Sea Country Indigenous Protected Areas: Indigenous Leadership In The Protection Of Australia’s Marine Environments

Rowena Mouda, Janella Isaacs, D BARRETT, Fiona Keighran, Melanie Dulfer-Hyams, Jackie Gould, Tanya Vernes

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


Australia’s diverse marine environments have been protected and managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People since time immemorial as an inherent function of their rights and cultural responsibilities. In affirming their rights, roles and responsibilities as coastal and marine managers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People across Australia have successfully established Sea Country Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) under IUCN guidelines to build on Indigenous-led collaborative governance and management within Australia’s contemporary Marine Protected Area (MPA) framework. To date, there are fourteen Sea Country IPAs protecting over 4 million hectares of sea country across Australia.

This knowledge sharing session is delivered by the Australian Sea Country Delegation, a group of Indigenous and nonIndigenous practitioners, managers and decision-makers who bring the story of Indigenous-led management of traditional sea estates from initial planning and investigations at IMPAC1 in Geelong (Australia), through to the presentation of several collaboratively governed IPAs across northern Australia at IMPAC4 in La Serena (Chile), and now to IMPAC5 where we assess the future of IPAs in Australia for the next generations.

IPAs are initiated and led by Indigenous people as a contemporary expression of their long-established cultural, economic and spiritual associations with their customary coastal and marine estates, whether or not those associations
are formally recognised under Australian law. Sea Country IPAs provide a pathway for establishing MPAs that are Indigenous-driven, voluntary and collaborative rather than government-driven, coercive and top-down. In regions where
local communities, commercial fishers and recreational fishers successfully opposed the establishment of government-driven MPAs, IPAs that include marine areas have been supported by these groups who are actively engaged in
planning, governing and managing the Sea Country IPAs. Though not established under legislation, marine areas within Sea Country IPAs are consistent with the IUCN protected area definition as areas dedicated and managed “by legal and
under effective means” and are formally recognised by the Australian Government as part of Australia’s MPA estate.

This session will bring together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from across Australia to discuss and share their experiences in planning for, developing and managing traditional estates through sea country IPAs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2023
Event5th International Marine Protected Area Congress - Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 3 Feb 20239 Feb 2023


Conference5th International Marine Protected Area Congress
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