Situated justice in environmental decision-making: Lessons from river management in Southeastern Australia

Mick Hillman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The practical application of environmental justice in natural resource management depends upon moving beyond generic principles to situated understanding. This understanding in turn requires knowledge of both historical and geographical contexts, including how decision-making frameworks develop and the nature of the biophysical environment itself. This paper examines these requirements based on case material from the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. In the Hunter Valley, the colonial history of river management was one of the creation, and subsequent inclusion and exclusion, of particular 'stakes' from the decision-making process, resulting in a narrowly defined 'community of justice' that became institutionalised at the catchment scale. However, even within this restricted community, distributive injustices occurred due to a failure of policy to engage with environmental variability at both spatial and temporal scales. This combination of procedural injustice and environmental variability also resulted in ecological injustice - that is a disconnected or even antagonistic human-nature relationship that restricted the opportunity to redress the severe degradation of riverine ecosystems that had occurred since European settlement. In the light of these examples, broader challenges in the application of environmental justice to river management are explored in terms of ecological complexity and contested perceptions of environmental health. Based on this material, a historically and geographically situated, ecologically informed vision of environmental justice is proposed as an essential part of sustainable river management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-707
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


  • Ecological justice
  • Environmental justice
  • Hunter Valley
  • River management
  • Southeastern Australia


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