Abstract: The Australian outback is a unique ecological and social landscape. The people who live here cope with harsh and variable environmental conditions, particularly in terms of rainfall and the availability of surface water. The human population density is very low – less than 0.001 people per km2 – which is considerably less than the national average of 2.6 people per km2. This population is widely dispersed around small urban centres that are remote from major Australian cities. The dominant land use is grazing, while other land uses include agriculture, mining, tourism, defence and nature conservation. There is a growing interest in a broader diversity of economic activities, particularly ecotourism, to supplement grazing activities. Environmental drivers are dominated by the availability of water, with ‘droughts and flooding rains’ likely to remain a central feature of life in outback regions of Australia. Water supply for human or ecosystem use across this region is determined by the highly variable rainfall and very high evaporation rates relative to rainfall. Water issues are very different between coastal and interior outback regions, including in the regions in this study. Along the coastal and semi-arid region surface water flows are more reliable; in the interior they are highly episodic and hence unreliable. In the interior, water bores are vitally important sources of reliable water necessary to support human populations and their production systems. These harsh environmental factors frame all human activities in these regions, and, in turn, some human activities lead to adverse environmental impacts such as erosion. Consequently, public interests and stewardship roles of various tiers of governance impose institutional constraints, such as rules, that seek to align individual activities and decision making with the interests of the wider community.
Smajgl, A, Leitch, A, Lynam, T, 2009, Outback Institutions: An application of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to four case studies in Australia’s Outback, Volume:31, Report, viewed 06 December 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=4843.