The Murchison GeoRegion & Aspiring Geopark, Western Australia

Dowling, Ross1

1Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

Whilst geoparks exist around the world including 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries, there are none in Australia. However, in Western Australia GeoparksWA is working on establishing a number of aspiring geoparks, with the intention of later nominating all or part of these to become UNESCO Global Geoparks.

The Murchison Region of Western Australia is approximately 250,000 sq km making it about the same size as New Zealand but larger than the United Kingdom. It lies approximately 600 km north of Perth and comprises the seven Shires of Cue, Meekathara, Mount Magnet, Murchison, Sandstone, Wiluna and Yalgoo. In 2009 WA’s Forum Advocating Cultural & Eco Tourism (FACET) held a tourism conference in the town of Mount Magnet and since then there has been a growing interest in fostering geological tourism. In 2016 the WA Government’s Mid West Development Commission created a ‘development blueprint’ for the region which included the goal of establishing tourism based on the region’s unique geology.

Since then the Shires have worked together to create the Murchison GeoRegion and in September 2020 the Murchison GeoRegion was launched. The GeoRegion would now form the basis of WA’s first Aspiring Geopark with the ultimate aim of applying for recognition as a UNESCO Global Geopark. A website and app have been created supplemented by a Trail Booklet under the banner of ‘Discover Ancient Lands, Brilliant Skies’. The booklet describes 21 geological sites along a GeoRegion Trail which highlights the abiotic, biotic and cultural features to encourage visitors to find a deeper understanding of and connection with the land they are travelling through. These geological sites will be added to with others focussing on biotic or cultural attractions.

Other areas in Western Australia are now working with GeoparkWA to create Aspiring Geoparks so it is hoped to have a network of geoparks established across the state in the near future.


Professor Ross Dowling AM is Honorary Professor of Tourism at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. He is also Vice President of Geoparks WA , founder of the Global Geotourism Conferences and co-editor of four books on geotourism. His major focus is to bring back geoparks to Australia.

Myths and Perceptions about Geoparks in Australia Challenged

Briggs, Alan1

1Geoparks WA, Perth, Western Australia

Stakeholders hold the key to establishing geoparks in Australia. There has been a shift in community thinking about geoparks. The effect of the 2009 Environment Protection and Heritage Council communique recommending geoparks not be supported in Australia is waning. It is now possible, that if State governments show support for geoparks, the Federal government will assist in recommending aspiring geoparks to UNESCO for recognition as Global Geoparks. However, despite the success of geoparks internationally (161 in 44 countries), there remain negative perceptions and myths about geoparks in Australia. Australia remains the only continent that does not have a geopark. Global geoparks attract UNESCO branding with associated marketing and promotion. Geoparks are community-led and achieve geoheritage protection through education and sustainable development. Geotourism is the key driver for economic returns for geoparks.

Research in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia has shown that stakeholders hold the perception that geoparks represent a sound strategy for revitalising rural areas through geotourism. Research findings indicate that stakeholders consider geoparks as a positive way of growing rural businesses and creating employment in rural areas, and they are prepared to support geoparks as a sustainable tourism strategy. Other research findings included consideration of the myths about geoparks such as the perceived green veneer of UNESCO, confusion about the word “park” and clashes with grazing and mining industries.

This presentation will outline the findings of this research and challenge the perceptions and myths associated with geoparks.


Alan has interests in eco-tourism, geo-tourism, and geoparks, as well as Aboriginal engagement in land management, tourism and geoparks. He also established Geoparks WA to facilitate and promote geoparks in WA.

Alan’s Murdoch PhD focused on stakeholder perceptions of establishing a Geopark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Telling the Earth’s Stories


1Savannah Guides Limited, Cairns, Australia

In a world muddled by fantasy, fake news and marketing hyperbole, the stories of the earth provide people with a core reality and true sense of perspective. 

Our increasing understanding of our world, from core to cosmos, should be shared with a wide range of audiences and celebrated to build the understanding and engagement of tourists, students and local community custodians.

However, storytelling is challenging.  The complexity and span of earth sciences is daunting to the lay person and simplifying concepts and terminology can blur meaning.

The science of storytelling provides some insights into how this can be approached. Linking earth’s processes to our audience’s life experiences, harnessing emotion and description, and finding interactive ways to stimulate synapses in the brains of our listeners can provide pathways to understanding and memorable lessons.

Savannah Guides is a network of over 500 tour guides and tourism operators around Australia, the “Protectors and Interpreters of the Outback”, including the Undara Lava Tubes, Capricorn Caves, El Questro Station, Cobbold Gorge and other geological wonders.  The organisation provides training and professional development at field schools and through online platforms, provides linkages to Protected Area Managers, researchers and Traditional Owners, and delivers workshops on guiding skills including interpretation and storytelling.

Savannah Guides has worked since 1988 to build the geotourism message and connect more people with their world.  It is now engaged with the National Geotourism Strategy and its associated stakeholders, and has ongoing involvement in supporting several regions to develop their geoscience stories.

This presentation will provide examples of these collaborations and some of the storytelling techniques that have captivated guests, as well as providing examples of how geoscientists can better connect with the wider community through tourism.


Russell Boswell is the Manager of Savannah Guides, a network of over 500 tour guides and tourism operators. He specialises in tourism experience development, marketing and interpretation.  A former secondary and vocational teacher, Russell delivers tourism training and projects across Australia.

Geotourism in Tasmania

Vicary, Mike1, Cumming, Grace1, Bottrill, Ralph 1,

1Geological Survey Branch – Mineral Resources Tasmania – Geological Survey Branch, Rosny Park, Australia

Tasmania is one of world’s most geodiverse places on the planet, with rocks ranging in age from Proterozoic to Recent. The geology has been subjected multiple episodes of deformation, felsic and mafic magmatism, rifting, erosion and weathering, reflecting changes in tectonic setting and climate with time.

The UNESCO world heritage area (WHA) forms the greater part of the 30% of Tasmania that is occupied by National Park or reserve. The WHA is one of only two areas in the world which satisfies at least seven of the ten criteria required for listing. Importantly, four of these criteria are directly related to the WHA’s unique geology and landscape.

Significant geological features include folded and metamorphosed Proterozoic basement, Cambrian ophiolites, Cambrian to Devonian sedimentary rocks, Permian to Triassic sedimentary sequences with widespread Jurassic dolerite intrusive sills, karst features, Cainozoic glacial and periglacial landforms, fluvial and coastal landforms and extensive blanket bogs. These features help to define the World Heritage status and are also widespread across Tasmania. Together with the Mt Read Volcanics, extensive Tertiary sequences with basaltic volcanic centres, the Ordovician to Devonian sequence of NE Tasmania, Devonian granite intrusions and rare gems, minerals and fossils, they make Tasmania an ideal place for geotourism. 

Tasmania receives about 1.3 million visitors/year with the majority visiting the State to enjoy a holiday in the natural environment. Many current tourist operations provide a basic level of geological information. DPIPWE provides interpretation in the WHA and National Parks through it’s website, visitors centres and track signage. Tour operators conduct boat trips in the Freycinet, Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island and the Gordon River areas, wilderness flights to Melaleuca in the WHA and guided cave tours. The Wilderness Railway provides commentary on the mining history in the Queenstown area. There are first class rock displays at many of the local museums, especially Zeehan.

The tourist operations are supplemented by three Geotrails, which provide the tourist with a greater level of geological interpretation. The ‘Created from Chaos’ Geotrail was developed to highlight the complex Proterozoic – Palaeozoic sequences and Cainozoic geology along the northwest coast. The West Coast (‘Living Earth”) Geotrail has been developed, including the southern part of the Cambrian Mt Read Volcanic belt, with sites highlighting aspects of the Cambrian to Ordovician rift development, Devonian granite magmatism, mining history and the Cainozoic landscape development. A third Geotrail on the Furneaux Islands highlights the Palaeozoic to Cainozoic evolution of Bass Strait.

Other notable geotourism projects completed include the production of an excursion guide to King Island (Calver, 2016), a non-technical book on the geological evolution of Tasmania (Corbett, 2019) and a pamphlet highlighting the geological features of the Tasman Peninsula (Mineral Resources Tasmania, 2019). A new book describing Tasmanian Fossils by Peter Manchester is due for completion in 2021.


Calver C.R. 2016. A guide to the Geology of King Island. King Island Natural Resource Management Group.

Corbett, K.D. 2019. Child of Gondwana: The geological making of Tasmania. FortySouth Tasmania

Mineral Resources Tasmania 2019. Geological Features of the Tasman Peninsula).


Michael Vicary graduated with a BSc(hons) degree from the ANU in 1987. Since then he has worked in Tasmania for Geological Survey and in mineral exploration.

Driving Australia’s National Geotourism Strategy through the AGC

Robinson, Angus MFAusIMM (CP)

1 Coordinator, Australian Geoscience Council Inc, Carlton South, Australia

The Australian Geoscience Council Inc (AGC) has set up a National Geotourism Strategy Reference Group (NGSRG)  which includes representatives of other key active stakeholders (e.g. the Geotourism Standing Committee of the Geological Society of Australia), and under the guidance of this reference group, other key stakeholder groups will be best placed to help deliver different parts of a National Geotourism Strategy (NGS).

This NGS is being designed to support the orderly development of major geotourism projects and activities in line with overseas trends and domestic regional development imperatives.  The AGC sees the articulation of a strategy with a staged and incremental approach as being essential to ultimately gain government endorsement at all levels.  The development of a National Ecotourism Strategy in 1994 and subsequent state/territory-based initiatives is considered as a particularly useful precedent and guide.  Of significance internationally is the development of geotourism in Australia that lags many countries’ approach, notwithstanding the fact Australia has taken the initiatives in several areas in development of the concepts underpinning geotourism.

The pursuit of geotourism offers the potential for new industries and employment opportunities through the development of major projects within Australia.  Also, very significantly from a strategic perspective, the AGC recognises that the development of geotourism may be one of the best ways to communicate the value of geoscience to the broader Australian community.  The AGC considers that this improved profile for  geoscience is likely to have a positive impact in other areas of strategic importance, most notably the need for continuing  tertiary enrolments in geoscience, which is required to meet Australia’s needs for highly qualified geoscience graduates and researchers into the future.  

The NGS will be based on a number of strategic goals based on the following themes.

  1. Consideration of new digital technologies (e.g. delivered through smartphones and in visitor interpretation centres – 3D visualisation, AR & VR) as a cost-effective means of accessing and better communicating and interpreting content for travellers.
  2. Consideration of establishing a national set of administrative procedures for ‘georegional’ assessment to provide for potential geopark nomination at state and national levels, and as approved by governments, at a UNESCO Global Geopark level.
  3. Compilation from existing sources, including the various state-based geoheritage inventories, of a national register of geosites that are suitable for promotion as geotourism sites.
  4. New geotrail development – local, regional and national engagement to open up dialogue with existing walking, biking and rail trail interest groups and operators to highlight the availability of quality natural heritage data.
  5. Mechanisms for developing mechanisms for collaboration with providers of other areas of natural (bioregion) and cultural heritage content, inclusive of mining and resource industry heritage (e.g. mining companies, geological and mining museums, historical societies, as well as specialist groups with interests in flora and fauna etc. has been identified as an opportunity for the Australian mining industry.
  6. Strengthening Australia’s international geoscience standing through geotourism excellence.
  7. Professional development opportunities for geoscientists wishing to develop content interpretation and tour guiding skills for enhanced interaction with the public, and engagement with the Savannah Guides and the professional group Interpretation Australia.


An exploration geologist by profession, Angus commenced a mining industry career in 1969.  After the past 25 years working in technology and industry development executive roles, and earlier in the 1980s with the NSW Department of Mineral Resources, he has been actively championing geotourism and ecotourism over the past decade.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.