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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Hon Peter McGauran MP
Australian Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
The Hon Mal Brough MP

22 March 2006

Indigenous trainees monitoring coral bleaching

Traditional knowledge and the latest scientific research are joining forces to monitor the impacts of coral bleaching on one of Australia's icons, the Great Barrier Reef.

Four Indigenous trainees are spending the next couple of months working alongside Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) research scientists aboard the Pelican 1, a 63ft sailing catamaran designed for marine research, environmental, social, and educational projects.

The project, which supports on-going reef monitoring work undertaken by GBRMPA, has been made possible with more than $85,000 funding from the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust.

Details were announced today by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough MP.

"This innovative project gives the Indigenous communities in the Great Barrier Reef region the opportunity to use their traditional knowledge of their sea country and to share it with scientists," Senator Campbell said.

"It will expose Indigenous people to the latest scientific research and help them develop greater strengths in managing their natural resources, especially in coming to grips with new threats like coral bleaching."

Mr McGauran said the boat would become a virtual classroom.

"Indigenous and non-Indigenous students will be able to communicate with the trainees and scientists via the internet while they are undertaking their monitoring work," Mr McGauran said.

Mr Brough said the project was part of a pilot Shared Responsibility Agreement being developed between the Indigenous community and the Australian Government.

Four trainees have been selected from communities within the Great Barrier Reef region. As part of their monitoring work, they will be diving, taking underwater photographs, recording results, using and maintaining scientific equipment, and crewing the boat, Pelican 1, operated by Pelican Expeditions, a company which promotes environmental awareness. Access to this boat and assistance from the trainees will enable GBRMPA to undertake bleaching surveys at the peak bleaching period around March and April.

For more information about the Pelican 1, visit

Media Contact:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
Russ Neal (Minister McGauran) 0413 6013
Craig Clarke (Minister Brough) 0417 889 423

Commonwealth of Australia