# 6

August 2002


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Sea country, native title and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

A briefing paper for consideration in developing submissions to the Representative Areas Program (RAP) process

n relation to indigenous rights and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) RAP, environment groups acknowledge the "inherent rights and custodial responsibilities and aspirations of indigenous people and their contribution to the region" and consider that this should be "recognised through negotiated agreements regarding co-management".

Queensland Conservation Council's Protected Areas and Native Title Policy supports this view.

To develop these agreements, indigenous peoples' rights and responsibilities in relation to customary marine tenure, and their contemporary aspirations, should be fully determined.


Key points in regard to RAP submissions by environment groups


1: Native title

§ The customary marine tenure of Traditional Owners is not fully reflected in, or protected by, common and statute law definitions of native title and receives lesser treatment than corresponding terrestrial title, despite being of the same character and quality to Traditional Owners.

§ From an indigenous person's perspective there is no distinction between native title on land or sea

§ Recognition of customary marine tenure should be a starting point for negotiations between the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and traditional owners and give rise to a commitment to decision-making partnerships

§ Native title rights and interests should be viewed against the background of customary marine tenure and as an antecedent possessory claim and included in the GBRMP to the fullest extent practical

§ Native title and customary marine tenure should be used as a strong reason to develop joint control and cooperative management of the GBRMP by Traditional Owners and the GBRMPA


2: Future Acts

§ Off shore dealings by Government, such as the Marine Park rezoning, are declared 'valid future acts' under the Commonwealth's amended Native Title Act 1993 (NTA)

§ Notwithstanding, regarding the RAP specifically and management of the GBRMP generally, the GBRMPA should proceed in relation to Traditional Owners through a process of negotiation, agreement building and cooperative decision making

§ By virtue of native title - ie ownership, cultural and use rights derived from indigenous customary law (prior to and surviving the assertion of sovereign power) - Traditional Owners are not simply another stakeholder or participant in a process of consultation

§ Traditional Owners legitimately claim a right to partnership with the GBRMPA in the management and control of their traditional waters and this should be respected in all future dealings


3: Indigenous rights and interests

§ Common law native title affords a range of rights and interests to Traditional Owners in accordance with and subject to their traditional laws and customs to have free access to the sea and seabed within the claim area

§ Rights and interests include -

~ To travel through all or within the claimed area

~ To fish and hunt for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs including the purpose of observing traditional, cultural, ritual and spiritual laws and customs

~ To visit and protect places which are of cultural and spiritual importance

~ To safeguard their cultural and spiritual knowledge

§ The 25 year strategic plan for the GBRMP, The Great Barrier Reef: Keeping it Great, provides for the recognition of indigenous interests, including objectives and strategies to -

~ Develop effective participation processes and structures

~ Ensure opportunities for membership of, and full involvement in, relevant decision making and consultative bodies

~ Ensure that negotiation occurs on all aspects of management that effects indigenous rights or interests

~ Consider the implications of relevant legislation for native title

§ These rights and interests should be addressed in the RAP and GBRMP management to include -

~ Indigenous Sea Use Agreements and co-management plans

~ Traditional hunting and fishing zones

~ Joint management arrangements for specific areas

~ Various cross-cultural consultative processes

~ Sea closures as appropriate


On-line research resources

Southern Great Barrier Reef Sea Forum

Sea Rights Resource Page - The Croker Island Decision and Native Title Offshore
(Australian Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies)

Saltwater Country Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Interest in Ocean Policy Development and Implementation. National Oceans Office - Australia's Ocean Policy

Representative Areas in the GBR Marine Park


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Native title and protected areas project
E-mail: The project coordinator
Mail: QCC, PO Box 12046,
George Street Post Shop, Brisbane, 4003
Ph: 07 3221 0188 Fax: 07 3229 7992