During the International Year of the Reef in 2018, the Australian Government announced the largest ever single investment in Reef protection. This includes a $443.3 million partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, aimed at sparking new and innovative responses from, and collaborations with, private investors and philanthropists.

This partnership is funding new and existing projects that will help to protect and restore the Reef – delivering and building on the Reef 2050 Plan.

A total of 56 projects commenced in the first 12 months of the Reef Trust Partnership including over $19 million invested in 11 water quality improvement projects, $1.4m investment in 25 Community Reef protection, and $1.8m of funding for 18 Traditional Owner Reef protection projects.

How the funds are being invested

Innovation and collaboration are at the centre of the Foundation’s Reef Protection Plan (Reef Trust Partnership 2019-2020 Annual Work Plan and Executive Summary)

This plan is a group effort and the result of consultation with over 100 Australian and international experts, co-designed over the last 12 months.

$58 million will be directly invested in Reef protection activities across the length of the Reef in the 2019-2020 financial year.

Component Activity Budget 2019-2020

Water Quality
11 on-ground WQ projects that commenced in 2018-2019, spanning the Burnett Mary to the Wet Tropics regions.$8.9M
Planning and establishing major new on-ground nitrogen and pesticide reduction programs in the Herbert, Lower Burdekin, Plane Creek, and Pioneer catchments, including on-ground work.$6.5M
Planning and establishing major new on-ground sediment reduction programs in the Fitzroy, Burdekin (Bowen Bogie) and Mary River Catchments, including on-ground work. $4M
Scoping options, costs and benefits of interventions aimed at conserving and preserving less disturbed catchments compared to restoring those that are highly degraded.$0.5M
Open grant round related to Innovation and Systems Change.$1.8M
Traditional Owner-led WQ activities. *This amount is also accounted for in the Traditional Owner Reef Protection Component.$1.8M
TOTAL$23.5M
Crown-of-Thorns Starfish Control
Independent review of the effectiveness of the current manual COTS control program to guide future program improvements.$0.1M
Maintaining manual COTS control program at existing level based on integrated pest management strategy$2M
Convening a COTS forum to explore opportunities, identify gaps and share knowledge. $0.1M
Scoping and developing a strategy for identifying long-term funding options for COTS control. $0.1M
Convening a consortium to undertake a collaborative study into new potential interventions for COTS management and control, including addressing key knowledge gaps and conducting R&D activities to assess their feasibility (social, regulatory and technical) and modelled benefits.$1.5M
Scoping community and citizen science opportunities for expanded delivery in COTS control. $0.03M
Traditional Owner-led COTS Control activities. *This amount is also accounted for in the Traditional Owner Reef Protection Component.*$0.5M
TOTAL$4.33M
Reef Restoration and Adaptation Science
Governance, engagement and policy – establishing governance, engaging key stakeholders and Traditional Owners, and assessing regulatory/policy frameworks and capacity/training needs.$2.1M
Developing and refining models and decision-support systems to assess effectiveness and feasibility of potential intervention options.$0.6M
Targeted ecological research to fill critical knowledge gaps and inform development of models.$0.6M
Developing improved methods for coral aquaculture, cryopreservation and field-based coral propagation and restoration.$3.8M
Proof of concept/assessment of approaches to potentially decrease solar radiation on reefs (e.g. creating shade through clouds, mist, fog, or surface films) including technical, environmental and regulatory considerations.$1.6M
Scoping options for improving efficiency, cost-effectiveness and scalability of program outcomes through coordinated and integrated logistics and automated processes.$0.8M
Traditional Owner-led RRAS activities. *This amount is also accounted for in the Traditional Owner Reef Protection Component.*$0.5M
TOTAL$10M
Traditional Owner Reef Protection
18 Traditional Owner Reef protection projects that commenced in 2018-2019. $0.7M
Establishing program governance including linkages to existing Indigenous Reef governance arrangements and to all Reef Trust Partnership components.$0.3M
Strategic communication and engagement through regional planning workshops, a collaborative communication platform to share and celebrate Traditional Owner stories, and capacity building focused on women and youth.$0.6M
Developing, testing and refining a Reef Traditional Owner co-design action framework to inform the co-design process that will underpin all work in this Component.$0.1M
Scope and design a Traditional Owner Reef Futures Fund to support sustained funding for Traditional Owner engagement, governance and leadership activities.$10M
Traditional Owner-led WQ activities focused on design and delivery of on-ground WQ programs, scoping of capacity building and training opportunities, and cultural mapping of waterways and Indigenous knowledge.$1.8M
Traditional Owner-led COTS activities focused on identifying opportunities for increasing Indigenous participation in COTS control programs through existing or new training, service delivery and research partnerships.$0.5M
Traditional Owner-led RRAS activities focused on identifying opportunities for Indigenous participation in Reef restoration including research scholarships, on-ground restoration activities and provision of biocultural advice.$0.5M
Traditional Owner-led IMR activities focused on finalising and implementing the ‘Strong People-Strong Country Framework’ developed through RIMReP by the Great Barrier Reef Traditional Owner Indigenous Heritage Expert Group.$1.8M
TOTAL$16.3M
Community Reef Protection
25 citizen science and local action projects commenced in 2018-2019. $0.85M
Grant round for local action place-based projects coordinated via the Local Marine Advisory Committee network.$0.15M
Open grant round for community-led reef restoration activities. $0.5M
Convene three regional planning and capacity building initiatives (in northern, central and southern Great Barrier Reef) to address key needs and opportunities for the tourism sector.$0.03M
Capacity building activities focused on youth leadership and stewardship, and targeted initiatives to address needs in areas such as communication, community fundraising and monitoring and evaluation.$0.1M
Working with local partners to develop at least five regional community action plans, providing a more coordinated and integrated approach to community-led local action with greater linkages to decision-making.$0.5M
Developing a plan, partnership model and framework for a National Reef Protection Challenge to be launched in late 2020. This will have a strong focus on schools and an emphasis on communication and action.$0.35M
Developing a story-bank showcasing the remarkable work of community Reef heroes. $0.024M
Commission a Reef-wide audit and impact assessment of community projects. This will include an assessment of existing and emerging business models that could support more sustained funding for community groups. $0.13M
TOTAL$2.6M
Integrated Monitoring and Reporting
Reviewing RIMReP recommendations and prioritising monitoring activities to be funded via the Partnership, with an emphasis on activities that contribute directly to the delivery of the Partnership, including monitoring activities.$2M
Scoping user needs and initial design options for an operational Reef decision-support platform, including auditing existing decision-support systems. $0.43M
Prioritising innovation needs, establishing Technology Transformation Fund and first round of technology transformation grants. $2M
Traditional Owner-led IMR activities. *This amount is also accounted for in the Traditional Owner Reef Protection Component.*$1.8M
TOTAL$6.23M

Current Projects

A total of 56 projects commenced in the first 12 months of the Reef Trust Partnership.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation acknowledges both the Turrbul people and the Yugara (Jagera) people and their Elders, past, present and emerging, as the custodians for the land and waters upon which the Brisbane office stands. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation also extends its deepest respect and recognition to all of the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef as First Nations Peoples holding the hopes, dreams, traditions and cultures of the Reef.

Listen to the Managing Director

Reef Trust Partnership Frequently Asked Questions

What does this Reef investment aim to achieve?

The aim of this investment is to forge collaborations to build on the Australian and Queensland governments' $2 billion Reef 2050 Plan, which is based on the best available science, draws on 40 years of analysis and is underpinned by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s strong management.

This is an investment not only in the future of the Great Barrier Reef, but also in Australian jobs and our economy as the Reef attracts tourists from all over the world. The Reef has recently been assessed by Deloitte Access Economics as having an economic, social and icon value of $56 billion to the world. It contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy annually and supports 64,000 Australian jobs.

There is a role for everyone in protecting the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come and this investment program recognises that.

Why was the Foundation chosen to deliver this program?

While this large federal government investment is a positive step forward, we need more financial investment to protect and restore the Reef long term. The raising of private funds will continue to be a focus and responsibility of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which will further amplify the impact of this positive government announcement.

The Foundation will work hard to bring existing donors and new donors together with government to get the best results for the Reef over the next six years while this program is being delivered.

Further, the Foundation has a strong history of bringing together key partners to deliver science and research projects for the Reef.

How long will it take to deliver the funded projects?

Over the six years, this significant government and private funding investment will support the delivery of key actions under the Reef 2050 Plan and help ensure the future health of the Reef.

How will the funding be spent?

The $443.3 million will be invested over six years from 2018-19 to 2023‑24. The funds were provided in full to the Foundation in 2017-18.

The partnership with the Foundation includes:

  • $201 million to improve water quality through changed farming practices such as reduced fertiliser use and adopting new technologies and land management practices.
  • $100 million to harness the best science to implement reef restoration and support Reef resilience and adaptation.
  • $58 million to expand the fight against the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.
  • $40 million to enhance Reef health monitoring and reporting to track progress and inform better management.
  • $22 million to support Indigenous and community reef protection activities to increase traditional owner and broader community engagement on the Reef, including Indigenous sea country management, coastal clean-up days and awareness raising activities.
  • $22 million to administer the programs including implementing peer-reviewed systems and processes for project management, governance, and monitoring and evaluation; and developing and implementing key strategies that span each component such as science and innovation, communication and engagement, fundraising and risk and resource management.

The funding will build on and directly support the intensive work already underway through the Australian and Queensland Governments’ Reef 2050 Plan.

How much money has the Foundation raised for the Reef in the past?  

The Foundation has a strong track record of raising significant funding for the Reef, more than $90 million. It will continue to do that to leverage these government funds.

What kind of projects does the Foundation help to deliver on the Reef?

The Foundation is uniquely placed to broker constructive partnerships between the private and public sectors for program delivery for the Reef. It has a strong track record of securing partnerships for innovative projects to protect the Reef, such as the Raine Island Recovery Project, the pioneering larval reseeding (‘coral IVF’) project and the sun shield for the Reef project, to name just a few.

Read more about the Foundation's Reef projects.

How is the funding being delivered?

The Partnership between the Foundation and the Australian Government is established through a grant agreement.

The Foundation will be required to report regularly to the Department of Environment and Energy on the program’s delivery and outcomes.

Over the coming months, the Foundation will work closely with the Department of Environment and Energy and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to ensure this investment will be delivered to best effect through a range of government and non-government delivery partners.

The Foundation will work with a diverse range of Reef stakeholders to deliver on-ground action to benefit the Reef. The Foundation’s work actively supports and aligns with the Reef 2050 Plan.

What does the Foundation do day to day?

The Foundation raises money for the Reef from a range of stakeholders and then works with the best researchers and scientists to deliver projects grounded in science, technology, engineering and on-ground action to benefit the Reef. These are the three key areas of focus:

  • Raising funds for research and on ground conservation that addresses threats to the Great Barrier Reef
  • Designing and delivering projects in partnership with the private and public sector that protect and restore the Reef.
  • Bringing hope to the future of the Great Barrier Reef through our communications and our projects.

How was the Foundation started?

The initial idea came from a small group of Australian businesses who strongly felt they needed to do more to protect the Great Barrier Reef. They were right. Some of those people were very passionate at a personal level about protecting the Reef and came up with the idea to create a national foundation that could deliver more investment for the Reef. This aligned with the United Nations World Heritage Convention encouraging countries with world heritage sites to establish a national foundation whose purpose is to invite donations for their protection.

Since then the Foundation has successfully raised more than $90 million and delivered multiple projects to help save the Reef. The Foundation has developed into Australia’s largest charity for the Reef with an independent Board and Scientific Advisory Committee. 

Who were the businessmen that began the organisation?  

One of the driving forces behind its establishment was Sir Sydney Schubert.

Sir Sydney was a builder of vision and ideals – he fostered infrastructure development around the state of Queensland and he was also integral to the creation of an agency to safeguard the largest living structure on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef. He was a founding board member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a role he held for more than a decade. In 2001, he became the Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for the Reef, furthering his personal support for the protection of the Reef.

As part of the recognition for his highly respected work, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman announced last year that a reef located about 17.7 km east of Lizard Island will become Sir Sydney Schubert Reef.

The first severe mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef occurred in 1998. At an initial meeting in 1999 to discuss the formation of a foundation for the Reef, those who attended included Sir Sydney Schubert, Sir Ian McFarlane, Mr John B Reid AO and Dr John Schubert AO.

In November 1999, the Great Barrier Reef Research Foundation was registered as a company with four founding directors: Sir Sydney Schubert, Sir Ian McFarlane, John B Reid and David Windsor.

Sir Sydney Schubert resigned as a director in 2001. The other three founding directors resigned in 2004. Dr John Schubert AO became Chairman in 2004.

It is our understanding that Sir Sydney Schubert’s idea for forming the Foundation was to create a charity to bring science and business together with a common purpose of protecting the Great Barrier Reef. Eighteen years later, the Foundation continues to lead the collaboration of business, science, government and philanthropy for the benefit of the Reef.

Who runs the Foundation?

The Foundation is governed by an independent Board of 13 directors and Anna Marsden is the Managing Director – an experienced administrator and fundraiser in the Australian business community.

Who are the Foundation’s biggest donors?  

The Foundation receives funding from a wide range of corporate and philanthropic donors. The largest donors in recent times have been BHP, Google, Lendlease, Boeing, Rio Tinto and Orica – just to name a few. There are also large individual philanthropic donors however they wish not to be named.

The government, corporate, philanthropic and research partners that contribute to the Foundation are available for you to see on the website. The Foundation is very proud to work with so many partners.

This funding does not address the biggest threat to the Reef – climate change. Why has that not been addressed?

There is no doubt that climate change is the most significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef. The Foundation has always said this, as have the Australian and Queensland Governments.

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution and mitigation efforts must go hand in hand with this. The whole world needs to work towards achieving the Paris Agreement commitments.

But that’s not enough. We need to help the Reef become more resilient to climate change and help restore it from the damage that’s already happened.

Scientists tell us the best way to help the Reef withstand and recover from the impacts of climate change – such as coral bleaching – is to reduce all the other stressors threatening the Reef, including water quality and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.

None of us can afford to sit on our hands. We must do everything we can to protect and restore the Reef. The measures and programs we invest in make a difference and we will continue to do everything we can – including tackling the challenge of climate change.