A guide to Indigenous management and governance of Australian coastal waters
Understanding the management and governance of Australia’s vast coastline can be complex. International, Commonwealth, State and Indigenous entities all have various roles and powers to promote the health and integrity of Australia’s marine environments.Indigenous Australians, the coastlines where they live not only play a significant role in their daily lives by providing natural resources, but are also deeply embedded in their social, cultural and spiritual values. Indigenous Australians have been skilfully managing their “Sea country” for thousands of years. However, modern day coastal Australia is facing rapidly increasing pressures from many new sources. Population growth, recreational and commercial fishing, industry and the rapid development of coastal areas are all examples. see an example) and Indigenous Protected Area Management Plans (IPAMPs - see an example). One goal within most of these plans is to form strategic alliances and partnerships with other marine science and management agencies, a goal that provides everyone with the opportunity to work together for the common good. There is a shared realisation that the integration of traditional knowledge and western science provides a potent way in which to better understand our coastline ecosystems and meet these new challenges.
But how do you go about conducting science in indigenous Sea country? Who lives where? What is the status of governance? Who manages what?
To address this, below we provide links to a set of interactive maps which offer a starting point to guide scientists, managers, students and the general public to identify indigenous Sea country areas. These maps provide basic but important information and are meant to be a first step in identifying the legal framework and governance of traditional indigenous Sea country. Depending on the map, by zooming in on your geographic area of interest, information which identifies traditional ownership, representative bodies, legal status, land-use agreements, landmarks, correct names and GPS locations are all available to guide you so that you can plan ahead, make contact with the correct organisation or simply learn more about indigenous Australia. Click on each subheading below to access the relevant map.
Native title is the recognition in Australian law that some Indigenous people continue to hold rights to their land and waters. It may include the right to possess and occupy an area to the exclusion of all others, or it may be a set of non-exclusive rights. There can be no native title rights to minerals, gas or petroleum recognised under Australian law. In tidal and sea areas, only non-exclusive native title can be recognised.
Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) in Australia are voluntarily dedicated by Indigenous groups on Indigenous owned or managed land or sea country. They are recognised by the Australian Government as an important part of the National Reserve System, protecting the nation's biodiversity for the benefit of all Australians. There are currently over 70 dedicated IPAs across 65 million hectares accounting for more than 40% of the National Reserve System's total area.
An Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) is an agreement about the use and management of land and waters made between people who hold, or may hold, native title in the area, and other people, organisations or governments. To be an ILUA, an agreement must meet with the requirements of the Native Title Act 1993.
The National Native Title Tribunal was established by the Native Title Act 1993 to make decisions, conduct inquiries, reviews and mediations, and assist various parties with native title applications, and Indigenous land use agreements (‘ILUAs’). Australia is split into representative areas to facilitiate this.
The Australian Government developed its Indigenous Programs & Policy Locations (AGIL) dataset as an authoritative source of indigenous location names across Australia. It is designed to support the accurate positioning, consistent reporting, and effective delivery of Australian Government programs and services to indigenous locations. The dataset contains Preferred and Alternate names for indigenous locations where Australian Government programs and services have been, are being, or may be provided. This dataset is NOT a complete listing of all locations at which indigenous people reside. Town and city names are not included in the dataset.
Where established indigenous Sea country Management Plans are in place (view a map), you can view them by clicking on their names in the tables below. A seperate table is provided for Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.
|Name of plan||Docment type||Time span||Source agency|
|Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area Plan of Management 2016||Indigenous Management Plan||2016-2026|
|Dhimurra Yolnuwa Monuk Gapu Wana IPA Sea Country Management Plan 2013-2015||Indigenous Management Plan||2013-2015|
|Dhimurra Indigenous Protected Area Management Plan 2015-2022||Indigenous Management Plan||2015-2022||Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation|
|Yirralka Rangers Business Plan 2013-2016||Indigenous strategic business plan||2013-2016||Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corp|
|ALC 15 year Strategic Plan||Indigenous Strategic plan||2012-2027||Anindilyakwa Land Council|
|Yugul Mangi Land and Sea Management Corporation||Indigenous Information||n/a||ANU & Yugul Mangi Sea Management Corp|
|Barni-Wardimantha Awara Yanyuwa Sea Country Plan||Indigenous Management Plan||2007||Yanyuwa|
Please read, cite and use these documents responsibly by referring to any special requirements outlined. Note that this is a rapidly evolving area with many new plans to be finalised and published shortly (here is an example). It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of the most up to date information.