Rurality is a complex and contested term, with multiple notions and gazes amid calls for theoretical pluralism. In Australia, the spatial categories of ‘remote’, ‘rural’, ‘regional’ and ‘urban’ are applied to places that vary in their distance from an economic and political core and have differing population densities. We argue that natural resources institutions in rural Australia demand an ‘authentic’ performance of Aboriginality that is framed within orthodox and stable constructions of an Indigeneity associated with the remote category. Dominant representations of remote Aboriginal people living on traditional homelands and engaged in ‘traditional’ environmental protection are assumed to hold for all places and transposed when natural resources institutions satisfy compulsory Indigenous engagement. Such institutional requirements for authenticity exclude alternative and multiple Indigenous voices in natural resources management. Rather, Aboriginal people seek engagement across a portfolio of natural resources activities typically found in rural areas (such as mining, grazing, forestry, water allocation planning, and natural resources service delivery and enterprise development), and not just isolated in natural and cultural heritage conservation. This broad participation would more completely match their expressed aspirations and the multiple lived realities of their fluid and networked rural worlds. Using the rural town of Eidsvold in Australia as a case study, we discuss the findings of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with Indigenous people at regional natural resources management meetings and at ‘home’ in Eidsvold. Rather than a generic institutional approach, a place-based approach to understanding the complex ruralities of Aboriginal people is needed.
Journal of Rural Studies / Vol. 25, Vol. 4, pp.414-424