is that small projects and, similarly, small policy changes can have large impacts. It all depends on what the building or policy change is for, and how it is proposed to be introduced.

To some extent planning has always recognised this. There are clear limits, for example, to where brothels or panel beating workshops can be located. However, in these instances, the social impacts of a class of premises have been assumed to be largely the same and susceptible to generalised controls. On this basis, the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] Exempt and Complying Development Code (2008) lists a number of changes of use of premises which do not require development consent. For example change of use of one kind of shop, say a clothes shop, to another kind of shop, say a greengrocery, does not require development consent. 

However, S2.20B (f)(i) of the SEPP explicitly rules out some changes of use on the basis that they do require development consent. Among these are food and drink premises. Food and drink premises are diverse, ranging from hole-in-the-wall cafés to premises, such as small bars, licensed to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises. As these examples demonstrate, the different use affects likely trading hours, likely duration of customer presence and different potential risks in their subsequent behaviour. The collective term for adverse social consequences attributable to licensed premises is alcohol-related harm. Risk of alcohol-related harm accounts for the fact that liquor licensing is the responsibility of a specialist agency, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority [ILGA], and decisions are made on an individual basis. Under the NSW Liquor Act (s48(5)), the Authority is required to take account of the likely social impacts of permitting or changing the terms of a liquor licence.

Making decisions on a premises by premises basis is time consuming and requires an application from each licensee to ILGA. However, this has the benefit of requiring case-by-case review which is likely to extend over time. Where a number of licensees in an area seek similar changes, the case-by-case review process provides ILGA with the opportunity to observe trends and consequences (social impacts) in an area as they emerge. Each application requires ILGA to consider afresh the likely social impacts.

Recently Newcastle City Council recommended a short cut to this social impact assessment process seeking to promote the night time economy in the city’s CBD. The short cut required the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment [DPIE] to grant exempt development status (as an exception to the SEPP) to 26 ‘selected’ licensed premises.

Newcastle city. Image by Ricky Wright from Pixabay

On 4 September 2020, DPIE issued an Explanation of Intended Effect [EIE] saying:

The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces is seeking feedback on a proposal to amend the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 (Newcastle LEP) to allow certain small bars and restaurants to trade outside the hours of operation for the premises specified in the conditions of the venue’s development consent (trading hours). The proposal is to allow for this extended trading to be treated as exempt development if it is done in accordance with the hours permitted by the ‘standard trading hours for such licences under the Liquor Act 2007 (Liquor Act).

While DPIE has a SIA Guideline in place for major resource extraction projects, it does not have a guideline for the assessment of social impacts for other projects or policy changes. Nonetheless, a planning proposal which is the subject of an EIE is required to provide a justification for the proposal (s 3.33 (2)(c) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act).

The EIE states that the justification of the proposed exempt development status is to:

assist participating businesses to recoup lost income from the temporary closures and reduced customer capacity due to COVID-19. (EIE p1)

DPIE allowed 16 days for community feedback on the proposal.

In making a submission to this proposal, I drew attention to fact that the change would affect an area with a long history of alcohol-related harm – not mentioned in the EIE. The EIE’s justification for creating the exempt development status for 26 selected licensed premises was based on the undocumented assertion that they had not had ‘any recent breaches of their liquor licences or incidents of anti-social behaviour’. ‘Recent’ is undefined.

There is no discussion in the EIE of:

  • assault rates in the area,
  • the epidemiology of alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 restrictions,
  • the validity of conducting a trial during unusual circumstances,
  • the impact of extended trading hours on other premises in the area, nor
  • the fact that the selected premises would be able to serve high strength alcohol during their extended trading hours.

In social impact assessment it is not the size of the document which is important, nor even the name given to the process. What matters is that the pros and cons of what is proposed are identified and fairly and adequately assessed. This remains to be done in the case of this EIE.

On being a part-time Higher Degree Research candidate

Dr Wayne Williamson shares his higher degree research experiences at Macquarie, offering insights on thesis by publication research and navigating complex positionings as an insider/outsider.

A long-held research interest

After completing a Masters by Research (on a part-time basis) which investigated the adoption and use of information and communications technology in the NSW planning system, I settled back into working life as a planning officer in the NSW state government.

While my Master’s thesis touched on the adoption of social media by NSW local governments, I had no plans to continue studying. However, in early 2013 I noticed a number of planning matters where community groups were using social media. In some cases, social media was being heavily used to support community groups’ campaigns against development proposals. I quickly realised that these community groups were using social media to an extent never before seen by planners. Never one to pass-up an opportunity, I started collecting the social media data being generated with a view to potentially undertaking a research project in the future.

Fast forward 12 months, I literally showed up at Associate Professor Kristian Ruming’s office with a pocket full of social media data and some case study ideas that I thought were worthwhile pursuing. And so my #PhDLife began.

Insider/outsider, planner/researcher

My part-time enrolment in the PhD program in the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie created a situation where I found myself being an insider in the planning profession, with certain access and assumed knowledge, whilst also having outsider status in the community groups I was seeking to study. This did raise ethical issues when conducting interviews, as I needed to identify my employer before conducting interviews. My employment status did not affect my interviews with planners and had no effect on my day-to-day working relationships with colleagues. However, some interview requests with community groups were declined and perhaps my employee status played a role.

As an insider researcher, you have the advantage of possessing specific knowledge of processes and procedures and a professional network that allows you to gain access to people that may otherwise be difficult to make contact with. However, there is an element of suspicion when an outsider seeks an interview with representatives of community groups, as their campaign is often personal and the subject matter typically generates passionate responses and opinions.

Case studies explored through a mixed methods approach and thesis by publication

As I had a strong list of case studies I wanted to explore, I decided to tackle the project through a thesis by publication very early in my candidature. In broad terms the thesis would be made up of two sections; Part I would investigate a range of planning matters from small site specific planning matters to large urban renewal sites from the local community’s point-of-view. Part II would examine how both local and state government planning authorities use social media.

As the thesis would eventually document seven case studies, I employed multiple data sources and analysis methods. This mixed methods approach was considered appropriate as it provided the opportunity to answer research questions where either quantitative and/or qualitative methods are most suitable. For example, social network analysis is appropriate for visualising community group social media networks. At the same time, discourse analysis and content analysis are suitable for exploring the topics that are circulated through social media networks.

An example of the network analysis from Wayne’s thesis – this one generated for Bronte development discourse. Source: Wayne Williamson

Community groups, planning authorities and social media

For the community groups investigated, it was found that they did not attract large numbers of followers on Twitter and are led by a small number of people. Other Twitter users would follow the groups, but had a low-participation rate. On a more positive note, it was found that social media is an effective platform for connecting to other community groups experiencing similar planning processes. Community groups also drew on social media’s potentially wide geographic reach to broadcast emotional strategies which raised Sydney-wide claims about consultation and equity.

In regards to planning authorities, it was found that any dialogue between a community group and a planning authority on social media seemed to strain the internal processes of the planning authority. The case studies also highlighted the difficulties of moderating participation on social media and keeping comments on topic, which demonstrates the agency of individuals and groups to shape the discourse.

Overall, I found a mismatch between communities that utilised social media as an additional communications channel to engage and/or disrupt planning processes, while planning authorities implemented social media to mimic traditional engagement processes, but seem very reluctant to engage in any specific questions or discussions through social media.

Part-time PhD study enabled long term observations and data collection

My investigation of social media use in planning practice morphed into a long term project of discovery for me. Being a part-time PhD candidate gave me the time to undertake long term observations and data collection for case studies that can last for several years. The long term nature of this project has also given me the opportunity to become an active participant in an emerging body of academic literature. Thus, as my research has progressed it has benefited from the work published by others over the past 5 years. While there are many challenges associated with undertaking higher degree research on a part-time basis, it can be done and can be very rewarding!

Wayne Williamson. Source: Wayne Williamson

Recording of A/Prof David Bissell’s talk ‘Anaesthetic geographies: unfeeling insecure digital labour’

Thanks to A/Prof David Bissell for an excellent talk this week – you can watch and listen to it here:

https://macquarie.zoom.us/rec/share/tJZWFb_K-EROQK_g9ELUaIQPRa3cT6a8hyUZ__MKmExWP-qjBm02Sthw-Z47rRVc?startTime=1597111444000

Researching human-lion conflict in Namibia

This blog shares insights by Dr John Heydinger about his PhD Cotutelle program with the University of Minnesota and Macquarie University:

Lions, pastoral livelihoods and shared landscapes in northwest Namibia
Humans, livestock, and lions have inhabited shared landscapes in northwest Namibia for hundreds of years. Currently, human-lion conflict threatens pastoral livelihoods and the viability of the region’s desert-adapted lion population. From 2017 through 2019 my dissertation research, which was undertaken as part of a Cotutelle program between Macquarie University and the University of Minnesota, took me to the communal conservancies of northwest Namibia. There, I worked alongside local conservationists, including government and NGO staff and communal pastoralists, to examine human-lion conflict and work to innovate new approaches for humans and lions to coexist in this rugged, arid landscape.

A desert-adapted lioness in the Hoanib Riverbed. Source: AJ Watt Images

Multi-disciplinary and multi-method research into human-lion conflict

As part of a multi-disciplinary research project, the goal was to create historically-informed solutions to human-lion conflict that are locally-inclusive. This complicated and complex problem required a multi-method approach to examining human-lion conflict. Drawing on archival, scientific and governmental material, as well as social surveys and oral histories that I performed, this was the first time that disparate sources of information on human-livestock-lion relationships in northwest Namibia were unified. The result has been a dissertation that informs ongoing conservation interventions. This thesis is the first attempt to explicitly frame applied lion conservation activities within historical contexts, critically assessing livestock as mediators of human-lion interactions. Part of the thesis examining the geography of lion and wild dog extermination during the early colonial era has been published in The Journal of Southern African Studies. An additional paper from the research, examining the effects of lions on pastoral livelihoods, has been published in Biological Conservation. With other aspects of the research to be published in Environment and History.

Lion Rangers program

In addition to performing research, during my time in northwest Namibia I helped found the Lion Rangers program. The Lion Rangers are a group of local conservationists, employed by their communal conservancies (community level conservation organisations), who receive equipment and special training to mediate, mitigate, and prevent conflict between humans and lions within their communal conservancy. Since the beginning of 2018, more than 35 local conservationists have received training and been deployed to help monitor the region’s desert-adapted lions and work with communal pastoralists to limit conflict. In addition to training, the Lion Ranger program, in partnership with the Namibian government and local NGOs IRDNC, TOSCO, the Namibia Lion Trust, and Desert Lion Conservation, is innovating new projects to limit human-lion conflict. These include a ground-breaking early warning system, helping erect new livestock enclosures, and assisting with lion translocations away from problem areas. This work continues on, even during the Covid-19 crisis. More information is available at lionrangers.org and on Instagram (@lionrangers).

The Lion Rangers near Mbokondja in Anabeb Conservancy. Source: AJ Watt Images

Continuing my research and conservation activism

Following upon my doctoral research, I am working as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. My research examines a subpopulation of desert-adapted lions inhabiting a remote and rugged escarpment area of northwest Namibia. To-date, no population or ecological monitoring of this population has occurred. This two-year research is supported by a Big Cats Conservation Initiative Grant from the National Geographic Society.

As a graduate student, the Department of Geography and Planning has been critical, not only providing me with guidance and support for my research, but also entrusting me to follow my passion and questions to implement an activism-oriented project. In particular, my supervisors Dr Emily O’Gorman and Associate Professor Sandie Suchet-Pearson provided countless hours and insights, as well as thoughts and recommendations to help me see the work to this stage. Their trust, that I would be able to produce meaningful research, and guidance, to help make it so, was among the great gifts I have received. I look forward to continuing to work at the forefront of community-based conservation and contributing to new scholarly developments at the intersections of human societies and the natural world.

Social impacts of open cut coal mining

Dr Alison Ziller, Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Planning, shares her recent SIA work in NSW:

Social impact assessment (SIA) is often done for mining and resource extraction projects which the NSW Government has determined are of state significance. This means that the applicant is required to prepare a SIA and the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) must take social impacts into account in making its decision about whether or not to permit the development.

Lock the Gate’s campaign highlighted the agricultural values of the area (https://www.facebook.com/Lock.The.Gate.Alliance/)

In July the IPC considered an application by a mining company, Whitehaven Coal, to excavate a new open cut coal mine near Boggabri in NW NSW. This new mine would extend an already approved mine. The project is called the Vickery Extension Project. The application included an SIA.

There has been strong community opposition to this project. While much of the opposition focused on water issues, there was also concern about the likely social impacts of this mine should it go ahead. A number of community organisations were involved, among them an alliance of 450 community groups called Lock the Gate.

Alison Ziller was asked to provide Lock the Gate with a review of the applicant’s SIA. She also made a presentation on the social impact issues to the IPC. The key social impact concerns raised were that: the number of jobs for local people would be few, the project would be likely to have detrimental effects on public health in the region, and the mitigations proposed by Whitehaven did not appear tangible or durably effective in dealing with the adverse impacts.

In follow-up, the IPC asked Dr Ziller to advise whether there were examples of positive social benefits as a result of mining. Her reply noted that claims of social benefit are often made regarding the number of local jobs likely to be created, the benefit associated with financial contributions made by the mining company to sporting and other local groups, promises of local training opportunities, community engagement events, increased population and town beautification projects. But each of these is often accompanied by a down-side:

  • Often the number of local jobs is few and skill requirements mean they are not available to local people who are currently unemployed;
  • Local financial contributions rarely include much needed social welfare services, such as a mental health service;
  • Promises of training programs are vague and may not result in jobs;
  • Community engagement tends to focus on gathering support for a project, not on supporting the people opposed to it, and this contributes to social division;
  • More residents in a town only happens if new workers move in, but many workers prefer to fly in and fly out; and
  • Town beautification is no compensation for the landscapes lost to the open cut pit.

Mining and resource extraction projects are often viewed in terms of environmental and economic impacts. However, they take place in rural areas and significantly affect local residents’ lifestyle, amenity, livelihoods, health and well-being. These critical social impacts also deserve full consideration.

Recent graduates share their PhD and Masters stories

Keen to find out more about what it’s like to study planning and geography as a PhD or Masters student at Macquarie University?

We’ve got 4 reflections from recent graduates that captures their research stories. Dr Wayne Williamson reflects on his research about how community groups and the NSW government use social media as a communications channel. Harriet Narwal talks about her MRes on multispecies relations in cities. Lillian Tait shares her experience doing collaborative research with Aboriginal people in northern Australia. Zahra Nasreen reflects on how tenants navigate and negotiate shared housing using digital platforms in Sydney, Australia.

Thanks to Zahra, Lill, Harriet and Wayne for providing materials for the videos and Michael Rampe for compiling them.

Common Grounds: The power of coming together, Sapmi to Country

This blog post is by Marnie Graham, Sandie Suchet-Pearson and Uncle Lexodious Dadd.

Marnie Graham is a post-doctoral fellow at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University and at the School of Tourism and Hospitality, University of Johannesburg. She is an Honorary Associate at Macquarie University’s (MQ) Department of Geography & Planning.

Sandie Suchet-Pearson is Associate Professor at MQ’s Department of Geography & Planning.

Uncle Lexodious Dadd is a senior Darug custodian, Assistant Manager of the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre, and Adjunct Fellow at MQ’s Department of Geography & Planning.

All the way from Sápmi in Sweden and Finland, a delegation of Indigenous Sami representatives visited Australia in May 2019 to connect with Indigenous Australians and Country. Including reindeer herders, artists, and community activists, the delegates are all engaged in struggles to protect their lands and livelihoods from resource developments.

Together with researchers from Sweden, Finland and Australia, the Sami representatives met with Indigenous peoples from Cape York and White Bear Nation, visited the Quandamooka people on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), and camped with Darug custodians at Yarramundi/Yellomundee Regional Park in Western Sydney. Common Grounds shares this journey, and in particular the connections nurtured at Yarramundi. The documentary short highlights some ‘common grounds’ around Indigenous peoples’ powerful efforts across the world to maintain their cultures and care for their special places.

Darug custodian Uncle Lex Dadd leads regular Darug culture camps at Yarramundi through the Yanama budyari gumada collective, who have hosted over 700 people at camps. Uncle Lex welcomed the Sami delegates and researchers to Yarramundi, where they camped by the beautiful Deerubbin [Nepean River], and learnt about Darug Country, culture and histories. Participants and Darug custodians walked together on-Country, sharing meals and music around the campfire, and spraying their handprints on casuarina trees with ochre from deep in the earth.

Uncle Lex and new friends sharing around the campfire. Image copyright Sandie Suchet-Pearson.

Everyone also shared their respective experiences of colonisation and the continuing pressures and challenges of the post-colonial state, including the impacts of mining, development, conservation and resource exploitation, as well as stories of resistance, and cultural strength and revival. Uncle Lex reflects on the camp:

“Yarramundi is only an hour away from Sydney, yet here we can share culture in this natural environment, and we found so many similarities between our struggles. Very, very similar.

And what amazed me is one young lady, she was a new mother, doing a PhD, plus herding reindeer at the same time. That just blew my mind. Like, how organised are you with your time, how diligent, not giving up with all the constraints of the modern world and other people taking Country off you, and all those restrictions – nope, she’s just going to keep going. And that just shows true resilience of Indigenous people, right around the world.”

            Learning together on Darug Country. Image copyright Sandie Suchet-Pearson.

Professional film-maker Klas Eriksson directed and produced Common Grounds. He collaborates with the Yanama budyari gumada collective to communicate their work through his visually stunning films. He has also collaborated with the Sami delegates and accompanying researchers to document their work on confronting climate change in Sapmi.

Inviting Klas to film the coming together of custodians from Sapmi and Darug Country was therefore a natural fit, of which Klas says “I couldn’t think of a more worthwhile project to be a part of”.

“I’m a Swedish person living in Australia, but also someone who has been fortunate enough to tell stories both from Sapmi and Darug country. As a filmmaker and storyteller, it is always an absolute joy and honour to be allowed to act as a megaphone for Indigenous perspectives. Both because I believe it is important for the world to hear as many of them as possible, but also on a more selfish level because it’s always a great learning experience.

It was just awesome to see two groups of people that I’ve gotten to know from opposite ends of the planet interact and share these perspectives with each other, and seeing them find common ground and connecting almost instantly on the core issues and challenges they both face”.

Klas believes the survival of the planet “depends on more people opening their eyes to these practices”.

“I hope that the wider population will start to realise that the preservation of Indigenous culture, tradition and rights are important not just for Indigenous communities, but for society as a whole.”

Klas Eriksson filming at Yarramundi. Image copyright Sandie Suchet-Pearson.

Yanama budyari gumada researchers Uncle Lex, Marnie Graham, and Sandie Suchet-Pearson note that the ‘Common Grounds’ explored in the film can strengthen solidarity between Indigenous groups who, although living on opposite sides of the world, experience many similar pressures and challenges.

Uncle Lex says “it would’ve been nice to spend more time with them, to share more culture as well. I just think it’s really important for our project to share that culture, and we can build on that. All these connections coming together”.

We certainly plan to continue strengthening these connections, and sincerely hope we can organise a reciprocal visit from Darug Country to Sapmi in the not too distant future. As Uncle Lex explains:

“We talked about me visiting Sapmi while they were here in Australia. They said ‘oh, we’ll have a motorbike for you, Uncle Lex, and you’ll be able to herd reindeer’. And what I’d love to see is how they can all pick out their own individual reindeer amongst hundreds of them, which I think shows that connection not only between Country but between their animals, their stewardship with these animals.

I would love to go over there. It would be really, really special.”

Thanks go to all the camp participants for joining us, Dr Rebecca Lawrence for bringing us all together, film-maker Klas Martin Eriksson for being brilliant, the Yanama budyari gumada research collective for facilitating the camp, and to the NSW Environmental Trust for supporting the Darug-Caring-as-Country project.

The ‘Common Grounds’ film was funded by FORMAS, The Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, REXSAC “Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities – A Nordic Centre of Excellence”, and The Research Council of Norway.

This project was supported by Griffith University, Luleå Technical University, Macquarie University, Stockholm University, Stockholm Environment Institute, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sydney Environment Institute (The University of Sydney), University of Newcastle and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Here’s how the Victoria-NSW border closure will work – and how residents might be affected

Wikimedia Commons

Republished from The Conversation – Andrew Burridge from the Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the border between his state and NSW will close after 11:59pm on Tuesday to prevent the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne from spreading further.

It will be the first border shutdown between the two states since 1919, when the Spanish flu epidemic prompted the NSW government to close its borders with Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to slow the spread of the virus.

What will this new shutdown mean for residents on both sides of the border and what are the potential longer-term consequences of the closure, as well as those between other states?

How will residents be affected?

There are more than 50 land crossings between NSW and Victoria, peppered between the coast and South Australia. Last year, NSW welcomed more than 4.7 million overnight visitors from Victoria.

There are also a number of interconnected communities along the length of the border, most notably Albury-Wodonga along the Murray River. There are some 89,000 people living in those towns, according to the 2016 census. Other large border towns include Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura.


Read more: Border closures, identity and political tensions: how Australia’s past pandemics shape our COVID-19 response


Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many states have announced similar border “closures”. It should be noted, however, that borders rarely, if ever, close completely. They are designed to act as filters, allowing officials to decide who, or what, crosses.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the border closure after talks with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Daniel Pockett/AAP

In other states with closed borders, residents in border communities have been given permits or exemptions to cross for specific reasons, such as specialist work or to care for sick relatives.

Permits for the NSW-Victoria border will likely be made available for residents of border communities like Albury-Wodonga and for those who believe they must cross for “exceptional circumstances.”

The permit system will also likely allow people to cross the border for health care. The Albury and Wodonga health system is unique in that it straddles the state line, providing service to 250,000 people in the region. The state of Victoria runs the Albury Hospital, even though it is located in NSW.

Trade is also unlikely to be highly affected. The NSW-Queensland border has been closed since March, but freight trucks have generally been allowed to continue to cross unfettered, though perhaps more slowly than usual.

Constitutionality of border closures

Even though there have been few disruptions, this has not stopped challenges to the High Court over whether such closures are constitutional.

Section 92 of Australia’s constitution says

trade, commerce, and intercourse among the states, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.

There are some exceptions to this freedom, though, particularly when it is necessary to protect the people of a state from the risk of injury from inbound goods, animals and people.

COVID-19 has generally been accepted as a reason for imposing border closures.

This has happened in Australia before. In January 1919, during the Spanish flu outbreak, a case of influenza arrived in NSW from Victoria.

NSW unilaterally closed the border between the states, followed by other closures (notably between NSW and Queensland). Some people tried to circumvent the border restrictions by taking to the sea.

The NSW-Queensland border was closed in March, causing traffic back-ups and headaches for residents who live there. Jason O’Brien/AAP

Have there been border disputes before?

Victoria officially became an independent colony on July 1, 1851, with the border defined under the Australian Constitutions Act as

a straight line drawn from Cape How (sic) to the nearest source of the River Murray and thence the course of that river to the eastern boundary of the province of South Australia.

A boundary survey was conducted in the 1870s by Alexander Black and Alexander Allan to demarcate the straight line portion of border through the often mountainous terrain between the two colonies.

Disputes over the boundary have persisted since then, with reports noting that fishermen blew up the original cairn at Cape Howe to avoid license fees.

These disputes eventually found their way to the High Court in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in regards to the boundary along the Murray River. The entirety of the river was found to sit within NSW in the 1980 ruling of a case involving bizarre circumstances – the jurisdiction of a murder that took place on the shoreline.

In 1984, the straight-line border between the states was resurveyed by the Department of Surveying, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and renamed the Black-Allan line in honour of the first surveyors. The border was not officially recognised in name until 1998 by the Geographic Place Names Act.


Read more: Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


What do border closures mean long-term?

One point of concern in the states’ response to the pandemic is the way it has changed the way we talk and think about borders. We have begun to separate ourselves from our neighbours.

And while the political rhetoric that goes back and forth between states has been mostly trivial in nature (think of Andrews’ comment about who would want to travel to SA), there is a risk of longer-term damage to relations between states. https://www.youtube.com/embed/7gDKAVRVibA?wmode=transparent&start=0

Perhaps more importantly, some cross-border residents have been subjected to abuse for legitimately crossing state lines, often identified by their license plates.

Health experts have also disagreed over the need for border closures, with some saying there is a lack of evidence for their effectiveness in curbing disease transmission. However, even these messages have been mixed, and some have been politicised.

How NSW and Victoria proceed in managing their highly crossed and integrated border will throw up previously unforeseen challenges that Black and Allan were unlikely to have considered while navigating the alpine terrain between the colonies 150 years ago.

The boundary marker monument on the NSW-Victoria border in Genoa, an area affected by this summer’s bushfires, reminds us of the need for cross-state cooperation on issues that are not confined neatly within borders.


Read more: Lockdowns, second waves and burn outs. Spanish flu’s clues about how coronavirus might play out in Australia


Andrew Burridge, Lecturer in Human Geography, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recording of Prof Matthew Kearnes’ talk ‘Knowing Earth, Knowing Soil: Epistemological Work and the Political Aesthetics of the Carbon Frontier’

Click here to access the recording of Prof Matthew Kearnes’ excellent Geoplan Seminar: ‘Knowing Earth, Knowing Soil: Epistemological Work and the Political Aesthetics of the Carbon Frontier’. Recorded Tuesday 7 July. To see more of his work, you can also go to his blog: technofables.wordpress.com.