: Beyond The North-South Culture Wars

Beyond The North-South Culture Wars

Kate Galloway

beyond-the-north-south-culture-wars-150Allan Dale; Springer, 2014; 148 pages; $74.30 (paperback)

In mid-2015, the Australian government released the 
long-awaited white paper on Developing Northern Australia. That this policy is considered important is perhaps illustrated by the appointment by the Turnbull government of a Minister for Northern Australia. As a policy area however, it is possible that those south of the Tropic of Capricorn are somewhat mystified by its importance, or even the issues at stake. Allan Dale’s very readable book provides an excellent primer for northerners and southerners alike, seeking to understand the potential of the north in environmental, cultural and economic terms.

Dale draws on his personal and professional experience to articulate what he describes as the cultural divide between northern and southern Australia. In a narrative style, supported by scholarly research, Part II of the book provides stories about the diverse industries of northern Australia. Dale outlines the mining, tourism and urban development that have occurred, as well as explaining how forestry, cattle, and fisheries resources have been (mis)managed over time. His experience working with Aboriginal people is also included, through a case study of community development in Aurukun. Finally in this part, Dale outlines the harrowing experience of living through Cyclone Larry in 2006 and what it taught him about living in the north.

The third part of the book offers Dale’s view on solutions to sustainable community and economic development. In chapter 9 for example, he outlines the case for what he calls ‘endemic regionalism’. Importantly, his argument is that solutions for the north must be found from within the north. Unlike some ‘outsiders’, he recognises that the north itself consists of unique but interconnected regions. The diversity of communities and industry in this part of the world means, of course, that there is no one solution for the entire region. He argues further that the regions must be connected to each other, with the rest of the nation and to the rest of the world. Indeed isolation — geographically and often via poor infrastructure — is one of the great challenges for those who live here.

Beyond endemic regionalism, chapter 10 makes the case for economic reform. Dale’s economic argument is based on the reality that the significant environmental and cultural values across the north — rapidly being deeply eroded — are economic problems. He suggests that ‘natural resources provide the very ecosystem services that are the foundation for our economy.’ (p 114) His solution is the development of ecosystem service markets as a new economic driver in northern Australia.

The strength of this book is the author’s ability to weave together his personal and family background, his extensive industry experience, and his research background, to offer a compelling and achievable vision for the north. It is not too technical to alienate the lay reader, but is solidly supported by scholarly research. This book will interest those who seek thoughtful solutions to environmental problems, to Indigenous Australians’ disadvantage, and to resource management more generally. It is certainly an important read for those involved in local, state and federal policy in these areas. And if you are interested in getting across the issues involved in Northern Australia Development, this book is a must read.

KATE GALLOWAY teaches law at James Cook University.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 73
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