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For Traditional Owners across the Great Barrier Reef, protecting Sea Country is an inherent part of their lives and identities. Through the Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements, a partnership with the Australian and Queensland governments, traditional knowledge and management styles come together with legislative frameworks to form a wholistic approach to managing Sea Country.

As the agreements have evolved, stories of incredible women have emerged; from the pioneers who signed some of the original agreements, to those who are driving modern implementations as the leaders of tomorrow. These connections extend beyond clan groups, as women from across Reef Sea Country come together to form a network of knowledge sharing. And it was from this collective desire to share stories and discuss women’s TUMRA business in a way that will help pave the way for more women to influence Sea Country management, that the inaugural Women’s Only Workshop was born.

Eighteen female representatives across 11 groups at varying stages of their TUMRA or Sea Country Values partnership journey came together on Yirrganydji Country. Each woman present brought their own lived experience and a diverse perspective based on regional and value driven aspirations.

For Mandubarra Sea Country Heritage Officer Sheyanne Kyle, it was clear that there was a contagious feeling amongst the group of women.

“Having the opportunity to be surrounded by other women, to hear their stories and learn what they are working on is so interesting,” Sheyanne says.

“The atmosphere and feeling across everyone is empowering.”

Sheyanne admits that compared to some of the women at the workshop she is relatively fresh to this environment. Despite this Sheyanne spoke with passion and clarity as she shared how Mandubarra undertake their own cultural referrals assessments for permits to work on Country.

Cultural referrals are just one of the unique management tools made possible through TUMRA accreditations. The workshop provided an opportunity for women like Sheyanne to offer their own skills and expertise as an offering of diverse tools and projects that can aid Sea Country management more broadly.

“I have learnt a lot from these women during the workshop and have so much to take back and share with the team.” Sheyanne says.

The different ways of approaching challenges and opportunities across the groups opened new perspectives on how to approach her job.

For Michelle Tapim, Assistant Director of the TUMRA program, it was the connections and sisterhood nurtured through this time together that she valued most. Aware of some of the networks that spanned across the participants involved but over the course of the workshop was elated in seeing just how deep these ties grew.

“In this environment, people are finding synergies between projects that different TUMRAs are undertaking. They are making their own connections that will span past this workshop,” Michelle says

“There were some really interesting reflections from the participants, and it was great to hear the interpretation from some of the new participants in the program as well as the wisdom of those who had been involved for a while.

“It was an absolute privilege to facilitate something like this. To take these voices and go forward with the Program, knowing that we are representing the voices that are present here.”

Updated 11 Jul 2024
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