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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

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Saltwater country aboriginal and Torres Strait islander interest in ocean policy development and implementation

A report commissioned by Environment Australia 1997

Commonwealth of Australia
ISBN 0 642 54536 7

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Executive summary

This information paper examines the pre-colonial, post-contact and contemporary relationships of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' with Australia's oceans. The concept of customary marine estates, traditionally owned and managed by Indigenous groups, is identified as a key difference from the general community's views on the ocean as an open common to be managed by governments.

The paper documents current levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in ocean management, including initiatives by indigenous groups to regain self-management of their saltwater country.

An introduction is also given to the role of Indigenous peoples in marine protected area management, the prospect of recognising native title in the sea, and international obligations for addressing indigenous peoples' rights and interests in Australia's oceans.

The paper concludes that the stewardship ethic, which remains an inherent feature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maritime cultures, can provide the basis for reconciling Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives on ocean management to the benefit of all Australians.