Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef
There are two Indigenous groups in Australia. Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander people. More than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner groups have long, continuing relationships with the Great Barrier Reef region and its natural resources.
The groups with connections to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park region are situated along the Queensland coast from the Torres Strait Islands in the north to near Bundaberg in the south.
Aboriginal people are the first Australians and are widely recognised as the oldest civilisation in the world. Archaeological evidence of their presence across the continent dates back many thousands of years before the European colonisation of Australia in 1788.
As hunter-gatherers, Aboriginal people relied on plants, animals and the environment for their survival, giving them a well-developed knowledge about the natural world.
Torres Strait Islander people
Torres Strait Islander people are sea-faring people related to the Melanesians of the south-west Pacific. While some have moved south to the mainland, their homelands lie in the Torres Strait, which is located between the tip of Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. The Great Barrier Reef also begins in the Torres Strait, north-east of Murray Island (Mer).
On the islands, traditional life involved hunting, fishing, gardening and trading with neighbouring Papuans and mainland Aboriginal communities. Food from the sea is still a valuable part of the modern economy, culture and diet of Torres Strait Islander people whose seafood consumption per person is among the highest in the world.
Traditional connections, lore and customs, saw them sail vast distances along the Great Barrier Reef and Cape York Peninsula coastline gathering vital resources and exchanging tools, culture and goods with Aboriginal groups.
Today, Torres Strait Islander people assert native title rights and interests in the northern Great Barrier Reef region.
Similarities and differences
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups share both similarities and differences in their sea-related customs. Each group has their own distinctive culture and identity, and within these groups there are many clans and kinship groups whose discrete characteristics distinguish one from the other.
Ancestors, languages and ceremonies can provide a link between coastal clan groups and their particular areas of land and sea country. Today trade networks, beliefs, music, art, creation stories, traditional lore and customs maintain a living culture. Published information about the connections that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have with the Great Barrier Reef can be found in Story Place.
The following list identifies some of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner groups and nations of the Great Barrier Reef. These regions are an indication of the broad area where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people assert rights and interests.
|Torres Strait Regional Sea Claim||Torres Strait region and Cape York region|
|Darnley Island (Erub) groups||Eastern Torres Strait Islands and Northern Great Barrier Reef region including Raine Island|
|Murray Island (Mer) groups||Eastern Torres Strait Islands and Northern Great Barrier Reef region including Raine Island|
|Stephen Island (Ugar) groups||Eastern Torres Strait Islands and Northern Great Barrier Reef region including Raine Island|
|Gudang||Newcastle Bay region|
|Yadhaigana||Captain Billy Landing region|
|Wuthathi||Cape Grenville region|
|Kuuku Ya'u||Portland Roads region|
|Kanthanumpun||Claude River region|
|Uutaalgnunu (Night Island) group||Night Island region|
|Umpila||Cape Sidmouth South region|
|Angkum||Cape Sidmouth region|
|Lama Lama||Princess Charlotte Bay region|
|PaalPaal||Cape Sidmouth region|
|Guugu Yimithirr Warra Nation||Lizard Island to Hopevale region|
|Ngulan people||Starke River region|
|Yuku-Baja-Muliku||Walker Bay to Walsh Bay region|
|Eastern Kuku Yalanji||Cedar Bay to Port Douglas region|
|Wanyurr Majay||Fishery Falls, Babinda, Miriwinni, Mt Bellenden Kerr region|
|Yirrganydji people||Cairns to Port Douglas region|
|Gimuy Yidinji||Cairns/Trinity Inlet region|
|Gunggandji||Kings Beach/Fitzroy Island region|
|Guru Gulu Gunggandji||Yarrabah/Green Island region|
|Mandingalbay Yidinji - Gunggandji||Cooper Point region|
|Lower Coastal Yidinji||Russell River region|
|Mamu people||Innisfail region|
|Djiru||Mission Beach region|
|Girramay||Cardwell to Murray Upper area|
|Nywaigi||Halifax Bay region|
|Manbarra||Palm Island region|
|Wulgurukaba||Magnetic Island/Townsville region|
|Juru||Home Hill/Bowen region|
|Gia||Whitsunday region (Mainland)|
|Ngaro||Whitsunday region (Islands)|
|Darumbal||Broad Sound to Rockhampton region|
|Woppaburra||Keppel Islands region|
|Taribelang Bunda||Gladstone/Bundaberg region|
|Gooreng Gooreng||Gladstone/Bundaberg region|
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