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Sustainability, sense of place and story: A case study of the Pilbara Region, Western Australia

Waller, Susan (2011) Sustainability, sense of place and story: A case study of the Pilbara Region, Western Australia. Other thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

Progress on sustainable development has been slow. Two key reasons for this limited progress include the lack of sub-national or regional implementation and lack of integration of the social dimension, in particular the interpretive sense of place component in sustainability policy. The latter is identified as one of the biggest challenges underlying sustainability today.

This thesis seeks to understand sense of place, the significance of sense of place to sustainability and how sense of place can be elicited and communicated through story, for the purposes of being integrated into regional sustainability strategies.

In addressing these aims, an examination of key sustainability, sense of place and cultural planning literature and a case study of the sense of place story approach undertaken in the recent development of the Pilbara regional sustainability strategy were undertaken.

Regional implementation of sustainability is paramount given this is the scale at which government services are administered, utilities are managed, industries operate, natural resource management occurs and community identity is based. Key reasons for the lack of integration of the interpretive component include the lack of understanding of sense of place and the significance of sense of place to sustainability, as well as the lack of knowledge of the means to integrate it. One recommended tool however is story.

There are many similar as well as divergent definitions of sense of place, however it refers most commonly to an individual’s experience of and felt response to place. Sense of place comprises numerous components including place attachment, place identity, place dependence, place commitment and sense of belonging.1 The question of ‘whose sense of place?’ is imperative in any relevant discussion.

Sense of place can contribute to personal and community wellbeing, in particular community empowerment and social capital; to the protection and restoration of biodiversity; as well as the economic security of a region. There are a number of potential adverse outcomes of sense of place, including parochialism and people’s aversion to change, which can act as barriers to sustainability.

A story is simply an account of an experience or experiences, and an approach in using story as means to elicit and communicate people’s senses of place includes six key stages: planning and preparation; quantitative research; story collection and documentation; story analysis and interpretation; story re-presentation and communication; and story exhibition, housing and renewal.

The case study highlights the importance of garnering regional community support; securing funding and resources; developing a clear project brief; maximising community involvement; utilising the story process to foster people’s senses of place; eliciting and communicating varying senses of place; as well as the correct undertaking of thematic analysis in any sense of place story process.

The key findings of this thesis contribute to our understanding of sense of place and its significance to sustainability, as well as confirming the appropriateness and informing future practice of eliciting and communicating people’s senses of place through story for the purposes of being integrated into regional sustainability strategies.

Publication Type: Thesis (Other)
Murdoch Affiliation: Institute for Science and Technology Policy
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor: Johnstone, Allan and Newman, Peter
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/41703
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