Australian Studies, Volume 3, Series 2 (2011)

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Shifting Visions: Developmentalism and Environmentalism in Australian History

Jillian Koshin


Development and the idea of progress – that is, developmentalism – in Australia were powerful leading forces  from the late nineteenth century to their  peak in the 1960s.  State premiers based their reputations and electoral success on their governments’ development policies. By the 1970s, however, changing attitudes to development and the environment saw a paradigm shift. Until this time, protests over environmental damage or encroachments on national park areas had been voiced at the local level. But when a small, isolated wilderness lake, Lake Pedder, in Tasmania, was to be drowned by a hydro-electric power scheme, public concern moved to the national level and led to the establishment of the first green political party in Australia. Over the next three decades there followed a general, albeit reluctant and perfunctory, greening of  state and federal politics. Yet, while strongly challenging the prevailing developmentalist ideology, the shift did not remove developmentalism from its leading position.

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