Sea Country: Plurality and knowledge of saltwater territories in indigenous Australian contexts

Amanda Kearney, Michael O'Leary, Spencer Platten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


There are distinct bodies of cultural knowledge attached to the sea. In this paper we orient the focus towards the nature and extent of cultural framings of sea territories, as inclusive of submerged landscapes, for Indigenous maritime peoples in northern Australia. This approach is distinguished by a pluralist methodology and reorients the primal focus of a human geography and broader geographical scholarship concerning submerged landscapes to begin with an Indigenous perspective. Engaging ethnographic accounts of Indigenous Australian knowledges of Sea Country, as inclusive of ancient pre-inundation landscapes that lie out-of-sight on Australia's continental shelves, highlights the potential for a more expansive vision of human connections to the past and present continental landmass of Australia. Indigenous oral traditions, Dreaming Ancestor narratives and songlines provide extensive detail to assist in understanding these parts of the greater Australian landmass and in this paper are brought into relation with recent sea floor mapping efforts which operate to draw back the water and reveal commensurable geographies upon which to envision possibilities for socialised realms of human emplacement. Both bodies of knowledge generate information of submerged landscapes that call for an expansion of thinking on where the land ends and the sea begins and how submerged terrestrial landscapes are understood across cultures as part of human geography. The approach outlined here calls for a habit of bringing principled systems of understanding to stand together as part of an explanatory schema for a world populated by and yet differentially known by people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalGeographical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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