The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the Authority’s long term strategy to strengthen protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reef heritage. It is a significant step in honouring the knowledge and value of Traditional Owner connections to the Great Barrier Reef, and increasing protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef Region is incredibly rich in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage, dating back thousands of years before the Reef was formed.
“It is vitally important that our heritage sites, culturally significant places and traditions are kept for our present and future generations.” - Gooreng Gooreng Traditional Owner, 2017
Indigenous heritage includes everything in Sea Country, including natural values, Indigenous values and historic values. It includes tangible and intangible expressions of Traditional Owners’ relationships with country, people, beliefs, knowledge, law, language, symbols, ways of living, sea, land and objects, all arising from Indigenous spirituality.
From artworks, fishtraps, middens and tools, to songlines, languages and traditional practices, the sea itself and everything in it has stories and significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Key outcomes and actions
The Strategy has three major outcomes.
1. Keep heritage strong: respect, recognise and protect the connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the Reef.
Actions under this outcome focus on empowering Traditional Owners through governance and advisory structures, respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in all Authority business, and promoting understanding of Indigenous heritage values.
2. Keep heritage safe: protect Indigenous heritage values through Authority processes.
Actions under this outcome focus on how the Authority can incorporate Indigenous heritage values into our policy, planning, permitting and compliance processes.
3. Keep heritage healthy: partner with Traditional Owners and others in Reef management.
Actions under this outcome focus on how we can work with Traditional Owners through partnerships including Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreements, compliance training and other co-management initiatives, including Traditional Owner-led Sea Country values mapping.
The Authority’s Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee oversaw development of the strategy. More than 70 Reef Traditional Owner groups from Cape York to Bundaberg were invited to provide valuable input, with more than 35 Traditional Owner groups attending workshops.
Public consultation including more than 70 Traditional Owner groups showed support for the strategy across all objectives and actions.
In February 2019, the Marine Park Authority Board and the Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee jointly launched the Heritage Strategy at the Reef HQ Aquarium.