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.

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.