Limitless lands and limited knowledge: Coping with uncertainty and ignorance in northern Australia

John Woinarski, Freya Dawson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines some of the reasons for the pattern, and notes characteristics which may be general to other frontier regions. It focuses on one political component of this region, the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory (NT), as this is the area with which are most familiar. The chapter introduces main development and conservation players and issues of northern Australia by way of a series of examples which provide the flavour of, and indicate the flaws in, the pervasive development philosophy and its attempts to deal with the environmental ignorance and uncertainty within settler society. Despite the developers’ approach, northern Australia continues to have vast areas of relatively unmodified landscapes. Gradually this is being recognized as an asset rather than an affront. Many of the environmental values of northern Australia are obvious and substantial, if largely taken for granted. Its vast landscapes retain the most extensive eucalypt forests in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcology, Uncertainty and Policy
Subtitle of host publicationManaging Ecosystems for Sustainability
EditorsJohn Handmer, T.W. Norton, S. R. Dovers
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781317905066
ISBN (Print)9780130161215
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

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