One of the recurring themes of environmental sociology is the manner in which detrimental environmental effects are differentially distributed, disadvantaging those of lower class and lesser status. In the case of agricultural land in western societies, extensive restructuring and industrialisation of agriculture's biological processes has led to concentration of land in the hands of a few, a phenomenon associated with massive land degradation. The grazing industry in Australia is an extreme example of land concentration with millions of hectares held by the top 50 producers.
This paper addresses the issues of land conflict arising from Australia's international commitment to ecologically sustainable development and recent court judgements supporting indigenous rights to land tenure and management on grazing lands in Queensland. The paper has three primary aims. The first is to examine how the historical pattern of land holding in Queensland led to the creation of a powerful grazing elite with concomitant perceptions of their rights of occupation of grazing lands. The second thrust is to discuss how ecologically sustainable development has caused land management decisions to shift from being a private business matter to a public process and debate. Thirdly, the consequences of the Land Title legislation, as reformed in 1998, are elucidated and their impact on historical forms of tenure, class and status is discussed.
The democratisation of land management in Queensland has profound implications for the historical land uses of cattle and sheep grazing.