Australia's National Parks: Background information when reading Force of Nature

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Force of Nature

A Novel

by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper X
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2019, 352 pages

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Australia's National Parks

This article relates to Force of Nature

Print Review

In Force of Nature, a group of women on a work retreat become lost in Australia's Giralang Ranges. While the Giralangs are fictional, Australia is home to thousands of national parks and conservation reserves. According to the National Parks website; "these areas protect a huge variety of environments – from deserts to rainforests, and coral reef to eucalyptus woodlands."  While most of the parks are administrated by government agencies in each of Australia's eight states and territories, a small number are managed on the national level by Parks Australia, including the country's six Commonwealth National Parks, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and 58 Commonwealth Marine Reserves, protecting some of the country's most stunning natural areas. The combined National Parks cover nearly 350,000 square miles, or about 11.5% of Australia's land mass.

Parks Australia is part of the country's federal government and their stated mission is to create and sustain "healthy and resilient parks, gardens and marine reserves that protect nature and culture and are valued and enjoyed by the community now and into the future."

Their goals include:

  • Protecting and conserving the natural and cultural values of the Commonwealth
  • Contributing to the social, economic and well-being of local communities
  • Offering world-class natural and cultural experiences to enhance Australia's visitor economy.

Kakadu, located east of Darwin in the Northern Territories, is Australia's largest terrestrial national park, covering over 7,600 square miles (twice the size of the Yellowstone National Park in the USA). Its vast territory contains a wide variety of terrain from its coast and estuaries in the north to rocky ridges and "stone country" in the south. Because it is so ecologically diverse more than one third of Australia's bird species can be found within its borders.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, in the center of the country, is on Aboriginal land jointly managed by Parks Australia and its Anangu owners. It was declared a national park in 1977. Then, in 1985, the government returned the land deed to the Anangu who eased it back to the Director of National Parks, to be jointly managed under a board comprising of a majority of traditional owners. Each year, "The Handback" ceremony commemorates this historic event. Located in Australia's Northern Territory and covering over 800 square miles, the park is considered one of the most significant arid biosystems in the world, and as such has been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Park.

Booderee National Park contains coastal vegetation, cliffs and white sandy beaches in its 24 square miles… and the little penguin, the smallest species of penguin in the world, which grows to only about a foot tall. The park is jointly managed by Parks Australia and the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community. Located in New South Wales and originally named the Jervis Bay National Park, in 1997 it was renamed Booderee, which means "bay of plenty" or "plenty of fish" in the native language.

Three of the Commonwealth National Parks are on islands. Christmas Island is over 1500 miles northwest of Perth in the Indian Ocean. According to the park's web site, it is "home to a high proportion of endemic species, some of them endangered. The park protects much of the island's uniquely structured rainforests, two wetlands of international importance, tens of millions of red crabs and a small but environmentally significant marine area." Pulu Keeling National Park is also located in the Indian Ocean. This near-pristine atoll is famed for its birdlife and is an important breeding site for seabirds and turtles.  It's also home to an historic shipwreck. Finally, the tiny Norfolk Island National Park (just 2.5 square miles in area) is located off Australia's southwest coast and is home to several endemic and highly endangered species, including the green parrot, the boobook owl, and the Norfolk tree fern (Cyathea brownii), the tallest tree fern on Earth. 

Visual tours of the parks are available on the Parks Australia web site.

by Kim Kovacs

This "beyond the book article" relates to Force of Nature. It originally ran in February 2018 and has been updated for the January 2019 paperback edition.

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