Dingo resistance! J. Carter, A. Wardell-Johnson, C. Archer-Lean, ‘Butchulla perspectives on dingo displacement and agency at K’gari-Fraser Island, Australia’, Geoforum, 85, 2017, pp. 197-205


Abstract: There is a complex geography to Aboriginal-dingo-settler-dog relationships in Australia. This paper examines aspects of that geography in a world heritage area, heavily contested by multiple stakeholders for whom the dingo has come to represent resource and identity, as well as a powerful symbol of nature. The Butchulla people were recently recognised in Australian law as holding native title to world-heritage listed K’gari-Fraser Island, a decision that confers recognition and consultation rights; however, genuine ownership and control of the island is denied through a lack of joint management of the island. This paper reviews evidence from some Butchulla people who declare their ongoing dispossession through various discourses and actions that attempt to circumvent extinguishment of their title to territory. They implied that dingoes have equally endured dispossession and extinguishment of territory through common colonial discourses that subjugate the ‘other’, albeit Butchulla people and dingoes have different forms of resistance and agency. Butchulla people in our study parallel their treatment under colonial structures of governance with those of the dingo in that both have endured limited freedom of movement and expressions of sovereignty. We argue some Butchulla people liken notions of dingo agency and resistance with their own attempts to assert sovereignty and responses to displacement. Aligning with the dingo (and broader discourses and politics that surround the dingo) may afford Butchulla people a greater entitlement to be a major voice in dingo ‘management’ specifically, and management of the island more broadly, than their native title resolution confers.

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