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11 May, 2021

New plan recognises sea country connection

The heritage, knowledge, and cultural values of Mandubarra Traditional Owners on the Cassowary Coast are now formally captured in a plan that will be used to inform future management of their sea country in north Queensland.


The Mandubarra Sea Country Cultural Values plan — produced by Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) — covers Mourilyan Harbour near Innisfail to the southern end of Kurrimine Beach.

It contains important information on the area’s cultural history and will be a valuable source of information for Traditional Owners and marine managers in guiding management of the area.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Board Chairman Ian Poiner said the plan supports the Mandubarra Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement, which is in place for their sea country.

“Traditional Owners are important partners in Reef management, having a strong connection to this great natural icon for more than 60,000 years. We’re delighted to work closely with the Mandubarra people,” Dr Poiner said.

“This sea country values mapping project is a response to requests from Traditional Owners to map and store knowledge of heritage values and to protect Indigenous heritage through Authority processes.

“They shared with us what is significant to them, where cultural heritage is still intact, and what species, places and customs are important.

“But the plan is only the first step — we will now work with Mandubarra Traditional Owners to apply this information through our management programs and to support and partner with Mandubarra in their obligations and responsibilities.”

Mandubarra Aboriginal Land & Sea Incorporation (MALASI) secretary Melissa Ball said the plan was developed in a way that protected sensitive cultural knowledge and shared information with management partners such as the Authority.

“As Mandubarra Traditional Owners, we are responsible for Mandubarra Sea Country. This is a special place and it’s important our connections and cultural duty of care are respected by other users of our sea country,” Ms Ball said.

“Our Elders and younger Mandubarra people took part in both face-to-face meetings and workshops to help us capture key information about our sea country.

“The plan details the cultural values we are willing to share externally and we believe it will provide the guidance to help guarantee the long-term protection and conservation of our Indigenous heritage value and knowledge.

“We have also developed a plan specifically for Mandubarra Traditional Owners. This is a new way for our family group to collect and transfer our sea country culture and knowledge guided by our Elders.”

The Authority has a strong partnership with Mandubarra Traditional Owners through their Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement (TUMRA), which began in 2018 for a period of 10 years.

 The TUMRA recognises Traditional Lore, customs, cultural authority and boundaries over sea country estate. It allows for collaborative partnerships and co-management. This plan was delivered as part of the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Strategy, released by Authority in 2019.

The Mandubarra sea country covers an offshore area of more than 1500km2 from Hall Point on the southern side of Mourilyan Harbour south along the Queensland coast to the mouth of Maria Creek at the southern end of Kurrimine Beach.  

It includes all lands (and islands), important tourism sites, and several Marine National Park and Conservation Park zones within that area. 


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