PhD Pages


Western Arrernte women and rangers mixing bait for a fauna survey. Finke Gorge National Park, May 2005.

Writing a PhD is a Painful, Painful Business…

The following pages explain and chart the progress of my PhD thesis.

It’s a few years since I submitted the thesis, and passed with very few corrections (even though the examiners’ report was so strikingly negative at first glance, I feared I was going to have to re-write the entire thing).

Writing a PhD is the longest and most painful piece of work I’ve ever undertaken.

The entire project took me 10 years, involved the break up of my marriage (please note that the PhD was NOT the cause!), some very painful realisations about anthropology as a discipline AND the way anthropology is done in Central Australia, some even more disturbing insights into a certain so-called ‘Aboriginal’ representative body and their bullying of individuals and other agencies, and a whole lot of soul searching in between.

After all this time, I am not certain that a PhD was necessary to achieve the success I had in my career as an anthropologist. Rather, a PhD is much more about legitimacy in the eyes of your peers.

You get one, and you’re suddenly a REAL anthropologist.

As if 14 years of applied anthropology is not … umm… REAL anthropology.

But I digress….

Here are some common FAQs I get about the thesis.

What is Your Thesis About:

It’s about the joint management of national parks in Australia’s Northern Territory. Internationally, joint management is called ‘co-management’.

With the thesis, I really wanted to NOT look at the Aboriginal side of the equation, as this has been done to death in Australian anthropology. I was fortunate enough to be able to study the government side of joint management; the central question I posed was:

What does joint management mean to conservation agencies in Australia?

To answer this, I looked at how the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service implemented the simultaneous joint management of 27 parks, following a land mark court decision. Thus, my thesis sits at the intersection of organisational and environmental anthropology.

Here’s a quote from the abstract:

Since the 1970s, the joint management of national parks and other protected areas has been seen as an ideal political solution to recognising Aboriginal land rights in the
Northern Territory (NT) whilst simultaneously allowing continued public access to its protected areas. Despite widespread public acceptance of the notion of joint management, an examination of the literature reveals that not only is joint management largely unproblematised, the interests and understandings about joint management held by government conservation agencies, their staff and higher levels of government is little understood.

What is Your Thesis Called?

Originally, the thesis was called:

Between Process and Practice: Joint Management and Conservation Agencies in Australia

The final title was:


Which University Did You Attend?

My PhD was through the Australian National University, in Canberra, Australia.

My supervisor was God-father of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, Professor Nicolas Peterson. Besides being an anthropological legend in Australia, Nic is a really decent human being.

Can I Get A Copy of Your Thesis?

The content of my thesis is highly controversial and contested by mainstream ideologues in Central Australia and in some sections of Australianist anthropology.

I also still live and work in the Northern Territory – and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

For that reason, I am VERY careful about who I grant access to my thesis.
If you really feel you’d like to read it, please leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you

Outline of Thesis:

*Note that the outline below is the September 2009 version of the thesis, not the final table of contents.

Between Process & Practice: Joint Management and Conservation Agencies in Australia*


Outline of Thesis

Chapter 1: Introducing Joint Management

  1. Introduction
  2. The Problem of Joint Management (Problem statement and aim):

Joint management as a form of protected area[1] management is becoming increasingly common in Australia and elsewhere. Whilst there is a rich and diverse literature documenting Aboriginal aspirations and responses to joint management initiatives, in regard to the aspirations and responses of conservation agencies to joint management very little is understood. In the context of contemporary human-environmental relationships, this thesis sets out to examine what joint management means to government conservation agencies in the Northern Territory (NT). In particular, it explores how such meanings arise, are learned, reinforced and enacted within these institutions, situated within a theoretical framework that considers both conservation agencies and joint management to be part of a wider socio-cultural system.

  1. Of Silences and Exclusions: Overview of the Literature

  2. The Study Area

1.4.1              Central Australia

1.4.2              The Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory: An Introduction

1.4.3              The Subjects

  1. Methodology

1.6   Overview of Thesis


Chapter 2: Joint Management, Certainty and the Literature

2.1              Introduction

2.2              Mapping Definitions

2.2.1              What’s in a Name? Co-operative Management, Co-Management or Collaborative Management?

2.2.2              Joint Management in Australia: An Overview

2.3              A History of Joint Management

2.4              International Context

2.5              Land Rights, Mining & Certainty: The Beginnings of Joint Management in Australia 1963-1976

2.5.1              In the Wake of ALRA: Kakadu National Park

2.5.2              Territorial Struggles: Joint Management 1981-1990

2.5.3              Accepted Practice, Native Title and the Ward Decision: Joint Management 1990-2002

2.5.4              The Framework for the Future: A Negotiated Settlement

2.6              Discussion: Critiques of Co-Management


Chapter 3: A History of Protected Areas and Conservation Agencies

    1. Introduction.
    2. Protected Areas
      1. Parks and Conservation: A Comparative Etymology
      2. The Concept of National Parks: A Brief History
    3. Emergence of Conservation Agencies in Australia (General history & NT detailed organizational history)
  1. The NPWS: A Model for All
  2. The Northern Territory: A Brief Administrative History
  3. The Northern Territory Reserves Board: 1955-1977
  4. The Conservation Commission Years: 1978-1994
  5. From Commission to Parks and Wildlife Service: 1995-2005
  1. Contemporary Conservation Agencies
  1. International Trends
  2. Contemporary Conservation Agencies: Roles, Structure & Functions

3.5              Conclusion: Situating Conservation Agencies

Chapter 4: Learning By Doing

4.1 Introduction

4.2   Into the Field  

4.2.1    Situating, Alterity, and Circumspection

4.2.2              Orientation

4.2.3     Learning the Culture

4.3   Conservation Agency Structure and Organisation

4.3.1                 Social Organisation

4.3.2              Social Positions and Social Roles

4.3.3              Social Rules

4.3.3              Legislation

4.3.4              Policy

4.3.5              Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures

4.4    Park Management: Agents and Practice

4.4.1              Rangers

4.4.2              Joint Management and Planning Staff

4.4.3              Park Management Practice

4.4.4              Defining Protected Area Management

4.4.5              Protected Area Management: On the Ground

4.4.6              Protected Area Management Practices

4.5     Discussion: District Management and the Lot of the Bureau Professional

4.6     Conclusion


Chapter 5: Defining Joint Management

5.0   Vignette: Business as Usual: The Politics of Film Permits at Rainbow Valley

5.1   Introduction

5.2   The Ambiguity of the New

5.2.1              Power and Exclusion

5.2.3              Business as Usual?

5.2.4              Operational Retreat

5.3   Defining Joint Management: Organisational Perspectives

5.3.1              Working Together and Building Relationships

5.3.2              Governance, Complexity and Difficulty

5.4   Not Another Bloody Meeting: The Politics and Rituals of Trust

5.4.1               Resources, Power and Trust

5.4.2              …And Yet More Meetings

5.4.3              On Country at Last: Joint Management Camps

5.5   Defining Joint Management: Aboriginal Perspectives

5.6   Conclusion              


Chapter 6: Doing Joint Management

6.1    Introduction

6.2    Talking and Knowing as ‘Doing’

6.2.1              Chanting to Know

6.2.2              Talk Work is Doing Joint Management

6.3    Seeing and Writing as ‘Doing’

6.3.1              Formalising the Informal

6.3.2              A Sign of ‘Good Process’?

6.4    Doing Joint Management

6.4.1              Employment, Training and Economic Development: The Flexible Employment Program

6.4.2              Getting to Yes

6.4.3              Doing the Hard Yards

6.4.4              Gaining Legitimacy

6.4.5              The Elusive ‘Next ‘ Level

6.4.6              Something More Than Paid Work Experience

6.5    Joint Management Planning

6.5.1              Planning to Plan

6.5.2              A Participatory Approach

6.5.3              Planning Process

6.5.4              Failing to Plan = Planning to Fail?

6.6   Doing the ‘So Much More’

6.6.1              Capacity Building

6.6.2              Capacity Building: The Written and the Done

6.6.3              Cultural Heritage Management

6.6.4              When in Doubt, Write a Policy

6.7   Conclusion


Chapter 8: Between Process and Practice

7.0  Vignette: Doing Joint Management

7.1  Discussion: Doing Joint Management Means Different Things

7.2   Continued Colonialism, Social Justice and Cynicism: Whole-of-Government Approaches to Joint Management

7.3   Plans, Employment and Governance: Organisational Responses to Joint Management

7.3.1              A Ranger’s Life

7.3.2              Taking the Lead: The Primacy of Planners in Joint Management

7.3.2              Talk Work and Artefacts

7.3.3              The ‘So Much More’ of Joint Management

7.4              As Above, So Below: Agents, Core Business and Values

7.4.1              Agent’s Definitions of Joint Management

7.4.2     Core Business and the Yellowstone Model

7.4.3     Values

7.5              CAS

7.5               Conclusions 

Amanda Markham: Between Process and Practice: Joint Management and Conservation Agencies in Australia

[1]2 The World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines protected areas as: ‘ …areas of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means’ (IUCN 1994).