University of Tasmania

File(s) not publicly available

Islands on the Edge: Exploring Islandness and Development in Four Australian Case Studies

posted on 2023-05-26, 14:22 authored by Jackson, RE
This research is positioned in the field of island studies and examines impacts of residential and tourism developments on four Australian case studies - Bruny Island off the island-state of Tasmania; Phillip Island, part of Victoria; Kangaroo Island off South Australia; and Rottnest Island, Western Australia. These islands are on the edge of metropolitan regions, so are readily accessible and subject to development pressures that may threaten ecological, social and economic well-being. I use a qualitative research methodology, involving interviews with key island stakeholders, to explore relationships among three themes: islandness, development, and governance. ‘Islandness’ broadly refers to qualities of islands - geographical, social and political - that are distinct from those of continents. Consideration of development focuses on (i) tourism as a key economic activity on the case islands, and (ii) residential development and the associated ‘sea change’ phenomenon involving amenity migration. I investigate governance structures for the case islands, and the capacity of communities to advance local sustainability. Islandness is an ambiguous concept, partly due to the openness/closure of island boundaries (openness refers to connectedness with the wider world and closure relates to insularity). Such ambiguity is evident in tensions between islanders’ desire for autonomy, and parity with mainlanders. Islandness can be diminished by increasing accessibility (a form of greater boundary openness), such as bridges or faster ferries, or by developments that do not pay due heed to principles of sustainability or specificities of island context. However, insularity can also be problematic: many offshore islands need to be open to tourism to sustain economic viability. A key issue then is how to balance apparent needs to further economic development (and possible homogenisation with mainlands) with other needs to maintain distinct island qualities. Suggested strategies include striving for economies of place (capitalising on a geographical uniqueness that adds value to goods); preserving unique island features such as sense of place, character, and environmental values; and ensuring that relevant governments (if mainland-based) provide for some form of island representation. State and local government policy and planning strategies may also need to consider distinct island characteristics. Consistency between spatial and administrative boundaries is important from environmental and social perspectives (islands can foster sense of community and social capital), but such governance arrangements are often constrained economically. This research contributes to the field of island studies by addressing the lack of comparative case studies and research on offshore islands. In relation to existing island literature, I augment theoretical understandings of the concept of islandness, and link this concept to that of sustainable development. This research also highlights the natural and social values of four offshore islands and the importance of maintaining their distinct island qualities (and suggests some strategies for doing so). I conclude that islandness is an important resource for island and other peoples as they grapple with the challenges of sustainable development. Research findings may be applicable to offshore islands in other parts of the world, considering some of the common sustainability challenges and opportunities associated with islandness.





School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


University of Tasmania

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    Ref. manager