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Thriving on Country

Working together to heal Sea Country

‘Sea Country’ isn’t just a geographical area, it includes all living things, beliefs, values, creation stories, spirits and cultural obligations associated with it (learn more).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been custodians of Sea Country for over 60,000 years, and the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments continue to support the culture and way of life for more than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We believe that people thrive when nature thrives, and so we honour the deep cultural, social, environmental, spiritual and economic connection of Indigenous peoples to their lands and waters. This project is drawing on the unique cultural knowledge and expertise of Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities across the Fitzroy Basin Catchment, working in partnership to heal Sea Country, rebuild eroding land and restore vital coastal wetlands.

Greening Australia and BHP are partnering with Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities to improve and maintain the whole catchment connected to the Great Barrier Reef by engaging, enabling, and empowering Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities in a sustainable way.

The Challenge

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had been custodians of Sea Country in the Great Barrier Reef catchments for tens of thousands of years prior to the arrival of European settlers. The ancient sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and their ancestral ties to the land were subsequently not acknowledged, understood or respected (learn more).

This dispossession and disconnection from Sea Country directly impacted and continues to impact the health, wellbeing and culture of Indigenous peoples in the catchment. Even today, the Traditional Custodians’ aspirations for Country are often not fully considered in planning processes.

The health and wellbeing of the Great Barrier Reef is also under threat. Since 1985, the Reef has lost 50% of its coral cover due to climate change and poor water quality from land-based run-off. More than 10 million tonnes of sediment from eroded gullies flow onto the Reef every year, smothering corals and seagrass, creating algal blooms, feeding Crown-of-Thorns Starfish outbreaks, degrading water quality, and weakening the Reef’s ability to recover.

Over 50% of coastal wetlands have also been lost, along with their capacity to filter pollutants from the water before it reaches the Reef lagoon.

The Solution

There is scientific consensus that accelerating local action on improving water quality is one of the most effective ways to safeguard the health of the Reef.

Greening Australia and BHP are focused on partnering with Indigenous communities to improve water quality for the Reef, learning from each other through this project, to develop best practice, sustainable methods of healing and managing Country.

The millenia of experience gained by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples brings invaluable science, methodology and innovation to the challenges we face as a nation in supporting the Great Barrier Reef to thrive.

By combining this age-old wisdom with some of our own proven methods for stopping sediment at the source, together we can take important practical steps to improve the health of the Reef and strengthen its resilience to the changing climate. We’ll collaborate to manage land sustainably, fix eroding gullies, and restore and reconnect rivers and wetland ecosystems to the Reef.

Improving water quality and biodiversity is reconciliation and connection in action. It brings together the expertise of landholders, Indigenous groups, Landcare groups, businesses and local communities to reconnect culture and country, rivers and Reef, people and nature.

At the same time we aim to co-create social, economic and environmental opportunities that are sustained and resilient. Our vision for the long-term sustainability of this project and for the health of the Reef includes creating pathways to skills, employment and enterprise opportunities in consultation with our Indigenous community partners.

To ensure the long-term viability of the project, we are exploring innovative environmental financing to encourage investment in conservation land management and promote economic resilience for Indigenous communities.

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We have started a healthy country planning process with two Indigenous communities and Traditional Owner groups in the Great Barrier Reef catchments so far and will seek out consultative community engagement as the project continues. We are taking time to build strong relationships. Each and every conversation plays a significant role.

This project is jointly funded by Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program and BHP. For more information, please feel free to send us your query online.