Postgraduate Profiles

Jess Austen

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Thesis: Long-Run Transformations across the Avon Catchment, Western Australia

This project looks at long-term transformations across the Avon Catchment of Western Australia. The Avon Catchment lies within the Wheatbelt Region, which has a long standing history of agricultural production. Over time, a variety of social, political, environmental and economic changes have occurred, altering the viability of agricultural production and the towns that support the region. This study aims to identify the drivers of these changes between 1947 and 2011, and to assess them using the theory of Evolutionary Economic Geography (EEG), and associated concepts of path dependence and regional resilience. This analysis will be innovative in that there are very few studies that have considered these types of structural changes by employing these concepts in an Australian context.

Four specific aims have been identified for the project;

1. To identify long-term economic and demographic transformations across the study area.

2. To examine the dynamics of structural adjustments in farming across the study area.

3. To determine the drivers of spatially uneven transformations in agriculture and wider regional economic and demographic performance.

4. To study the different adjustment strategies that have been employed over time to achieve social and economic stability.

Why my research is important

There appear to be few studies in which the theoretical perspectives offered by EEG are employed in an empirical sense. This study aims to provide a ‘real-world’ example of how these theories can be used to explain disparities in development. By adopting an evolutionary and interdisciplinary approach, the findings can contribute to the current knowledge on the causes and nature of rural change in an Australian context, and of the path trajectories that have developed in the study region over time.

Importantly, this research project looks at a wide range of variables across a broad area, over a long time scale. It considers the changes in specific places in relation to their geographical neighbours, thus allowing us to compare and contrast drivers of growth in a local context and gain knowledge of the dynamics across a significant and geographically meaningful area. A lot of other studies look at demographic and economic variables in the relatively short term (1980s onwards), and this could be reflective of the difficulty in obtaining historical data.


Feb 2016

Jan 2019