Naming of reefs and undersea geographic features

How are reefs named?

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian Hydrographic Office and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection have an agreed process for naming reefs and other undersea geographic features within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The tripartite agreement was made in the 1980s because of the often ambiguous and overlapping roles between state and Commonwealth agencies in the naming of undersea geographic features within the Marine Park.

A memorandum of understanding formalised the process and principles involved in reef naming.

Each state and territory has legislative or regulatory procedures for approving and recording place names or features within their jurisdiction.

At the Commonwealth level, the recording of place names is the responsibility of the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping and more particularly its subcommittee, the Permanent Committee on Place Names.

Both committees have members representing the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, the Australian Defence Force, including the Australian Hydrographic Office, and relevant New Zealand agencies.

The Permanent Committee on Place Names, with the assistance of the National Mapping Division of Geoscience Australia, produces the Gazetteer of Australia. This contains place names derived from the official place name gazetteers in each state and territory and offshore undersea feature names maintained by the Australian Hydrographic Office.

Within the Gazetteer of Australia, unapproved place and feature names are also maintained – reef names occur within this category.

Image of Joe Baker

Joe Baker

Our most recent named Reef

A reef 210 kilometres east-north-east of Mackay now bears the name Joe Baker Reef in honour of the world-renowed marine scientist and one of our foundational board members.

Professor Joe Baker, who passed away in 2018, was a dedicated Queensland scientist passionate about marine conservation. One of his most appreciated and significant contributions was his involvement in achieving World Heritage listing for the Great Barrier Reef in 1981. Among his achievements, Dr Baker founded aquaculture and marine bio-discovery research at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville.

Joe Baker Location Map

Joe Baker Reef map

He also authored three books, 42 State of the Environment Reports, over 100 scientific publications and presented more than 100 scientific papers. Dr Baker developed a reputation as a scientific advisor to Governments and also as an inspiring educator and mentor to emerging scientists.

He advocated for holistic methods in the management of natural resources — including the importance of considering social, cultural, economic and ecological values in decision making. Dr Baker was heavily involved in organisations such as Earthwatch, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Australian Heritage Committee, World Wildlife Fund, Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University.

Dr Baker was also a foundation member of the Queensland Academy of Sport and foundation staff member at James Cook University.

Joe Baker Reef is located within a Marine National Park Zone (MNP-20-1124), about 210 kilometres east-north-east of Mackay with a Reef area of about 82 square kilometres.

His family were involved in the selection of the reef which bears his name. Located between a Habitat Protection zone and a Preservation zone, the position of Joe Baker Reef reflects the balance he brought to accessibility to the Great Barrier Reef while protecting it for future generations.

What is the Permanent Committee on Place Names?

The Permanent Committee on Place Names was formed in 1984 to coordinate Australian place-naming activities.

Representatives come from the Australian Geographical Names Boards for each state and territory, New Zealand and other individuals and institutions with an interest on nomenclature.

Who to contact to propose a reef name

To propose a name for an individual reef, contact:

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Phone: +61 7 4750 0700

Summary of names accepted under the tripartite agreement

NameNumberZoning mapDate of approval
Joe Baker Reef20-374MAP 1326 February 2019
Don Kinsey Reef20-101MAP 15 & MAP 1620 October 2017
Felicity Wishart Reef18-022MAP 606 March 2017
Sydney Schubert Reef14-140MAP 406 March 2017
Peter Arnold Reef17-069MAP 628 October 2016
Neville Coleman Reef20-289MAP 1317 March 2016
Bob Endean Reef17-065MAP 608 December 2014
Ron Taylor Reef21-284MAP 1609 September 2013
Patricia Mather Reef21-148MAP 1304 October 2012
Virginia Chadwick Reef18-016MAP 623 April 2010
Vicki Harriott Reef15-070MAP 401 August 2009
Ron Isbel Reef22-108MAP 15 & MAP 1601 August 2009
Isobel Bennett Reef21-505MAP 15 & MAP 1613 October 2008
Peter Reef13-055MAP 201 November 2007
Callum Shoal20-1271MAP 10 & MAP 1101 November 2007
Mullers Reef21-173MAP 1601 November 2007
Perkins Reef21-274MAP 1601 November 2007
Cowboys Reef18-082MAP 806 October 2005
Nancy Foster Reef21-131MAP 1302 February 2005
Walker Reef 18-026MAP 6 & MAP 714 July 2003
Reimer Reef 19-152MAP 1114 July 2003
Anniversary ReefsBanfield Reef (South) 18-105b,MAP 818 April 2001
Saville- Kent Reef 18-099and
Judith Wright Reef 18-101
Bandjin Reefs
Note: Virginia Chadwich Reef
is located in the Bandjin
Reefs but was named
separately - see entry above.       
Barnett Patches 18-019,MAP 620 February 2001
Duncan Reef 18-020,
Moss Reef 17-068,
Reg Ward Reef 18-017
3 unnamed reefs
Muirhead Reef20-187MAP 1306 December 2000
Newell Reef20-396MAP 1606 December 2000
Olympic Reef20-377MAP 1329 August 2000
Fitzalan PassageN/AMAP 10
(not shown on zoning map)
25 November 1999
Kupuntutu PassageN/AMAP 322 November 1999
Osborn ChannelN/AMAP 301 June 1999
Lads PassageN/AMAP 32 June 1999
Rachel Carson Reef15-092MAP 412 December 1997