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Media Release
Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

19 November 2004

Hyland C voyage of Van Dieman Gulf and Arnhem coast to link science and culture

Marine scientists and remote Indigenous communities will learn from one another in a unique research voyage of the Arnhem Coast and inshore Arafura Sea beginning today.

Mr Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage said the voyage of the Hyland C will be jointly funded by the Australian and Northern Territory Governments and will explore little known marine ecosystems in inshore areas around Arnhem Land and the Arafura Sea.

Launching the voyage, Mr Hunt said: "The Australian and Northern Territory Governments are committing over $120,000 each to this project."

"The North Australia Marine Biodiversity Survey will be a unique collaboration between local Indigenous groups, who have an intimate understanding of the natural systems in the region, and scientists, who will match this information with scientific analysis of ecosystems and biodiversity in the tropical waters."

Mr David Tollner, Federal Member for Solomon said the area to be surveyed had not undergone scientific research for more than 150 years.

"The voyage will take in waters that haven't been surveyed since the 19 th Century expeditions of Philip Parker King in the Mermaid and John Lort Stokes on the Beagle. The information collected will fill important knowledge gaps that will be used to help marine planning decision-making by both the Australian and Territory Governments," Mr Tollner said.

Senator Nigel Scullion, Senator for the Northern Territory, said the project demonstrated the benefits of cooperation between governments, the scientific community and Indigenous people.

"There is so much we don't know about these waters and that is why we are working closely with Indigenous sea ranger groups, whose knowledge of the local natural systems is the best available. The results of this scientific voyage will be important for regional marine planning work under Australia's Oceans Policy and the information will be shared with traditional owners in the area,'' Senator Scullion said.

Australia's second regional marine plan is underway in northern Australia between the Goulburn Islands in the west and Cape York Peninsula in the east, coordinated by the National Oceans Office. The results of the survey will help fill information gaps in research from the northern regional marine planning process.

The National Oceans Office, the Northern Territory Government, Parks Australia and the Northern Land Council jointly fund this survey. The findings of the survey will feed in to the Northern Regional Marine Plan.

Scientific research will be concentrated on the Van Diemen Gulf, adjacent to Kakadu National Park, the Goulburn Islands, and Boucalt and Castlereagh Bays near Milingimbi.

Selection of survey sites and the associated work program has been undertaken in consultation with the Northern Land Council and Indigenous communities.

Commonwealth of Australia