Indigenous Australians Caring for Country

Sea Country

Baby turtles in hands

Baby turtles in hands
Photo: Jane Dermer

Sea country is an important part of Indigenous culture, and Indigenous people have an important role to play in the management of Australia's coast and sea.

The department helps Indigenous Australians manage and protect sea country through a variety of programs and initiatives.


There are a number of reports which discuss Indigenous connection to sea country, and Indigenous people's involvement in managing it.

Sea Country - an Indigenous perspective is a report that talks about Indigenous uses, values, concerns and aspirations for the South-east Marine Region, based on consultations with coastal Aboriginal people and organisations in the region. It also talks about how Indigenous people's rights and interests are recognised in laws relating to the region, and what the Australian Government is doing to help Indigenous people get involved.

The Living on Saltwater Country series of reports describes the connection Indigenous people have to the marine environment in the Northern Marine Region. It includes three reports that were put out after consultation with coastal Indigenous communities in the region:

Sea Country Plans help Indigenous communities describe their objectives for the use, conservation and management of sea country and to work with others to achieve them. A Sea Country Plan seeks to marry Indigenous community priorities and aspirations with those of others with an interest in sea country, including government. The process of sea country planning is about encouraging people and organisations to work together towards sustainable management of marine environments.

Success of Sea Country Plans

The Government's pilot Sea Country Planning Program has been a success. Six Sea Country Plans have been developed:

The plans are helping Indigenous people negotiate with other marine managers and users to develop policies and institutional arrangements that are respectful of Indigenous peoples' rights, interests and responsibilities in sea country. Sea Country Plans are also helping Indigenous people and other marine managers to work and invest together to achieve shared objectives. Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation in the Northern Territory, for example, is currently working with their local Indigenous Coordination Centre to fund implementation of their Sea Country Plan through a Shared Responsibility Agreement.

Along the Great Barrier Reef , many of the ideas behind sea country planning are being put to effect through Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreements (TUMRAs). Girringun and Darambul, with help from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, have developed TUMRAs to help ensure the on-going sustainability of traditional uses of marine resources.