Transformative change in contemporary Australian agriculture

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Agriculture in developed countries is facing significant challenges including
providing sufficient food to feed an increasing global population, the
uncertainty surrounding the impact of climate change and the reduced
access to, and degradation of, the resource base supporting agriculture. In
meeting these pressing challenges it may be necessary, in some cases, to
implement a deliberate transformative change for sustainability. However, the
pathway required to enable agricultural industries and their producers in
developed countries to successfully undertake a deliberate transformative
change is not understood.

This thesis contributes to an understanding of the processes and outcomes
from a transformative change by exploring the deliberate attempt by
governments to restructure the Australian dairy industry with the intention of
creating a more efficient, competitive and productive industry. Two regional
dairy industries, the Subtropical industry located along the east coast of
northern Australia and the Murray industry located along the Murray River in
southern Australia, identified as social-ecological systems were chosen as
embedded cases to explore the nature and extent of the changes that took
place in these dairy industries following deregulation of the Australian dairy
market. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with dairy producers,
their service providers, and industry and government staff in the Subtropical
and Murray industries. The interview transcription data was organised around
codes identifying the nature and extent of the changes in the two dairy
industries following deregulation as well as emerging themes such as power
and social relationships. The data analysis was also used to explore the
usefulness of resilience thinking transition conceptual frameworks as lenses
to understand the processes and outcomes of change that these dairy
industries experienced post-deregulation.

This research established that the Subtropical dairy industry experienced
profound change following deregulation. The social and power relationships
between actors were substantially altered, and the structure and practices of
the industry’s components: the production system, supply chain, industry
organisation and the provision of services are considerably different. As a
result of the nature and extent of these changes the Subtropical industry is
fundamentally different in the way it functions. It has a new identity based on
different assumptions which suggests that this industry has been
transformed. Post-deregulation, the Murray industry also experienced change
although this is attributed to a large extent to its need to respond to an
unexpected and severe but temporary loss in access to water associated
with the Millennium drought. With the breaking of the drought the Murray
industry appears to have reverted back to many of its pre-deregulation
structures and management practices, and to continue the existing social
relationships between actors.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Curtis, Allan, Co-Supervisor
  • Mendham, Emily, Co-Supervisor
  • Mitchell, Michael, Co-Supervisor
Award date01 Oct 2014
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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