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Stakeholder values and geoparks: A case study for a geopark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia

Briggs, Alan (2020) Stakeholder values and geoparks: A case study for a geopark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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After becoming a global movement in 2004, Global Geoparks commenced as a formal UNESCO program in 2015 and now sits alongside UNESCO Man and the Biosphere and World Heritage programs. The adoption of the Geopark program followed the initiation of the Geopark movement in the late 1990s by geologists concerned about the conservation and protection of geological heritage sites. By July 2020, there were 161 Global geoparks located across 44 host countries, mostly in China and Europe. Geoparks are unified areas that promote sustainable development, largely driven by geotourism. Geoparks are not only about the geology of sites and locations, they also encourage cultural awareness and rekindle cultural activities as well as encouraging conservation through education. Geoparks are managed under a community-led bottom-up approach giving local communities a participatory role in how the Geopark operates.

Kanawinka Global Geopark (Kanawinka) was listed as Australia’s only Geopark that achieved UNESCO recognition in 2008; however, a lack of government support brought about the 2012 delisting of Kanawinka as a Global Geopark. This lack of government support and the general lack of awareness in Australia of the positive outcomes Geoparks can bring to rural areas prompted this research which focuses on the Wheatbelt of Western Australian as a case study region for the potential establishment of a Geopark in Australia.

In liaison with Local Government authorities, forums were held across the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, along with the completion of questionnaires, to elicit stakeholder perceptions about Geoparks. An online survey was also conducted. Semi-structured interviews were held with key stakeholders associated with tourism and tourism businesses in the region. This mixed-method research study provided the foundation for analysing stakeholder perceptions about Geoparks prior to taking steps to establish an aspiring Geopark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. The need for this research arose from a review of literature focusing on Geoparks where such studies had not been completed prior to Geopark development at the time this research was carried out. Moreover, in the wider global context, stakeholder perspectives had usually only been undertaken after the establishment of a particular Geopark.

The political impasse towards Geoparks experienced in Australia, across both State and Federal government levels, was reviewed and found to focus on mechanisms used to register Kanawinka as a Global geopark, perceived confusion that might arise from the use of the term “park”, and community ignorance of the role of Geoparks.

Research findings indicate a strong level of stakeholder support for a Geopark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. With the indicative high level of support, consideration was given to the management structure model that would suit Australian legislative requirements. A review of management structures of several of the existing Global Geoparks revealed a consistent approach that included local government taking a lead role in initiating and subsequently managing Geoparks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Global Studies
Supervisor(s): Lee, Diane and Newsome, David
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