Our journey of self-determination

The past, present and future of the Plan

Written by mob, for mob, the Traditional Owner Implementation Plan is our roadmap to healing and restoring balance to Country.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Great Barrier Reef and it’s catchment

Traditional Owners hold inherent rights, interests, and obligations to protect and care for their Country. 

There are over 70 Traditional Owner groups along the Queensland coastline whose traditional estates extend over the Great Barrier Reef and many more groups whose customary estates form part of the Reef’s Catchment.

Traditional Owner connections with the Great Barrier Reef extend over many thousands of years. It is a rich cultural land and sea-scape and Traditional Owners continue to be actively involved in the management of their Country.

The Reef was declared a Marine Park in 1975 and a World Heritage Area in 1981. Since this time, Traditional Owners have been seeking greater recognition of their rights, responsibilities and interests as the traditional custodians of the Great Barrier Reef. And from the 1990’s Traditional Owners have been coming together to seek more cohesive approaches to securing their aspirations for a ‘Healthy Reef and Healthy People’.

Our people, our Traditional Owners

The aim of the Reef 2050 Traditional Owner Implementation Plan was to bring together Traditional Owner Actions from across the Reef 2050 Plan into one place and provide a cohesive framework and narrative to guide implementation.

A Steering Group was established to guide the process of bringing Traditional Owner actions into cohesive framework with clear implementation pathways. The Steering Group also provided guidance of the development of communication products for Traditional Owners about the Reef 2050 Plan and its role in advancing Traditional Owner aspirations.

Work areas

Climate Change

Actions reflect a community-based approach to tackling climate change. They include developing educational resources to showcase projects and guide work; implementing practical actions to reduce emissions and make electricity more affordable; and financing initiatives to support ongoing employment and enterprise development around caring for Country.

Land & Coast
Actions are about reducing threats to the Reef from activities on the land and protecting and healing Country. They’re about Traditional Owners having a greater role in the governance, design and delivery of programs to improve the health of freshwater, wetlands mangroves, estuaries, beaches and shorelines.
Sea Country
Actions are about reducing threats from water-based activities and protecting and healing sea Country. They’re about implementing Country-based management models, stronger partnerships, better agreement making and having more Indigenous Rangers on the water. They include actions around reforming fisheries, controlling pests, reducing marine debris, and helping Country to recover from climate-related disturbances like cyclones and coral bleaching.
Partnership & Capacities
Actions focus on building genuine partnerships and growing capacity to help realise Traditional Owner aspirations for co-governance and greater involvement in the day-to-day management of the Reef. This work area looks at how Traditional Owner rights, interests and responsibilities are incorporated in current management arrangements and outlines pathways to increase and empower Traditional Owners’ role in protecting and caring for the Reef.
Traditional Knowledge

Actions focus on supporting Traditional Owners to document their knowledge and practices, record information on cultural values and safeguard and manage their heritage. They include implementing the Strong Peoples-Strong Country Framework through community-based pilot projects and exploring value-for-money options and alternate business models to delivering monitoring programs on Country. With our knowledge, Traditional Owners are in a prime position to tell our own stories to the world.

Actions focus on scoping tasks and costing actions within the plan and securing funds for their implementation. They include seeking a minimum 10% Traditional Owner funding allocation across major Reef-related government programs; establishing a Reef Traditional Owners future fund; developing an innovation strategy and actions to boost investment through partnerships, co-investment and sustainable financing initiatives.