Anthropology has produced complex and nuanced accounts of the place connections of Indigenous Australians, including the ways in which traditional Aboriginal law and custom has adjusted under conditions of colonial domination to enable the continuing reproduction of relational ontologies linked to the land. However, the place connections of ‘White’ Australians are rarely researched by anthropologists, resulting in analyses which simplistically posit a fundamentally exploitative relationship between non-Indigenous people and the land. This paper is based on ethnographic research conducted in North West Queensland with contemporary pastoralists descended from non-Indigenous settlers. We draw on anthropological approaches to storytelling to explore the ways in which pastoralists narrate their sense of belonging and rights to land. We show how representations of pastoralists’ labour contributions to the land are linked to settler colonial ideologies of property, which include antagonism to the environment, particularly in conditions of environmental stress. However, we also show how notions of family legacy, settler history, and future-oriented visions for land contribute to the emplotment of pastoralists’ sense to place. Our findings illustrate how settler descendants seek to maintain a sense of legitimate ownership of land where modernist dreams of exploiting the wilderness have failed, smaller family-owned properties have sold up, and the broader society’s support for the industry has wavered.


Alana is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at UQ. Her thesis examines the ways in which people of various cultural backgrounds in North West Queensland communities co-construct, negotiate, and embody narratives of place. With an academic and professional background in creative arts, writing, and embodied narrative, Alana’s research engages with questions of personal biography, nationalistic mythology, and somatic experience in Australian environment. Richard is a socio-cultural anthropologist in the School of Social Science at UQ. His research focuses on the politics of land, identity, indigeneity, and development in Australia. Richard has a PhD in social and cultural studies from The University of Western Australia. His PhD research examined relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the remote Gulf Country of northern Australia, where he began fieldwork in 2007. After completing his PhD in 2012, Richard has continued to work in the Gulf Country on a range of academic and applied research projects, continuing to develop friendships and collaborations with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this area.

About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


Online. Please contact the organisers for the Zoom meeting link