There are approximately 70 Traditional Owner groups whose sea country includes the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and who are Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef region with evidence of their Sea Country connections dating back 60,000 years. Governance of the Marine Park includes Indigenous membership on the Marine Park Authority Board and an Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee.
Traditional use of the Marine Park
Traditional use of marine resources is the undertaking of activities as part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's cultures, customs or traditions, for the purpose of satisfying personal, domestic or communal needs.
- Traditional use of marine resources activities may include:
- collecting (for example shellfish)
- looking after cultural and heritage sites
- Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people undertake traditional use of marine resources activities to:
- educate younger generations about traditional and cultural rules, protocols, practices and activities on sea country
- practice their living maritime culture
- provide traditional food for families
Traditional use activities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are managed under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 recognises that under section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993, native title holders may undertake traditional use of marine resources in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The Authority acknowledges the rights of Traditional Owners to fish and gather from their Sea Country as recognised in the Native Title Act.
An important objective for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is to ensure traditional activities are sustainable. There are many threats to marine animal and resources, such as coastal development, habitat degradation, boat strikes, netting, sedimentation and pollution, that need to be managed collectively.
More information on managing traditional use of marine resources, including traditional hunting, can be found in the publication 'A Reef-wide framework for managing traditional use of marine resources in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.'
The Authority recognises that establishing an effective and meaningful partnership with Traditional Owners is essential to protecting cultural and heritage values, conserving biodiversity and enhancing the resilience of the Reef.
Traditional Owners have inherent rights and responsibilities for caring for their Land and Sea Country, which includes those who enter it. There are often cultural protocols that need to be respected for significant cultural areas. Through a collaborative and cooperative approach this can be managed by contacting the appropriate Traditional Owners for the area of Sea Country in which you are operating and discussing your activities with them.
The Authority’s Traditional Owner Heritage Assessment Guidelines outline the rich cultural heritage of the Marine Park, how activities may impact on this heritage, and how to engage with the culturally appropriate saltwater Traditional Owners to minimise this impact.
How to contact:
It is important that that you contact the culturally appropriate clan group who speaks for that area of Sea Country.
- The Authority suggests working through this process:
- If the Traditional Owners for the Sea Country are known, make contact with their appropriate representative organisation. Most organisations have a website with their current contact details.
- If the Traditional Owners for the Sea Country are not known, make contact with the Native Title Representative Body nearest to the location of your permitted activity. Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements provide another source of Traditional Owners contact details.
Contacting relevant saltwater Traditional Owners must be carried out in a respectful manner that acknowledges there may be strong cultural connections to the area of your activities. If there is more than one Traditional Owner clan group that has connections to that area, all groups should be contacted.
This mapping portal, drawing from National Native Title Tribunal information, may assist in identifying Traditional Owner groups or representative bodies within the Marine Parks.
Once you have made contact, inform the person you are speaking to that you have or are seeking a permit to operate in the marine parks and you are seeking advice on who the Sea Country Traditional Owners are for the area of your activity.
Traditional Owners will be interested in the type of activity and the specific areas where the activity will be conducted to ensure their cultural heritage values are not negatively impacted by your activity. They may also be interested in opportunities to support or add value to your activities.
More information on Traditional Owners’ connections to Sea Country, the rich cultural heritage of the Marine Park, and links to best practice resources to assist with engagement can be found in the Traditional Owner Heritage Assessment Guidelines. Specific detailed guidance for the Great Keppel region is contained in the Woppaburra Heritage Assessment Guidelines. Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements organisations can be found on our Traditional Use of Marine Resources webpage.