Riverine Complexity: Islandness, socio-spatial perceptions and modification—a case study of the lower Richmond River (Eastern Australia)

Island Studies Journal
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Island Studies Journal, 2021, 16, (2), pp. 156-177
Issue Date:
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In its initial incarnation, island studies regarded islands as highly distinct entities that justified a relatively closed discipline. This orientation was first widened by address to issues such as the linkage of (pre-existent) islands to adjacent areas and, over the last decade, has been further modified by consideration of island-like areas. The latter has led to an increasing acknowledgement that, in some contexts, at least, islands form components of complex aquatic and terrestrial systems in which islandness is a less distinctive attribute than in the case of archetypal (usually marine) islands. While neglected by island studies, river systems that include islands, peninsulas and/or engineered waterfront developments are significant for problematising the distinctiveness of islands and thereby merit attention. This article sets out to map some of the complexities around islands and rivers with specific regard to the Richmond River in northern New South Wales, Australia. We profile this river since its lower reaches feature a range of natural and artificial island and island-like features, including the engineered area known as Ballina Island. We develop our study with regard to both Indigenous perceptions of the riverine space and disruptions, interventions and innovations resulting from European settlement in the region. As such, the article attempts to progress island studies’ research on riverine environments, to problematise the notion of discrete islands/islandness in such contexts and to prompt greater disciplinary reflection on the issues arising from such scrutiny.
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