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.