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A number of Commonwealth islands in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area are of historic heritage significance.

  • The Commonwealth Heritage listed sites on islands in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park currently held and managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are:
  • Dent Island lightstation
  • Lady Elliot Island lightstation
  • Low Islets lightstation
  • North Reef lightstation


Lighthouses on Great Barrier Reef islands have played a fundamental role in Australia’s development and growth over the last 200 years. Safe passage was vital for the nation’s emerging colonial economy, which was dependent on the sea for trade, communications and supplies.

Lighthouses were initially built and managed by the respective colonial governments. The need for a national approach to marine navigation policy became apparent when parts of the colony with low population numbers did not have sufficient funds to support appropriate navigation aids.

The Commonwealth of Australia officially accepted responsibility for the nation's lighthouses on 1 July 1915, when the Lighthouses Act 1911 came into effect. Until 1988, Australian Maritime Safety Authority managed the lighthouse islands.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority became more involved in the management of the Commonwealth islands in 1988, eventually taking responsibility for management in 2003.

Currently, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority lease the relevant portions of land encompassing the lighthouses and other navigational aids from the Authority.

Private lease arrangements are in place on some islands, such as Lady Elliot Island and Dent Island, for tourism-related purposes.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works in partnership with the lessees and other stakeholders for the long-term conservation of these islands and the heritage-listed light stations.

Dent Island Lightstation photo - © Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority) -
Updated 23 Aug 2022
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