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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Minister opens new reef HQ traditional Sea Country Connections exhibit

Media release
8 December 2009

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Environment Minister Peter Garrett, today launched a new Sea Country Connections exhibit at Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville.

Minister Garrett said the exhibit, which is funded through the Caring for our Country program, was a great way for the community to explore the unique relationship Indigenous Australians have with the sea.

"This is the first step in a long journey to educating visitors about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' current and historical connections to Sea Country," Minister Garrett said.

"Visitors to the display will gain a greater understanding of the important role that Traditional Owners play in the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef as well as an appreciation for the traditional customs still practiced today.

"For thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have used the natural environment and its resources for cultural, spiritual and economic purposes in a sustainable way.

"The Great Barrier Reef formed in the presence of Indigenous Peoples - there is evidence of marine resource usage in the Whitsundays dating back 15,000 years.

"Thousands of years before Captain Cook's ship Endeavour struck a reef near Cooktown, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples used the reefs, islands and adjacent mainland to fish, hunt and gather. Social and cultural practices associated with the Great Barrier Reef demonstrate long-standing, complex and intertwining connections between Indigenous peoples and sea country," said Minister Garrett.

The exhibit features interpretative material, an educational presentation, artwork contributed by John Cummins whose art style is the Quinkan art of the GuGu Yalanji and a collection of artefacts contributed by Russell Butler a Traditional Owner of the Warrgamay/Bandjin people of the Herbert River and Hinchinbrook Island.

"A school holiday program dedicated to educating children about Indigenous connections to the Great Barrier Reef will also be developed," said Minister Garrett.

"It's wonderful to see the Caring for Our Country Reef Rescue funding being used to educate the community on the long-standing relationship Indigenous people have with Sea Country."

Minister Garrett said.

This project is supported by the Reef Rescue Indigenous Land and Sea Country Partnerships Program and Reef HQ Aquarium the National Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef, through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country.

Commonwealth of Australia