Looking After Sea Country: Indigenous marine management in Australia’s remote north

Jacqueline Gould, Djalinda Ulamari

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper presented at Conference (not in Proceedings)


Along the northern coast of Australia, Indigenous groups are playing critical roles in protecting their coastal and marine estates (‘sea country’) from a growing array of threatening processes. This coastline is, by global standards, sparsely populated. Those who live along it are predominantly Indigenous, often living in remote communities with limited infrastructure and high levels of socio-economic disadvantage. Despite challenging conditions, Traditional Owners (TOs) across the north have successfully developed Indigenous Ranger Groups, which undertake a range of land and sea management activities. Many have formal strategic management plans, and have been dedicated as Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) under IUCN guidelines. IPAs are an innovative TO-driven approach to protected area management which draw on a range of legal and other effective means to achieve biodiversity and cultural resource conservation outcomes. The marine management work undertaken by Rangers typically includes: research and monitoring programs; fisheries compliance patrols; biosecurity surveillance; removal of abandoned fishing nets and marine debris; cultural site protection; coastal weed and feral animal management; and a range of other activities which protect the bio-cultural assets of these ecologically diverse environments. Rangers also support TOs and Indigenous communities to utilise their rich repository of ecological knowledge and maintain their obligations to care for country. In this paper, we present three IPA case studies to showcase the breadth of work being undertaken by Ranger groups in northern Australia. The work of the Crocodile Islands Rangers, Dhimurru Rangers, and Girringun Rangers highlight the deep and ongoing connections between contemporary Indigenous communities and their sea country, and the critical role being played by Indigenous Australians in protecting Australia’s marine estate. 
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2017
Event4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress - Coquimba, Chile
Duration: 4 Sept 20178 Sept 2017


Conference4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress


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