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AJEM Special Issue, ‘Future of an icon’, now available!

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In our last FINIA newsletter, we introduced a new paper on Fraser Island, published by the Australian Journal of Environmental Management (AJEM). This paper was one of eight comprising a then-forthcoming special issue: Future of an Icon: K’gari-Fraser Island, climate change and social expectations. This special issue is now out!

In addition to covering diverse topics—dingo conservation, the dingo as an icon, the impact of tourism representation on opportunities for the Butchulla people, the impact of camping on water quality, the implications of past environmental change for the future of K’gari-Fraser Island, spatial databases for research and management, cultural philosophy, and the kind of icon that K’gari-Fraser should be—this special issue has been recognised for its valuable scholarly contribution, with three papers having been long-listed, and one proceeding to the short-list, for AJEM’s annual best paper award.

The rationale for this special issue lies in the pressure K’gari-Fraser Island is under in a changing global environment. The unique hydrologic and vegetation environments of K’gari-Fraser Island were driven by succession, fire and climatic change during the accumulated evolution of a series of 100-thousand-year cycles. The future of K’gari-Fraser Island is subject to significant changes in the way it is valued as a result of World Heritage listing, and increasingly as a tourism resource rather than a conservation asset. These global social and environmental changes have implications for how planning for policy and management must emerge.

International obligations under the World Heritage Convention can only be met if the island is protected from destructive influences. Current state-based resourcing and policy meets state government policy priorities. However, it is federal obligations for Australia’s responsibilities under the global Convention that will protect the World Heritage values. Changes in the legal basis for management are needed to reflect the importance of World Heritage listing.

Recommendations for protecting the diverse World Heritage values for K’gari-Fraser Island in this special issue include:

  • systematic changes in Australia’s legislative system to improve potential to meet Australia’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention;
  • review of World Heritage listing to include values based on cultural multiplicity and diversity of Butchulla people, with improved mechanisms for economic benefit beyond involvement in management;
  • cultural recognition of intrinsic value of nature to engender context-sensitive behaviours and visitor awareness through dedicated visitor centres with coherent interpretative material that clearly differentiate the World Heritage values of K’gari-Fraser Island; and
  • clear articulation of the values and purposes of World Heritage listing for management and monitoring to reduce the impact of people by applying robust and defensible measurements of the extent, severity and duration of environmental harm caused to species, ecosystems and physical values by human activities.

Further details of this special issue, including Abstracts for each article and a number of free download options, can be found at https://finia.org.au/2015/08/03/future-of-an-icon-kgari-fraser-island-climate-change-and-social-expectations/

Angela Wardell-Johnson, Curtin University

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