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...[Show more] management held by government conservation agencies, their staff and higher levels of government is little understood. Following a determination handed down in a landmark native title case, Western Australia v. Ward in 2002, thirty-three of the NT's national parks and reserves in the Northern Territory became subject to simultaneous, widespread joint management arrangements. Consequently, this thesis focusses upon how government conservation agencies understand and implement joint management on-the-ground. As the NT's government-run conservation agency, the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) was given primary operational responsibility for implementing these new joint management agreements, an examination of the interests, organisational culture, structures and practices of the PWS, and their dialectic with the interests of other groups involved in these arrangements is the subject of this thesis. Thus, the central question posed in this study is: What does joint management mean to conservation agencies and their staff in NT? I argue that conservation agencies can be viewed as complex adaptive systems which operate in dialectic with other similar complex adaptive systems, such as land councils or Aboriginal cultures. Crucial to this approach is the identification of elements within organisations that are resilient, self-organising, dynamic and non-linear. To do this, I examine several normative cultural constructs which underlie the conceptualisation and creation of conservation agencies -national parks, conservation, and conservation agencies-arguing that these are important in understanding how the culture, structure and practices of the PWS function as a complex adaptive system, and in tum, act to influence the implementation of joint management on the ground. Within PWS's organisation the agency's strong sense of autonomy, its legislatively-derived and internally stable understanding about the agency's role and functions, its fixed notions about natural values and its inherent 'rangercentrism' comprise elements which influence and shape the nature of joint management undertaken by the agency. These elements are reproduced not only across multiple scales within the agency, but also in interactions with other groups involved in joint management.
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