The Geoparks initiative was established in 1998 and today there are hundreds of Geoparks around the world including 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries. From 2008 – 2012 Australia had one geopark, Kanawinka. It was based on Australia’s most extensive volcanic provice covering Southwest Victoria and Southeast South Australia. However, since 20212 Australia has not had a geopark and is now the only continent where they do not exist.
A geopark is a clearly defined area with geological heritage of significance which fosters environmentally appropriate, socio-economic sustainable development. Geoparks use their heritage to promote awareness of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we live on. Geoparks promote awareness of geological features (through conservation, information and education) and geological resources (through geotourism and sustainable development). Geoparks offer a unique vehicle to foster community-based, sustainable, regional development in Australia. An added benefit is they are allied to the powerful UNESCO global network and brand. It is time that Australia established geoparks at a range of levels from Aspiring, to National and Global in order to take advantage of this unique vehicle which delivers jobs and prosperity to regional communities. To aid in the process of establishing geoparks, the Australian Geoparks Network has been established this year to work with and alongside communities wishing to establish geoparks. Our presentation will briefly review the establishment of the Murchison GeoRegion and Aspiring Geopark across seven Shires in 2020 and outline the value of Geoparks.
Professor Ross Dowling AM is Emeritus Professor of Tourism, School of Business & Law, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. Ross is a passionate advocate of geotourism and geoparks. He has worked in the global geoparks movement since 2008 and was a Member of the Advisory Board of the Asia Pacific Geoparks Network from 2008 – 2016. He is an Advisor on Geotourism for UNESCO’s Global Geoparks and is Vice President of Geoparks in WA. In 2021 Ross co-founded the Australian Geoparks Network with the goal of establishing geoparks in Australia. Ross has written about Geoparks in four books and given presentations of Geoparks in over thirty countries.
Mrs Wendy Dowling AM is Director, Ideology Pty Ltd, an international tourism consultancy based in Western Australia which specialises in tourism training, planning and development. Together with her husband Ross, they have worked in many countries training tourism, hospitality leaders and tour guides; convening seminars, workshops and conferences; and developing local, regional and national tourism plans. She is an experienced Cruise Lecturer having worked on over 20 cruise ships around the world. In Western Australia Wendy is an Executive Member of both Geoparks WA as well as the Forum Advocating Cultural & Eco Tourism (FACET). In addition she is President of the Zonta Club of Perth Northern Suburbs. Wendy is Secretary of the Australian Geoparks Network.