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Playing for sheep stations : a discourse analysis of wild dog management and control policy in New South Wales, Australia

By Penelope Margaret Marshall

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This thesis challenges the constitutive and taken-for-granted assumptions of the current dominant administrative rationalist discourse of wild dog management and control (WMDC) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It asks: To what extent can conflicts over WDMC in NSW be understood in terms of contending discourses and what does that imply for policy legitimacy? It isolates the storylines that emerged from substantial empirical research and examines, if and how, these storylines contributed to the dominant discourse of administrative rationalism. From the beginning of white settlement of NSW, the State and farm families worked in concert to achieve the eradication of wild dogs and dingoes. From the 1960s, however, a significant discursive turn occurred in WDMC. This occurred as a result of the contending discourses of environmentalism, ecological science, animal welfare and biosecurity. These discourses collectively afforded new meanings to dingoes, wild dogs and WDMC. Concurrently, the State drove this discursive turn through a discourse of administrative rationalism. From 1995 until 2011, a period of successive NSW Labor Governments, the State further consolidated this discursive approach. It reified 'experts' and legislatively empowered public land managers to inform, shape and promulgate the dominant discourse of WDMC through the promotion of a 'best practice' model. Within this model the individual knowledges and experiences of farm families of WDMC were subject to empirical measurement, the interpretations of public land managers and the corroboration of continuing ecological studies. The entry of new social actors closely linked to Government who actively promoted 'new' innovations and technologies in WDMC further distilled the dominance of the administrative rationalist discourse. However, the legitimacy of this approach was forcefully challenged by a growing sense of crisis in the 'Bush.' This was driven by farm families who were directly affected by the lack of WDMC on public lands, the increasing numbers of wild dogs and the devastating effect this was having on the lives of farm families. This reality was exploited mercilessly for its political capital by all political parties. Successive NSW Labor Governments consistently reiterated in storylines its financial largesse in WDMC to give legitimacy to its discursive approach. These storylines of financial expenditures in real terms however are difficult to substantiate. Ironically, the success of the administrative rationalist discourse was dependent on the continued involvement of farm families in a public planning process which pivoted on their acquiescence to a discourse that subordinated their concerns and, at the same time, relied on the widespread adoption of this model by farm families across NSW. This has proved deeply problematic. Overwhelmingly, at public WDMC meetings farm families rejected the State's reliance on administrative rationalism and a chorus of voices reflected the significant gap that existed between the political and policy rhetoric of WDMC and the lived reality. Nevertheless, successive attempts by farm families have so far failed to dislodge the dominant discourse of WDMC.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Pages 290
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
University Australian National University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Penelope Margaret Marshall (2018), "Playing for sheep stations : a discourse analysis of wild dog management and control policy in New South Wales, Australia,"

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  1. Animal roles
  2. Australia
  3. Dogs
  4. Ecology
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. Policy and Planning
  8. Wild animals
  1. open access