Kakadu National Park World Heritage Site: Deconstructing the debate, 1997-2003

Graeme Aplin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The case of Kakadu National Park has had an unusually large amount of time and expense devoted to it in meetings of the World Heritage Bureau and the World Heritage Committee since 1997. Major controversy arose following the announcement that a new uranium mine would be developed at Jabiluka, located in an enclave surrounded by the World Heritage property, but not legally part of it. The explosive juxtaposition of issues concerning the trio of conservation of heritage values, uranium mining, and Aboriginal land rights inevitably led to strong reactions against the Federal Government's decision to allow mining, not least on the part of Australian and international non- government organisations. It was felt that the mining development would jeopardise the integrity of the key values for which Kakadu had been inscribed on the World Heritage List. This paper attempts to unravel some of the strands of the ensuing debate - to at least begin to deconstruct the debate - that saw Kakadu almost placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This is an important task to attempt because there were many undercurrents to the publicly reported debate, and a large degree of 'reading between the lines' is needed to interpret official records of meetings adequately. The paper also attempts to throw some light on the forceful opposition to such a move on the part of the Australian Government, based in large part on its underlying developmentalist philosophy, and at a time when it was giving less than wholehearted support to many international agreements to which Australia is a signatory. Finally, it is hoped that an insight into the workings of the World Heritage Convention and its supporting bodies will be gained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-174
Number of pages23
JournalAustralian Geographical Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004


  • Conflict
  • Conservation
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Jabiluka
  • Kakadu
  • Mining
  • World Heritage


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