Baby turtles in hands
Photo: Jane Dermer
Sea country is an important part of Indigenous culture, and Indigenous people have an important role to play in the management of Australia's coast and sea.
The department helps Indigenous Australians manage and protect sea country through a variety of programs and initiatives.
There are a number of reports which discuss Indigenous connection to sea country, and Indigenous people's involvement in managing it.
Sea Country - an Indigenous perspective is a report that talks about Indigenous uses, values, concerns and aspirations for the South-east Marine Region, based on consultations with coastal Aboriginal people and organisations in the region. It also talks about how Indigenous people's rights and interests are recognised in laws relating to the region, and what the Australian Government is doing to help Indigenous people get involved.
The Living on Saltwater Country series of reports describes the connection Indigenous people have to the marine environment in the Northern Marine Region. It includes three reports that were put out after consultation with coastal Indigenous communities in the region:
- Living on Saltwater Country: Review of literature about Aboriginal rights, use, management and interests in northern Australian marine environments
- Living on Saltwater Country: Cape York Peninsula Sea Country Management, Needs and Issues
- Living on Saltwater Country: Southern Gulf of Carpentaria Sea Country Management, Needs and Issues
- Living on Saltwater Country: Goulburn Island to the QLD Border Sea Country Management, Needs and Issues
Sea Country Plans help Indigenous communities describe their objectives for the use, conservation and management of sea country and to work with others to achieve them. A Sea Country Plan seeks to marry Indigenous community priorities and aspirations with those of others with an interest in sea country, including government. The process of sea country planning is about encouraging people and organisations to work together towards sustainable management of marine environments.
The Government's pilot Sea Country Planning Program has been a success. Six Sea Country Plans have been developed:
- Yanyuwa Sea Country Plan developed by the Yanyuwa people of the south-west Gulf of Carpentaria. The Yanyuwa Sea Country Plan explains the relationship between Yanyuwa people and thier Sea Country, Yanyuwa people's concerns about their country and sets out objectives, strategies and actions for sea country management and proposes options for working with government agencies, industry and other stakeholders to achieve those objectives.
- Kooyang Sea Country Plan developed by members of the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation in South-west Victoria. The Plan covers Maar sea country in south-west Victoria. The Framlingham Aboriginal Trust won an award in the Victorian Coastal Awards for Excellent 2006 hosted by the Victorian Coastal Council, Coast Action and the Australian Government's Coastcare program for their Kooyang Sea Country Plan.
- Yolnuwu Monuk Gapu Wana Sea Country Plan prepared by the Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation is a Yolngu vision and plan for sea country management in North-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The Dhimurru Sea Country Plan received a high commendation from the Minister for the Environment in the 2006 (Australian Government) Coastal Custodians Award.
- Thuwathu / Bujimulla Sea Country Plan prepared by the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation for the Wellesley Island region of the Gulf of Carpentaria
- Ngarrindjeri Nation Yarluwar-Ruwe Plan - Caring for Ngarrindjeri Sea Country and Culture prepared by: Ngarrindjeri Tendi, Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee and Ngarrindjeri Native Title Management Committee, supported by the Ngarrindjeri Land and Progress Association. The Plan covers the Murray River estuary and Coorong region of South Australia.
- Barni-Wardimantha Awara (Don't Spoil the Country) - Yanyuwa Sea Country Plan prepared by Yanyuwa Li-anthawirriyarra (Saltwater People). The Plan covers the estuary of the McArthur River and the Sir Edward Pellew Islands, south-western Gulf of Carpentaria.
The plans are helping Indigenous people negotiate with other marine managers and users to develop policies and institutional arrangements that are respectful of Indigenous peoples' rights, interests and responsibilities in sea country. Sea Country Plans are also helping Indigenous people and other marine managers to work and invest together to achieve shared objectives. Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation in the Northern Territory, for example, is currently working with their local Indigenous Coordination Centre to fund implementation of their Sea Country Plan through a Shared Responsibility Agreement.
Along the Great Barrier Reef , many of the ideas behind sea country planning are being put to effect through Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreements (TUMRAs). Girringun and Darambul, with help from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, have developed TUMRAs to help ensure the on-going sustainability of traditional uses of marine resources.