40th Anniversary of the world's first Ramsar site, Cobourg Peninsula, NT

Forty years ago, in 1974, Australia designated the world’s first Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. This was Cobourg Peninsula, located approximately 200 kilometres north-east of Darwin, a remote and unspoilt wilderness area in the Northern Territory.

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator the Honorable Simon Birmingham, has released a news article celebrating 40 years of the Ramsar Convention in Australia.


To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the designation of Cobourg Peninsula, the Ramsar Secretary General, Dr Christopher Briggs, has developed a video congratulating Australia.

Video message from Ramsar Secretary General, Dr Christopher Briggs


The Department of the Environment, in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive, has prepared a short video to showcase Cobourg Peninsula’s rich environmental diversity and cultural significance.

Video from NFSA about the Cobourg Peninsula


The Australian Government has also prepared a touring exhibition which features a video, banner (PDF - 2.5 MB) and display about Cobourg Peninsula and other Ramsar wetlands. The exhibition will be displayed at:

The display will also tour through various wetland education centres.

The Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site is profiled in Wetlands Australia and the Celebrating Australia’s wetlands showcase publication.

In addition, the March 2014 edition of the National Library of Australia Magazine also features an article celebrating the anniversary. The article draws on historical evidence to uncover the Indigenous, Macassan and European history of Cobourg Peninsula.

Values of the site

The site contains unique biodiversity and heritage assets and a variety of landforms, habitats and wildlife including terrestrial, riverine, freshwater, brackish and coastal/marine ecosystems.

It was listed as a Wetland of International Importance because of its diversity of coastal and inland wetland types, support for populations of threatened species including a number of endangered turtles, maintenance of regional biodiversity, support for life-cycle functions such as turtle and waterbird breeding and refugia values, and its importance for providing important fish nursery and spawning habitats.

The site also has significant social and cultural values. It has a rich Indigenous, Macassan and European history. Indigenous people have lived on the Peninsula for over 40,000 years. It is considered that the Creation Ancestors first entered Australia via Malay Bay near the Cobourg Peninsula before travelling across the rest of the country creating people and places. The on-going role of the Traditional Owners (the Arrarrkbi) in the joint management of the site has helped to maintain its natural and cultural values.

For more information, visit the Cobourg Peninsula and Indigenous Australians page.

Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site meets five of the nine current nomination criteria of the Ramsar Convention. Visit the Cobourg Peninsula entry in the Australian Wetlands Database for more information. You can also do a virtual tour of the site.

Australia’s commitment to identifying and conserving its environmental assets, especially those of global significance, continues to the present day. Following the listing of the world’s first Ramsar site in 1974, Australia now has 65 wetlands on the Ramsar list covering 8.3 million hectares. For more information on these sites, visit the Australian Ramsar Wetlands page.