In 2008, the Low Isles, 15 kilometers north-east of Port Douglas, was listed as a Commonwealth Heritage place for its rich indigenous and historic heritage, including its significance to the Kuku Yalanji and Yirrganydji People as part of their dreamings. The Low Isles lightstation has also been included in this listing due to its significance as an integral part in understanding the establishment of maritime navigational aids along the Queensland coast. Built in 1978, it was the first lighthouse to shine in the northern part of the Reef. Low Isles is also the site of the first scientific study on the Great Barrier Reef in 1928, the Yonge Expedition, and has featured in numerous studies since.
A gravesite on the western side of the island, suspected to be that of the late Jane Ann Owen (1880) – the wife of the first lighthouse superintendent Daniel Hugh Owen, has recently been significantly threatened by erosion. Dynamic shoreline movements, driven by seasonal variations in winds and waves as well as high-energy episodic cyclones, have resulted in significant erosion of the upper beach and undercutting of the vegetation in this area.
The heritage values of the island are managed and maintained by the Reef Joint Field Management Program (RJFMP). Recently, the Reef Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff from the RJFMP, with assistance from Jabalbina and the Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers and DWAC On Country Maintenance team, constructed a sandbag wall to provide some temporary protection to the gravesite whilst longer term solutions are considered.
Will Smith, casual Ranger at Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation was part of the crew helping with the work and said that he enjoyed meeting old and new faces during the project. Lachlan Mitchell, Ranger with Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers, echoed this same appreciation, stating that, “as a Yirrganydji person it is always a gift to be able to work on Country that we are connected to and specifically with our neighbours, the Yalanji people and other Indigenous Rangers.” Mitchell was proud that both groups who share connection to this sea country were able to work together as a team and complete the job well.
While stationed on the island for the erosion works, Indigenous Rangers also took the opportunity to participate in joint compliance patrols on sea country with QPWS. Will Smith appreciated learning about and employing different compliance strategies to those he had used in the past. Smith believes that “Traditional Owner involvement on projects like this one is important to manage Country for the betterment of all.”