Frontier Vigilantism? Australia and Contemporary Representations of Australian Antarctic Territory

Klaus Dodds, Alan Hemmings

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This article considers the way in which recent commentators have represented Australia's relationship with Antarctica including current and future challenges. While successive Australian governments from the 1950s onwards have sought inter alia to develop and protect the country's southern oceanic and Antarctic interests, concern has persisted about the activities of other parties. The signing of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty helped to ensure that the territorial status quo prevailed with regard to the Australian Antarctic Territory. The entry of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) into force in 1994 created new opportunities for further expressions of sovereign rights in this region. While mindful of the evolving legal geographies affecting Antarctica, our paper asks a series of questions about this relationship with the far south: how has Australian national identity been informed and influenced by Antarctic engagements? Will UNCLOS actually weaken the Antarctic Treaty System? Finally, do contemporary Australian pronouncements on the Antarctic hint at anxieties reminiscent of the 1950s? We conclude with a warning that nationalistic evocations may well unsettle a delicate balance concerning the Southern Ocean and disputed ownership of Antarctica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-529
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Issue number4
Early online date17 Dec 2009
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2009


  • Australia
  • Frontier
  • Geopolitics
  • Nationalism
  • Antarctic

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