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Abstract

While most Australian human settlements are large, densely networked urban systems located on the east-south-eastern seaboard and the coastal footholds of Perth and Adelaide, a particular class of settlements have long maintained occupancy in the interior of the country enduring the arid and semi-arid localities that make up the vast majority of the continent’s land mass. How this interior class of settlements is perceived plays a significant role in policy formulation processes, including constructing assumptions about their value. This paper brings together two bodies of literature that influence the understanding of the role of remote desert settlements in Australia, namely the ‘mutuality of influence’ and “scale-free networks”, arguing for the need for policy transformation. The first part introduces the proposition of mutual influence between community, ecology and built system pressures; the second explores how the systemic view of human settlements evolved as a viable framework for modelling cities, and describes the scale-free nature of desert settlements. Policy implications from the two theoretical frameworks include the need for new understanding of the complexities surrounding desert settlements as well as alternative approaches to the ones currently adopted by government.

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