Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER)

AUSCCER - Michael Adams, 2017 'Photo: Michelle Ransom-Hughes: ABC Radio'Michael Adams

POSITION: Associate Professor of Human Geography
OFFICE: 41.253
PHONE: +61 2 4221 4284
TWITTER: @DrMichaelAdams

Link to UOW Scholars Page 


Photo: Michelle Ransom-Hughes: ABC Radio


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Wollongong, Redefining relationships: Aboriginal interests and biodiversity conservation in Australia, 2002.
  • Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, University of Sydney, 1988.
  • Bachelor of Arts (Hons), University of Sydney, 1978.

Previous Positions

  • 2014 to present: Associate Professor, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities and Indigenous Studies Unit, UOW.
  • 2012 to 2013: Associate Professor, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences & Indigenous Studies Unit, UOW.
  • 2010-2011: Senior Lecturer, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre & School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, UOW.
  • 2006 – 2009: Senior Lecturer, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, UOW.
  • 2004 - 2006: Lecturer, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, UOW.
  • 2002-2004: Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Conservation Biology, UOW.
  • 1998-2001: Consultancy projects across Australia, with Bushwork Consultants.
  • 1996-2002: Conservation Assessment Unit, National Parks & Wildlife Service (NSW).
  • 1990-1996: Sydney Manager, Greening Australia (NSW).
  • 1982-1985: Coordinator, Settlement Neighbourhood Centre, Redfern (NSW).

Research Interests and Expertise

  • Environmental governance and Indigenous rights
  • Cultural values of wildlife
  • Sacredness and nature
  • Innovative teaching and learning practice

My research (and teaching) engages primarily with two dimensions of human-nature relationships, and the interactions between them: knowledge and governance. I have completed extensive research on shared governance arrangements between government conservation agencies and Indigenous communities in national parks and World Heritage Areas, including direct contributions to policy development. Other research has examined Indigenous and local knowledge systems and how these interact with Western knowledge frameworks. More recent work has focused on the cultural dimensions of hunting, especially around knowledge, respect and sacredness. I am also interested in the theory and practice of transformational learning experiences.

Methodologically, I like ‘full-immersion fieldwork’, getting deeply and actively involved in the human and non-human lives and landscapes I research. I have extensive collaborative field research experience with Indigenous and other communities across Australia, in arctic Scandinavia, and more recently in India. Prior to joining academia, I have 20 years of professional experience that integrates teaching, research, professional and community roles. I have worked for community-based organisations, NGOs, government agencies, Indigenous organisations, and as a consultant. This experience continues to facilitate strong industry and community linkages that benefit both teaching and research.

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Current research projects

Contested Culture: Knowledges, Skills And Culture In India
This project aims to address the changing dynamics of customary knowledge in India and its role in biodiversity conservation, specifically with respect to hunting and harvesting of wildlife and the specialised forms of knowledge and skills that local communities possess for this purpose. It is collaborative with academic colleagues from several institutions in India.

Shared Governance In Indigenous Conservation Landscapes
A series of projects examining the rapidly evolving forms of co-management or shared conservation governance between Indigenous and local peoples and conservation agencies in Australia, Sweden and India, focusing on national parks and World Heritage Areas.

Cultural Values Of Wildlife
A series of projects that explore the significance that different groups of people accord to particular non-human species, including wild horses in Australia, street dogs in India, and marine and terrestrial urban wildlife in the Illawarra region.

Recent Publications

For full publication and citation list see UOW Research Online>>

  • Popp, T and M. Adams, 1995, Settlements of Green - a Revegetation Manual. NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Parramatta.

Refereed Journals
  • Moorcroft, H and M. Adams, 2014, Emerging geographies of private conservation and Indigenous land in Australia, Australian Geographer.
  • Adams, M., 2014, Caught in the net of life and time, Meanjin, 73.2.
  • Adams, M., 2014, Caught in the net of life and time, The Guardian, 16 June 2014.
  • Skilton, N, M. Adams and L. Gibbs, 2014, Conflict in common: heritage-making in Cape York, Australian Geographer, 45(2) DOI:10.1080/00049182.2014.899026.
  • Head, L., M. Adams, H. V. McGregor, and S. Toole, 2014, Climate change and Australia. WIREs Clim Change, 5: 175–197. doi: 10.1002/wcc.255
  • Oommen, M and M. Adams, 2013, Guest Editorial, Current Conservation, Vol 7 No 1, pp 3.
  • Adams, M. 2013, Indigenous knowledge and climate change, Current Conservation, Vol 7 No 1, pp 17-21.
  • Adams, M. 2013, ‘Redneck, bogan, cashed-up barbarians? I don’t think so’ – hunting and nature in Australia, Environmental Humanities, Vol 2, pp 43-56.
  • Waitt, Gordon , Michael Adams, Jenny Atchison, Lesley Head, Michael Jones, Pat Macquarie, Katarina Saltzman, Gunhild Setten and Marie Stenseke, 2012, The teleconference and its implications for geographical knowledge-sharing, Geography. Vol 97 Part 1, pp42-26.
  • Gill, N, M. Adams, C. Eriksen, 2011, Engaging with the (un)familiar: field trips in a multi-campus environment, Journal of Geography in Higher Education Vol 36 no.12.
  • McGloin, C, A. Marshall, M. Adams, 2010, Leading the way: Indigenous knowledge and collaboration at the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice.
  • Adams, M. 2008, Foundational Myths: Country and Conservation in Australia, Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol. 3 No 1, February 2008.
  • Adams, M 2008, Response to Peter Thomson Interview, Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol. 3 No 1, February 2008.
  • Lawrence, R and Adams, M. 2005, First Nations and the politics of Indigeneity: Australian perspectives on ‘Indigenous Peoples, Resource Management and Global Rights’, review article, Australian Geographer, Vol 36 (2) pp 265-272
  • Adams, M. 2004, Negotiating nature: collaboration and conflict between Aboriginal and conservation interests in NSW, Australian Journal of Environmental Education, Vol 20 (1) pp3-11.
Book Chapters
  • Adams, M. 2014, "Pukulpa pitjama Ananguku ngurakutu – Welcome to Anangu land: World Heritage at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park". In: Stefan Disko and Helen Tugendhat (eds.), World Heritage Sites and Indigenous Peoples' Rights. Copenhagen: IWGIA, Forest Peoples Programme and Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.
  • Farrier, D and M. Adams, 2011, Indigenous – Government Co-Management of Protected Areas: Booderee National Park and the National Framework in Australia, in B. Lausche, Guidelines for Protected Area Legislation, pp 1-40 ‘Special Protected Area Types’ IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  • Adams, M. 2011, Arctic to outback: Indigenous rights, conservation and tourism, in Günter Minnerup and Pia Solberg (eds) First World First Nations, pp 198-211 Sussex Academic Press, East Sussex.
  • Eriksen, C, and M. Adams, 2010, Indigenous environmental knowledge, in Encyclopedia of Geography, pp1564-1567 SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.
  • Adams, M., V. Cavanagh and B. Edmunds, 2008, Bush lemons and beach hauling: evolving traditions and new thinking for protected areas management and Aboriginal people in NSW, in D. Smyth and G. K. Ward (eds), Protecting Country: Indigenous governance and management of protected areas, Research Program, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.
  • Adams, M 2005, Beyond Yellowstone? Conservation and Indigenous rights in Australia and Sweden, in G. Cant, A. Goodall and J. Inns (eds) Discourses and Silences: Indigenous Peoples, Risks and Resistance, Department of Geography, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
  • Adams, M and A. English, 2005,‘Biodiversity is a whitefella word’: changing relationships between Aboriginal people and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. InL. Taylor, G. Ward, G. Henderson. R. Davis and L.A. Wallis (eds), The Power of Knowledge, The Resonance of Tradition, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.
Edited conference proceedings
  • Adams, M 2004, Negotiating nature: new approaches to social-ecological relationships. Effective Sustainability Education Conference Proceedings, UNSW.
  • Adams, M 1993 The Reconstruction and Fabrication of Native Plant Communities. Bushland in Our Cities and Suburbs, Proceedings of NSW Nature Conservation Council Seminar, Sydney.
  • Adams, M 1992 Corridors of Green: Urban Revegetation Opportunities. In Common Ground, Proceedings of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Conference, Brisbane.
  • Adams, M and E. Hampel 1990 Roadside vegetation. In Environmental Conference Proceedings, NSW Roads and Traffic Authority, Sydney.

  • Adams, M., V. Cavanagh, L. Waddell, 2007, Aboriginal Partnerships Audit, Report to Parks and Wildlife Division, NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change.
  • Adams, M. 2004, A comparative analysis of indigenous peoples’ interests and national park issues in arctic Sweden, Report to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia.
  • Adams, M 2003 From the Mountain to the Ocean’s Edge: Aboriginal culture and landscapes in the Illawarra, Report to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.
  • Johnston, R and M. Adams 2001 Guthalungra Landuse and Management Planning Report: Preparation for Native Title Mediation. Confidential Report to Central Queensland Land Council, Mackay.
  • Johnston, R and M. Adams 2000 Aboriginal Interests in the Lake Eyre Basin. Confidential Report to Lake Eyre Basin Co-ordinating Group, Longreach.
  • Adams, M 2000 Draft Plan of Management for proposed Silver Plains-Macilwraith Range National Park. Confidential Report to Cape York Land Council, Cairns.
  • NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service 1997 Urban Bushland Biodiversity Survey, 6 volumes. NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, Sydney [author of one volume, editor of full report, co-ordinator of project].
  • Lean, B and M. Adams 1995 The vegetation, its faunal associations, and past and present Aboriginal resources in the Parklea area, for Department of Archaeology and Paleoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale.

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Research Grants

2014: AsiaBound Outbound Mobility Program: International Geography Fieldwork Intensive

2013: Formas Swedish Research Council
(as keynote speaker)

2013: AsiaBound Outbound Mobility Program: International Solar Decathlon
(with Prof Paul Cooper and others)

2012: UIC Strategic International Links Grant - India

2012: UIC Strategic International Links Grant – California
(with Dr Christine Eriksen)

2011: UOW Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning Team Award

2010: Dept of Environment, Climate Change & Water 

2009: IUCN Consultancy (with Professor David Farrier): Case study of the legal framework and outcomes for Booderee National Park, for international Guidelines for Protected Area Legislation, IUCN, Bonn Germany (plus workshop in Bonn, July 2009).

2009: UOW Community Engagement Grant Scheme: Art for Country: contemporary Aboriginal Art of the South Coast – Aboriginal art and environment. 
(with Garry Jones)

2008: NSW Department of Environment & Climate Change, Research Agreement

2007: Carrick Award for Teaching Excellence

2007: ESDF Grant
(with Dr Nick Gill)

2006: UOW Teaching and Learning Fund grant for WIC academic team

2006: NSW Department of Environment and Conservation Commercial Research Agreement

2004: University of Wollongong Strategic International Links Grant. For research with Indigenous Sami reindeer herders in Laponia, arctic Sweden.

2004: Churchill Fellowship. For international comparative research in indigenous/conservation issues in arctic Sweden

2002 - 2004: NSW Environmental Trusts Research Grant
(with Professor Rob Whelan and Professor David Farrier)

2002 - 2004: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service research support

1998-2000: ARC-SPIRT Postgraduate Scholarship
(with Associate Professor Lesley Head)

1999: ANU Centre for Cross Cultural Research - Visiting Scholars Program

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I teach and coordinate GEOG/INDS201 Redefining Eden: Indigenous Peoples and the Environment. I also contribute lectures to INDS150 Introduction to Indigenous Australia, and INDS130 Introduction to Comparative Indigenous Studies. These are all taught to Wollongong and regional campuses. I regularly lead field trips for visiting international academics and Study Abroad students; and occasionally teach an intensive, field-based summer short course.

I am interested in experiential and participatory learning. My teaching engages with subjects that are controversial, sensitive and highly relevant nationally and internationally, including critical unresolved issues around entrenched racism and environmental crisis. I have mentored numerous Indigenous students through science and other degrees, and mentored many graduates into professional careers in conservation. Several of these graduates have won prestigious awards, including the Robert Hope Memorial Prize (J. Kitchener 2013); the Ray Kelly Scholarship (R. Evitt 2009); the NSW Indigenous History Fellowship (Evitt 2010); and the Illawarra Prize in 4th Year Earth & Environmental Sciences (V. Cavanagh 2008).

Research Student Supervision

Future Students

Not currently taking on new research students.

Past Students
  • Hemopereki Hoani Simon, current, PhD, Toitū te mana: Indigenous sovereignty and its effects on environmental planning in Aotearoa New Zealand: a Ngāti Tūwharetoa case study, co-supervised with Associate Professor Evan Poata-Smith.
  • Heather Moorcroft, 2016, PhD, Engagements between environmental NGOs and Indigenous Australians, co-supervised with Professor Lesley Head and Dr Jack Baker.
  • Jennifer Owens, 2015, BSc Honours, Wild horses in the Snowy Mountains, co-supervised with Professor Gordon Waitt.
  • Eli Taylor, BSc Honours, 2014, Evaluation Indicators for the Girringun Regional Indigenous Protected Area.
  • Nick Skilton, 2012, BSc Honours First Class, Conflict In Common: Heritage Making in Cape York, co-supervised with Dr Leah Gibbs.
  • Lucy Farrier, 2011, BSc Honours 2/1, Living in Paradise: Negotiating World Heritage on Lord Howe Island co-supervised with Professor Gordon Waitt.
  • Zoe Diment, 2011, BSc Honours 2/1, Deer on the Urban Interface co-supervised with Dr Michelle Dawson.
  • Amanda Baldwin, 2010, MSc, Sea eagles at Jervis Bay, co-supervised with Professor Lesley Head.
  • Ella Ryan, 2010, BSc Honours First Class 'We are refugees in our own country’: an analysis of activist support of the Alyawarr Walk-Off opposing the Northern Territory Intervention, co-supervised with Associate Professor Gordon Waitt.
  • Tom Nagle, 2010, BSc Honours First Class, Hands-on Montague: Ecotourism on a Nature Reserve, co-supervised with Associate Professor Gordon Waitt.
  • Glenn Willcox, 2009, BA Honours 2/1, Significant Silence: Balawan and the Cultural Heritage Management of Mount Imlay National Park.
  • Bridget Edmunds, 2008, BSc Honours First Class, Aboriginal Fisheries on the NSW South Coast, co-supervised with Professor Lesley Head.
  • Vanessa Cavanagh, 2007, BSc Honours First Class, The NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act in the Bundjalung Aboriginal Nation, co-supervised with Associate Professor Gordon Waitt.

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Research Presentations

  • Shared Governance, keynote paper, Sámi Customary Rights in Modern Landscapes – Indigenous People and Nature Conservation, Luleå University, Sweden, 2013.
  • Contested Culture, International Geographical Union Conference, Kyoto, Japan, 2013.
  • Western Ghats World Heritage, Association of American Geographers National Conference, Los Angeles, USA, 2013.
  • Indigenous people and land rights in Australia, seminar to Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology & Environment, Bangalore, India, 2013.
  • Negotiating World Heritage at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Institute of Australian Geographers National Conference, Macquarie University, 2012.
  • Hunting in Australia, Animal Death Symposium, University of Sydney, 2012.
  • Hunters heart, Institute of Australian Geographers National Conference, Wollongong, 2011.
  • Evaluating joint management, invited paper, Healthy Parks Healthy People International Congress, Melbourne, April 2010.
  • Sacred landscapes in secular society, paper presented to 15th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Vienna, Austria, July 2009.
  • Sharing space: outdoor education, resilience and sustainability, paper presented to 4th International Outdoor Education Conference, Beechworth, Victoria, April 2009.
  • Laponia and Uluru: Indigenous rights and Western trends in conservation, Northern Europe and its Indigenous Minorities: Pointers for Australia?, Centre for European Studies Conference, UNSW, July 2007.
  • Indigenous peoples in the C21st, invited presentation, Kiama High School Reconciliation Assembly, Kiama NSW, June 2007.
  • Sacred Geography: contested and complementary approaches to land and culture, invited paper, Conserving Heritage, Connecting Cultures Conference, NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change Cultural Heritage Division, Sydney, June 2007.
  • Foundational myths: conservation and country in Australia, invited paper, ARC Asia Pacific Futures Network project: India-Australia: cross border communications through media, environment and people, workshop, UTS, October 2006. Led field trip for visiting eminent Indian researchers.
  • Arctic to outback: Indigenous rights and Western trends in conservation, International Geographical Union Conference, Brisbane, July 2006.
  • Negotiating nature: new approaches to social- ecological relationships, XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim Norway, 2004.

Professional service and memberships

Since 2010 I have been Associate Editor for Conservation and Society. In 2009 I was appointed to the World Commission on Protected Areas and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN – the largest global conservation organisation). Also in 2009, I was appointed toUOW’s Environmental Advisory Committee. I am a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and the International Geographical Union Commission on Indigenous Peoples Knowledges and Rights. I have acted as a national assessor for the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching awards, have regular involvement in supporting UOW teaching awards and committees, and I am an accredited UOW Peer Reviewer of Teaching. I am active as a mentor in the AIME mentoring program, and have supported many students through Aurora Project internships.

Awards and Honours

In 2004 I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship for research in the Laponia World Heritage Area of arctic Scandinavia. In 2007 I received a National Carrick Award for Teaching Excellence (the Carrick Institute is now the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching). I have several times been nominated for UOW OCTAL Teaching Awards, and received an OCTAL Program Award for the Indigenous Geographies Team in 2011. From 2012 to 2013 I was one of the Faculty Advisors for Team UOW Illawarra Flame, overall winner of the 2013 Solar Decathlon China Competition. In 2014 I was appointed to Wollongong Academy of Tertiary Teaching & Learning Excellence as Senior Fellow.

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Last reviewed: 25 September, 2017


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