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Bolstering support for Traditional Owner-led sea country management

Maintaining effective and meaningful partnerships with Traditional Owners is essential in protecting cultural and heritage values, conserving biodiversity and enhancing the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef into the future.

Thanks to a recent Australian Government funding announcement, the Reef Authority is proud to be expanding the already successful Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements (TUMRA) and Sea Country Values Mapping (SCVM) projects. With ten already accredited TUMRAs along the length of the Great Barrier Reef, this funding will expand the program into new regions and continue to strengthen existing agreements and mapping projects.

“It is vitally important that our heritage sites, culturally significant places and traditions are kept for our present and future generations.” – Gooreng Gooreng Traditional Owner, 2017.

“The TUMRA will help us build partnerships so that we can contribute to the long-term sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef.” – Yirrganydji TUMRA Coordinator, 2018.

“As a new TUMRA group we get to get to be around a lot of traditional owners who are already in this space working with Great Barrier Reef…to draw from them their aspirations and the journey that they’re on, and the benefits that we could get, not just as traditional owners also as but just as community members to give back to the reef.” – Bagirbarra/Dyirrabarra Traditional Owner 2023.

The funding will:

  • partner Traditional Owners in co-management initiatives
  • enhance the protection of Indigenous Heritage Values
  • increase species and ecosystem protection within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • facilitate Sea Country planning, monitoring, on-country activities, permissions system cultural referrals
  • provide employment opportunities
  • expand 10 accredited TUMRAs covering approximately 43 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef coastline, with Sea Country planning underway with Dabu Jajikal, Dyirribarra Bagirbarra, Wanjuru Yidinji and Yuwi Traditional Owners.

The Australian Government has announced $3 million to expand these programs under a larger funding commitment of $9 million to boost existing Australian and Queensland Government programs for Traditional Owner-led Reef projects.

This announcement supports actions from the Reef 2050 Traditional Owner Implementation Plan, which sought an increase in funding, and expansion of, the TUMRA program.

What is a Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement?

A TUMRA is a community-based agreement, Traditional Owner-led and developed by saltwater Traditional Owners / Clan groups to manage their Sea Country estate, in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (the Reef Authority) and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES).

TUMRAs are a unique partnership agreement that recognises and supports the Native Title rights and interests of Traditional Owners who hold an inherent spiritual connection to the Reef. They recognise and support Traditional Owner Lore and customs with a robust legislative framework.

The agreements, describe how Traditional Owner groups manage their traditional use of marine resources and their role in compliance, research and monitoring of plants and animals. A TUMRA helps to protect cultural heritage values and manage human activities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth) and Great Barrier Reef Coastal Marine Park (State) (the Marine Parks).

What is Sea Country Values Mapping?

Sea Country Values Mapping (SCVM) provides a platform for the Reef Authority to support Traditional Owners to identify, assess, map and store knowledge on their cultural values.

These projects establish integrated SCVM products and management partnerships. They are built upon Traditional Lore, Customs and Cultural Authority governance systems led by saltwater Traditional Owner groups. A SCVM process can identify and map any number of cultural heritage values and identify threats, to values, landscapes and species.

The benefits of this mapping extend past identification of values and can lead to Sea Country management plans, new partnerships, assessment guidelines and capacity building for Traditional Owner management of their Sea Country.

SCVM is guided by and supports innovative and contemporary co-design approaches with Traditional Owners that acknowledge and respect the inherent responsibility, spiritual connection and cultural authority (lore) of Traditional Owners to care for Sea Country. The program guides the development and implementation of multi-jurisdictional sea estate management that aligns with Traditional Owner aspirations, self-determination, and heritage protection.

For any enquiries regarding the Reef Authority’s TUMRA and Sea Country Values mapping programs, email .