In April 2021, the Australian Government committed $11.6 million under the $100 million Oceans Leadership Package to the Sea Country Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) Program. The program seeks to increase the area of sea in IPAs to strengthen the conservation and protection of Australia’s unique marine and coastal environments, while creating employment and economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
Under the Sea Country IPA Program, $9.7 million in grant funding will be provided to Indigenous organisations to expand existing IPAs and create new IPAs. The remaining $1.9 million will be used to support delivery of the program, including the development of a Sea Country IPA monitoring and evaluation system and the holding of a conference of Indigenous land and sea managers so they can share knowledge and experiences.
The Sea Country IPA Program Grant Opportunity opened on 18 October and closed on 29 November 2021. On 7 May 2022, 10 successful Sea Country IPA consultation projects were announced. The projects will support Indigenous-led consultation with Traditional Owners and other stakeholders, management planning, and on-sea/on-land management. The projects are expected to generate up to 37 jobs for Indigenous Australians in remote and regional communities.
10 Sea Country Indigenous Protected Area Consultation Projects
Combined, the 10 Sea Country IPA consultation areas cover over 6.2 million hectares of sea and over 200,000 hectares of land, including Ramsar wetlands, marine turtle nesting areas, seagrass meadows, coral and rocky reefs, and islands.
The 10 Sea Country IPA consultation projects are:
Ngiyambandigay Gaagal, New South Wales (Ngiyambandigay Wajaarr Aboriginal Corporation)
The IPA consultation area is part of the Gumbaynggirr Nation and is located in the coastal region surrounding Coffs Harbour. The area contains intermittently open and closed lakes and lagoons, mangroves and reefs at varying depths, and is home to over 20 protected species and communities, including humpback, blue and southern right whales. IPA staff will survey and monitor shore birds, construct fencing for shorebird breeding protection, undertake cultural mapping of beaches and mudflats, provide input into the development catchment management plans, and undertake environmental works on estuaries. Staff will also undertake cultural burning to protect and increase environmental values on headlands.
South East Arnhem Sea Country IPA, Northern Territory (Northern Land Council)
The IPA consultation area expands the existing South East Arnhem Land IPA on the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The area contains biodiverse marine and coastal environments in exceptional condition, including large areas of seagrass meadows, fringing coral and rocky reefs, tidal waterways, mangrove forests, saline wetlands, beaches, islands and quays. The waters are home to dolphins, marine turtles, sawfish, crocodiles, dugongs and seabirds. IPA staff will research and monitor vulnerable and indicative marine and bird species, and undertake actions aimed at reducing the siltation and nutrient burden on reefs and seagrasses. The project will build the marine management capacity of IPA staff and support delivery of Sea Country education activities in local schools.
Kurtijar Sea Country IPA, Queensland (Carpentaria Land Council)
The IPA consultation area is in south-east Gulf of Carpentaria between the Norman River region and the Staaten River. The area includes significant cultural sites and has a rich tapestry of mangroves, seagrass and saltmarsh, serving as carbon sinks and critical coastal habitat for a diverse range of marine animals. The area includes one of the last strongholds of endangered sawfish species (Largetooth, Green and Dwarf) and the Freshwater Whipray. IPA staff and Indigenous Rangers from the Carpentaria Land Council’s Normanton Ranger Unit will monitor the health of mangrove and seagrass communities, sawfish populations, and the composition and abundance of seabirds and shorebirds. Turtle nesting beaches will be patrolled and monitored to determine predation and nesting success. Dugongs will be monitored to determine distribution, relative abundance and population dynamics. IPA staff will also construct fencing to reduce feral pig and cattle damage and implement erosion control measures at environmentally and culturally significant sites. The project includes a focus on Indigenous fire management and the identification and removal of marine debris.
Port Curtis Coral Coast Sea Country IPA, Queensland (Gidarjil Development Corporation)
The IPA consultation area is located off the central coast of Queensland. The area includes all the coastal waters between Balaclava Island and Burrum Heads, as well as Lady Elliot Island and North Reef Island, and straddles 2 existing protected areas, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and K’Gari Great Sandy National Park. The project is expected to play an important role in maintaining the health of the southern Great Barrier Reef. IPA staff will embark on a reef and seagrass restoration program, monitor coral communities and undertake crown of thorn starfish control. IPA staff will also establish reef fish monitoring activities to develop stock assessments for high priority species, and develop a Sea Country mangrove and saltmarsh management plan. A marine debris clean-up program, focusing on the islands of the Capricorn Bunker group, will prevent ongoing build-up of debris. Ongoing weed management will be undertaken on the islands and coasts within the project area. Gidarjil Development Corporation will seek to develop partnerships with local industry and other stakeholders with rights and interest in the IPA consultation area.
Wardang Island Sea Country IPA, South Australia (Aboriginal Lands Trust)
The IPA consultation area expands the existing Wardang Island IPA located on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. The area overlaps the Eastern Spencer Gulf Marine Park (ESGMP) and Goose Island Conservation Park and includes the Tiparra Reef Marine Biounit, connecting the ESGMP with Bird Island Conservation Park. Numerous nationally listed birds, reptiles, sharks, mammals and fish are known to occur in the area. IPA staff will undertake marine pest species control, surveillance and environmental and water quality monitoring, and participate in sea lion research activities. Staff will also work to eradicate feral cats from islands, and conduct fox control activities across coastal sites within the IPA consultation area. The Aboriginal Lands Trust welcomes this expansion of the Wardang Island IPA as it shows confidence in the Trust’s management of its IPA projects.
tayaritja Sea Country IPA, Tasmania (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre)
The IPA consultation area is located in north-east Tasmanian waters and will link 5 existing island IPAs and other islands. The project area includes Ramsar wetlands and ecologically significant coastal habitats. IPA staff will rehabilitate, restore, monitor and evaluate ecologically significant marine ecosystems, helping to protect threatened marine animals and seabirds and over 120 plant species. The project includes implementation of a cultural burning program and a pest animal and weed management program aimed at maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems.
Gunditjmara Sea Country IPA, Victoria (Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation with Eastern Marr Aboriginal Corporation)
The IPA consultation area is located in south-west Victoria from the Convincing Ground in the west to Yambuk Lakes in the east. The area includes volcanic plains, rivers, coast, estuaries and coastal wetlands, and is an important breeding place and nursery for fish, eels and birds, including nationally listed species. The area’s waters encompass sites of national geological and geomorphological importance, and habitat for threatened marine animal species. The area also incorporates important cultural sites such as Deen Maar Island, which has a central role in the creation story of Gunditjmara Country. The project will allow Traditional Owners to further protect the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape. Project activities will include implementation of on land/sea management activities, community employment and capacity building, sharing and documentation of traditional knowledge, and the development and enhancement of regional partnerships.
Nanjit to Mallacoota Sea Country IPA, Victoria (Gurnaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation)
The IPA consultation area is in coastal waters of the Gippsland region in Victoria. The area comprises numerous marine and coastal parks and includes the Ramsar listed Gippsland Lakes and Raymond Island, a highly significant cultural site. A Junior Sea Country Ranger program will bring young Traditional Owners to work with and learn from senior rangers and Elders. IPA staff will participate in a Mulloway monitoring program to learn migratory patterns and health condition of this culturally important fish species, as well as undertake research to identify opportunities to protect and enhance habitat for Australian bass and estuary perch. Gurnaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation will continue to identify and map land-based sites of cultural significance, building on the historical accounts of First Nations People in the region.
Tukujana pa Karajarri Kura Jurrar, Western Australia (Karajarri Traditional Lands Association)
The IPA consultation area expands the existing Karajarri IPA into the sea off the south-west Kimberley coast. The area includes a network of coastal habitats, such as intertidal and subtidal reefs, mangrove systems, lagoons and tidal creeks, and will connect the Ramsar sites of Roebuck Bay and 80 Mile Beach. The area is an important dugong sanctuary and provides habitat for around 450,000 birds. IPA staff will establish a mangrove protection program, and a reef health program aimed at protecting habitat for shorebirds and finfish. Staff will also work with local schools and elders to develop a cultural revitalisation program to rebuild and transfer cultural knowledge and protect heritage sites.
Yamatji Sea Connection, Western Australia (Bundi Yamatji Aboriginal Corporation)
The IPA consultation area is off Geraldton on the central west coast of Western Australia, and includes the Abrolhos Islands, an important seabird breeding site, and the Hutt Lagoon System, an ecologically significant wetland system. The area includes habitat for threatened species such as the Australian sea lion, 4 species of marine turtle and 4 critically endangered migratory shorebird species. IPA staff, in partnership with Geraldton TAFE, will establish a turtle monitoring and protection program, a biosecurity monitoring program at both the Abrolhos and Geraldton Port, and will conduct research into climate change impacts on the area, especially on the at risk Abrolhos marine and terrestrial ecosystems and coastal wetlands.
If you have any questions regarding the Sea Country IPA Program, please contact:
Telephone: 1800 920 528