GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
society. The ways in which people have responded to the challenges and taken up the opportunities have added to the social significance of the Reef. Examples include the intrepid journeys of early explorers; the discoveries and descriptions of the Reef ecosystem by early scientists; the experiences of hardship and survival, such as those of shipwreck survivors; and early interactions with the Reef’s Traditional Owners. In addition, the history of commerce on the Reef has resulted in some places of social significance. Examples include the Cod Hole — an iconic dive site and one of the first parts of the Great Barrier Reef to receive marine park protection; John Brewer Reef — the site of the only ever floating hotel in the Region; and Whitehaven Beach — a spectacular and high-profile white sand beach in the Whitsundays. On a more personal level, particular aspects of the Region’s natural and cultural environment (such as a place, a species or an activity) can be of social significance to an individual, a family or a community. This may be as a result of employment, stewardship activities, recreational experiences, or family, personal or spiritual connections. This social significance builds personal connection to the Reef. Continued education about and interpretation of the Reef and its history, combined with its ongoing use by generations of people, act to preserve and enhance the social significance of its natural and cultural environment.
The wonder of the Reef and a history of personal experiences have built its social significance.
Human wellbeing and Reef connections
The Great Barrier Reef plays an important role in community life. Human wellbeing — a state of happiness, good health and prosperity — is inextricably linked to environmental health.26 Many individuals and communities have strong connections with the Reef, through culture, occupation, or familiarity, and these connections contribute to their wellbeing.27 In a 2013 national survey, the Great Barrier Reef was rated as Australia’s most inspiring landscape by about 43 per cent of respondents, while 86 per cent feel proud that the Great Barrier Reef is a world heritage area.28 For those who are part of Reef-dependent industries, the connection is particularly strong with their work forming a core of the way they think about themselves and their role in society. For example, commercial fishers and marine tourism operators depend on the Reef for their livelihoods, but their connections to the Reef are often stronger than economic dependency.29,30 One commercial fisher captures this connection: “... it’s an income to me but there’s also those sort of things... go out and swim all day, watching the whales. I’m just as much of a kid going out there and seeing a couple of humpbacks jumping around with the calf as catching a hundred mackerel for the day.”31
Values held by commercial fishers and tourism operators about the Great Barrier Reef. The bigger the word, the more often it was recorded.
Source: Tobin et al. 201429, Curnock et al. 201430
4.4.2 Aesthetic heritage values