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Federal Government Offers $4.9 Million Support for Traditional Owner Reef Protection

The Australian Government is placing Indigenous knowledge at the centre of efforts to boost water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish and care for wetland habitats. Twenty five new projects totalling $4.9 million support management of Country and protect culturally significant areas across the Great Barrier Reef and provide employment and training for Traditional Owners.
traditional owner reef protection

The Australian Government is placing Indigenous knowledge at the centre of efforts to boost water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish and care for wetland habitats. Twenty five new projects totalling $4.9 million support management of Country and protect culturally significant areas across the Great Barrier Reef and provide employment and training for Traditional Owners.


Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said combining traditional knowledge with world-leading science ensures the very best protection for the reef, now and into the future.

“Grants are being provided across two programs co-designed with Traditional Owners – one to address water priorities, and another focussed on crown-of-thorns starfish control, monitoring and reporting, and reef restoration,” Minister Ley said.

“This is about empowering the Traditional Owner groups who manage Land and Sea Country, preserving ancient knowledge and supporting targeted on-country activities to protect the reef.”


For more than 25 years, Traditional Owners from across the Reef have been coming together to explore and call for a collective approach to achieving their rights and aspirations for ownership, access to, and involvement in the formal governance and management of Sea Country / Great Barrier Reef Foundation

reef protection and indigenous knowledge

New Reef Protection Projects Include:

  • The development of a Healthy Country Water plan in the Cairns region, embedding the culture and knowledge of the Yirrganydji people in community efforts to protect wetland health.
  • On-country and Traditional Owner-led activities to protect tea tree swamps, wetlands and rivers and maintain water quality on traditional lands in Cape York.
  • The recruitment of 4 Darumbal Traditional Owners to undertake SCUBA and crown-of-thorns starfish training, supporting management of their Sea Country in the Rockhampton region.
  • Traditional Owners and Elders working with a film consultant to record and protect Yalanji knowledge of healthy water management to the north of Port Douglas.
  • Work to build the resilience of coral reefs in Port Curtis Coral Coast Sea Country in the Bundaberg area, including scoping for a coral gardening project.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch, said a huge range of work will be funded across many other areas including Palm Island, Innisfail, Tully, Ingham, Lakefield and Cooktown.

“These projects recognise the depth of First Nations peoples’ spiritual and cultural knowledge and connection to Country, which is highly valuable,” Mr Entsch said.

“The new grants build on other Reef Trust Partnership projects that have provided support for junior ranger programs, the development of Sea Country plans, and the implementation of existing land and Sea Country plans.”

The $4.9 million forms part of the $51.8 million commitment to Indigenous reef protection as part of the Australian Government’s $443.3 million Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Anna Marsden, said the Traditional Owners of our reef have rich ongoing connections, rights, interests and aspirations in Land and Sea Country along the length of the Great Barrier Reef and have been caring for it for thousands of years.

“Through the Reef Trust Partnership we have co-designed Australia’s largest Traditional Owner-led reef protection program and we’re proud to be delivering the first major opportunity for Traditional Owner-led projects to improve the quality of water flowing to our reef, and on-ground activities to control crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, monitor reef health and restore reefs recently damaged.”

Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Anna Marsden

“These Traditional Owner-led projects are just some of the more than 100 reef-saving projects the Foundation and its partners are delivering right now.”

A full list of grant recipients and a description of funded projects is available via this link.

mangrove health kuku yalanji

Local Traditional Owner Reef Protection Projects

Projects include both impact-driven, largely on-ground actions being delivered by Traditional Owners, as well as a small number of enabling and supporting activities that together, will achieve the End of Partnership Outcomes. 

These are some of the local on-ground projects funded so far under the Traditional Owner Reef Protection partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Jabalbina Daintree Coast, Reef and Islands Management Plan

Eastern Kuku Yalanji country runs along the East Coast of Far North Queensland and it includes land and sea between Port Douglas and just south of Cooktown.

This project develops governance arrangements, management protocols and strategies to close gaps in effective management of Jabalbina Sea Country. As healthy sea country underpins livelihoods in land and sea management and tourism industries, the plan also creates a framework to create further employment and business opportunities for local communities.

Learn more here.

Jabalbina Eastern Yalanjiwarra Healthy Water Recording Project

Recipient: Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC
TO Group: Yalanji groups

This project is about working with a film consultant, Elders and other Traditional Owners to professionally record and protect Yalanji knowledge of healthy bana (water) management. This includes recording the key values (cultural, natural, social and economic) associated with water as well as traditional management practices and lore.

Jabalbina Yalanji Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program –Tracking and sharing the health of our cultural and environmental values

Recipient: Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC
TO Groups: Kuku Yalanjiwarra & Jalanjiwarra Clan Groups

Developing and implementing an integrated monitoring, evaluation, and reporting (MER) program for the cultural and natural values of Eastern Kuku Yanji (EKY) country, to be delivered by Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC).

indigenous knowledge reef protection

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