Enabled and embedded? Non-government protected areas in Australia

Dr Benjamin Cooke1, Associate Professor Aidan Davison, Ms Lydia Schofield, Professor James Kirkpatrick

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia


The last three decades have seen a proliferation of protected areas for nature conservation in Australia that sit outside the public land estate. Private and Indigenous owned lands now contribute over 40 per cent of Australia’s National Reserve System, counting towards Australia’s international targets and commitments for the protection of biodiversity. The growing sophistication of the non-government protected area (NGPA) sector is evidenced by the recent establishment of a peak body (Australian Lands Conservation Alliance) and the maturation of international philanthropic investment in land purchases for conservation. Our research explores the emergence and enabling conditions for this substantial shift in approach to protected areas in Australia, examining how fluctuating and retreating government support, bureaucratic discourses, First Nations sovereignty and land rights, networks of philanthropists and land trusts and biodiversity conservation mapping have cohered to produce distinct governance approaches. We outline some of the opportunities and vulnerabilities for NGPAs as globally funded, locally contingent entanglements of public and private interests.


Ben’s research explores nature conservation from a critical social science perspective, with a specific emphasis on relations between humans and nonhumans. His research covers protected areas, rural-amenity landscapes, private land conservation and urban greening politics.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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