The Australian Geoparks Network
The Australian Geoparks Network (AGN) has been in existence in various forms since 2008. Almost a decade later some of the leaders of the AGN established Geoparks Western Australia, in our largest state. In so doing this their aim was to also formalise the AGN. This was the focus of Geoparks WA and over the period 2019 – 20 which has now occurred.
The organisation has an Australian wide Board made up of members with expertise in geoparks, geotourism and geotrails with others having expertise in geology, tourism and / or education. One is the former Director of Australia’s first global geopark, Kanawinka which operated from 2008 -2012. Another helped establish the Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark in Japan.
The Australian Board is supported by an International Advisory Board comprising geopark specialists from around the world. They include world leaders of the Geoparks Movement; three country geopark network chairs; and other major contributors to the development of global geoparks.
Once geoparks are starting to be established in Australia the Australian Board will be changed to model the UNESCO Global Geoparks National Committee framework found here. That is, it will comprise representatives of each of the following government departments or equivalent not-for-profit organisations:
- UNESCO Global Geoparks
- Australian Geoparks
- The Geological Society of Australia or Geoscience Australia
- The Australian Conservation Foundation or Parks Australia
- The National Indigenous Australians Agency
- Australian National Commission for UNESCO
- National committee for the International Geoscience Program (IGCP)
- Any additional members that may be relevant for the Committee.
At the time of establishment of the UNESCO National Committee as the substantive AGN Board, the members of the existing Board will transition to being members of an Advisory Committee to the AGN. The International Advisory Board will remain in place throughout.
The Australian Geoparks Network’s Early History
The Australian Geoparks Network (AGN) was founded on 17 August 2008 at the Inaugural Global Geotourism Conference in Perth, Western Australia. Over the following years, the AGN held regular meetings across Australia including workshops in Victoria (Warrnambool, 2010 & Melbourne, 2012) and Western Australia (Perth, 2011 & 2015). In addition, meetings were held at the World Parks Congress in Sydney (2014) and during the 4th Asia Pacific Geoparks Network Symposium in Japan (2015).
In 2015, the AGN assisted the Forum Advocating Cultural & Eco Tourism [FACET] in Western Australia to convene the national conference Geotourism – Tourism Down Under, which included a number of presentations on Geoparks. Later that year, a meeting at Murdoch University in Western Australia progressed the AGN by establishing the state based equivalent, Geoparks Western Australia, which was incorporated in 2017. During this period, it was agreed to more formally establish the Australian Geoparks Network resulting from increasing interest in establishing geoparks across Australia.
In 2018, Geoparks Western Australia and the Australian Geoparks Network held two International Workshops on Geotourism and Geoparks in Perth, focusing on their economic and cultural benefits. In 2019, Geotourism WA set up a more formal organization for the AGN which was finally completed in 2020.
Co-Founder – Professor Ross Dowling AM
Ross pioneered geotourism in the mid 2000s. Together with his wife Wendy they convened the world’s first three global geotourism conferences in Australia (2008), Malaysia (2010) and the Sultanate of Oman (2011). In addition they have convened a number of international geotourism workshops as well as keynote lectures at many conferences around the world. Some examples include The Opening of the Trail of Time Conference – Grand Canyon, USA (2010); Volcandpark – The First International Congress on the Management and Awareness in Protected Volcanic Landscapes – Olot, Catalonia, Spain (2012); and Australian Geoscience Council Convention Big Issues and Ideas in Geoscience – Adelaide, Australia (2018). Ross has co-edited four global books on Geotourism including the Handbook of Geotourism published by Edward Elgar, UK (2018). The book comprises 36 chapters written by 54 authors from around the world.
Ross established the Australian Geoparks Network in 2008 and has been at the forefront of promoting geoparks in Australia ever since. He was an early contributor to geopark conferences as a keynote speaker at the 3rd International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks – Osnabrueck, Germany (2008); the 8th European Geoparks Conference – Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal (2009); and the 2nd Asia – Pacific Geoparks Network Symposium on Geoparks – Hanoi, Vietnam (2011). In addition he has given keynote speeches and workshops on geoparks in a range of other countries including Australia, China, Iceland, Malaysia, Oman and South Korea amongst others. His Handbook of Geotourism includes ten chapters on UNESCO Global Geoparks covering every continent. Ross’s passion is to establish geoparks in Australia.
Co-Founder – Dr Alan Briggs
My journey into tourism began in 1984 when I became the District Manager for Yanchep National Park, Western Australia’s Premier National Park. Caves, Koalas, and a fabulous park environment drew my attention. I joined the Forum Advocating Culture and Ecotourism (FACET) soon after and entered the world of tourism. To add to my understanding of tourism I completed a Master of Business Administration, focusing on tourism and using Yanchep as a case study. I was subsequently invited to lecture in tourism at Edith Cowan University in 1998 and continued to do so for a further 12 years, all adding to my tourism knowledge.
My first conference presentation about geotourism was in 2006. It was about Rock Wallabies and the granite monadnocks located around Quairading in the Wheatbelt east of Perth. I then presented at the first Global Geotourism Conference (2008) held in Fremantle Western Australia and then at each subsequent Global Geotourism conference in Malaysia (2010) and Oman (2011).
In 2011, I accepted the opportunity to lecture in Sustainable Tourism at Murdoch University. While continuing to lecture, in 2012, I commenced postgraduate studies (PhD) focusing on stakeholder perceptions about establishing a geopark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. This research provided material for conference presentations both internationally and across Australia. Both the Global Ecotourism and SEGRA conferences provided platforms across each state in Australia to promote the case for geotourism and geoparks. Annual presentations were made at Global Ecotourism conferences while SEGRA was a more recent opportunity.
While conducting field research for my PhD, I produced a report addressing stakeholder perceptions about geoparks in the central Wheatbelt. Later, while doing research in the northern Wheatbelt region, produced a further report on the potential for geotourism and geotrails in the Gunduwa Conservation Region east of Geraldton. This report was with my PhD supervisor, Associate Professor David Newsome.
In 2015, I initiated and subsequently established Geoparks WA to actively promote and assist interested stakeholders in establishing geoparks in Western Australia. Geoparks WA was incorporated in 2017 with me being the inaugural President.