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I thank the Kuku Yalanji people for giving me the opportunity to launch this Conservation and Management Plan for the Green Sea Turtle and the Dugong. I extend to you Senator Hill's compliments and congratulations on the launch of this conservation plan.
The launch of this Plan is an historic step in the development of community based initiatives for the protection of endangered species within the Great Barrier Reef region. This, inturn, contributes to the global protection of these species for future generations.
The results of surveys commissioned since mid 1996 by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority show a significant decline (50 to 80%) in dugong numbers in the southern Great Barrier Reef region. These animals are now considered critically endangered within this area.
It is recognised by this government that dugong and turtle are under threat, in particular the dugong. The Commonwealth Government has acted with the Queensland Government through the vehicle of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council to implement a range of measures to protect the remaining dugong numbers from threats.
The major threats to dugongs have been identified as;
The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council considered how best to mitigate identified threats to dugong and have set in place a series of measures to protect remaining dugong populations in the southern Great Barrier Reef region.
One of these measures announced by the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council in its Dugong Communique of June 14 1997 was that cooperative management arrangements with indigenous people be developed.
This Government takes very seriously its obligation to protect species that become threatened such as dugong.
I am aware that, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, dugong is not only harvested as a food source, but are an important species for cultural ceremonies and events. This species is an integral part of your culture.
The present circumstances relating to dugong, serves to give the Kuku Yalanji people the increased strength to protect the waters and reefs offshore and animal life within. The fact that you have developed a community based conservation plan, demonstrates that the will of few people can become the actions of the whole community.
The initiative taken by the Kuku Yalanji people, with assistance from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Department of Environment to develop a management plan for dugong and turtle, is an example of how indigenous people can empower themselves and their community.
I understand that this Plan, from its development to its operation, has led to an increase in employment and training opportunities. With some Kuku Yalanji people now being employed by QDoE as Community Rangers. Other outcomes from this process have been the identification of additional projects, such as sea grass monitoring and the development of cultural heritage management programs with the Queensland Department of Environment.
The Kuku Yalanji conservation plan is an excellent example of how community based management programs can be developed in cooperation with government. I encourage other community groups to follow the example set by the Kuku Yalanji people.
Much effort has been put into the development of this program by both community members and staff of the GBRMPA and QDoE. All are to be congratulated for what has been achieved.