Empowering Reef Traditional Owners

Traditional Owner groups that hold rights and interests in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Reef catchments are being empowered to protect the Reef with an investment of $1.8 million across 18 Reef protection projects. 

Traditional Owners are making a significant and meaningful contribution to Reef protection already with more than 200 Indigenous rangers across the Reef catchments, yet there is a huge opportunity and very strong ambition to do more. 

As a first step, these grants will empower Traditional Owners to expand their Reef protection activities in three priority areas, Indigenous junior ranger programs, country-based planning and implementation of existing land and sea country plans.

Through the Reef Trust Partnership, the Foundation has made the largest single investment in Traditional Owner Reef protection, amounting to $42 million over six years, equalling 10% of the total Partnership funding.

Find out more in the Media Release.

Traditional Owner Workshop Report here

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Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation

Wuthathi Rangers Caring for Land and Sea

Location: Shelburn Bay & Lockhart River  

The Wuthathi Rangers Caring for Land and Sea Project will enhance the provision of ranger services to the Shelburn Bay and Lockhart River area. Traditional Owners have worked with researchers to demonstrate that Shelburn Bay is a unique landscape of high ecological and cultural importance, and rangers will work closely with Wuthathi Traditional Owners to manage their land and sea.  

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Gidarjil Development Corporation

Gidarjil Cadet and Junior Ranger Program – PCCC Future Makers

Traditional Owner Groups: Byelee; Gurang; Goreng Goreng and Tarebilang Bunda 

Location: Port Curtis Coral Coast (Bundaberg and Gladstone) 

The Gidarjil Cadet and Junior Ranger Program will establish a “Cadet” Ranger Program aimed at junior secondary school students that have graduated from the established Junior Ranger Program. Cadets will collaborate with Indigenous rangers from the Gidarjil Caring for Country (CFC) and Land & Sea Rangers (BLSR) on key environmental activities carried out during three and five-day camps.  

The project aims for collaborative management and monitoring by “cadet rangers” of sea-grass meadows, salt-marshes, fox predation of turtle nests, burns of coastal vegetation and acquisition of traditional knowledge through cultural immersion camps between Rodd’s Peninsula and Baffle Creek. 

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Mandubarra Aboriginal Land & Sea Inc.

Mandubarra Junior Ranger Project

Location: Mandubarra Sea Country - South of the Mourilyan Harbour to Maria Creek  

The Mandubarra Junior Ranger Project will establish a strategy and protocols for who, how, when and why cultural knowledge is shared. Through the development of educational tools and delivery of camps and other events, Mandubarra elders will share traditional wisdom and culture, transferring knowledge to young Traditional Owners and increasing awareness and respect of Mandubarra culture amongst the wider community.   

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Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation

Jabalbina Daintree Coast, Reef and Islands Management Plan

Traditional Owner Group: Eastern Kuku Yalanji 

Location: Eastern Kuku Yalanji country runs along the East Coast of Far North Queensland and it includes land and sea between Port Douglas and just south of Cooktown. 

This project will develop governance arrangements, management protocols and strategies to close gaps in effective management of Jabalbina Sea Country. As healthy sea country underpins livelihoods in land and sea management and tourism industries, the plan will also create a framework to create further employment and business opportunities for local communities. 

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Gidarjil Development Corporation & Port Curtis Coral Coast (PCCC)

Belbendimin Wulgun Djau (Caring for Sea Country): building the resilience of coral and oyster reefs.

Traditional Owner Groups:  Byellee, Gurang, Goreng Goreng and Tarebilang Bunda 

Location: Mackay/Capricorn. The sea country includes all coastal areas between Balaclava Island and Burrum Heads, including Lady Elliot and North West Islands 

This project aligns with the vision and objectives of the PCCC Sea Country Management Plan 2019–2025 and addresses the priorities of the PCCC TUMRA (Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement) which describes how Traditional Owners manage their sea resources within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The project will address the major knowledge gaps that exist regarding in-shore coral reefs, oyster reefs and water quality in the southern GBR.   

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Girringun Aboriginal Corporation (GAC)

Girringun Junior Ranger Camp

Traditional Owner Groups: Bandjin, Djiru, Girramay, Gugu Badhun, Gulngay, Jirrbal, Nyawigi, Warrgamay and Warungnu 

Location: The flood plains and coastal areas between North Maria Creek near Mission Beach to Rollingstone in the south, including offshore islands and waters within this region. 

The Girringun Junior Ranger Camp will bring together Elders and rangers to share cultural knowledge of Girringun Sea Country to young people across the nine Traditional Owner groups that Girringun Aboriginal Corporation represents. This project presents an opportunity to maintain and preserve cultural practices, and way of life, in a way that meaningfully engages young people and strengthens their traditional knowledge and sense of belonging to community. 

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Yuku Baja Muliku Landowner & Reserves Ltd

YBM Annan River and coast line critical values and habitats: healthy waters for our people

Location: Archer Point and surrounding rivers and streams  

This project is about establishing long-term monitoring programs which collect scientific and critical cultural information across many different areas including water quality, fish communities, mangroves, key cultural species and impacts such as pollution, plastics and marine debris on Yuku Baja Muliku Country. This will facilitate formal opportunities for Traditional Owners, scientists and NRM managers to work together to collect and record data and for everyone to look at data analysis together so that YBM Traditional Owners can make informed decisions about how to best look after their Country.  

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Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation

Wuthathi Caring and Connecting with Land & Culture

Location: Cape York - Shelburn Bay  

This project will establish a Junior Ranger Program that coincides with school holidays and is based on visits to Wuthathi Country adjacent to and on Shelburn Bay. The program will reconnect youth to their culture through caring for their land using traditional and scientific approaches and on-going mentoring that will equip participants to be future leaders. 

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Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation

Yirrganydji Junior Ranger Program – Empowering Today’s Generation for Tomorrow’s Future

Traditional Owner Group: Yirrganydji 

Location: Coastal region between Cairns and Port Douglas including wetlands of national significance. 

The Yirraganyji Junior Ranger Program will improve general understanding and highlight any pressures impacting Yirrganydji Country, as well as encourage behaviour change while providing an engaging way for local children (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) to learn about looking after Country today and into the future. The program will be developed in partnership with schools in the Cairns and Port Douglas area, complementing the Australian STEM curriculum with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, embedding the culture and knowledge of Yirrganydji people within environmental education programs. 

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Girringun Aboriginal Corporation (GAC)

Girringun Maritime Project

Traditional Owner Groups Represented: Banjin, Djuru, Girramay, Gulnay, Nywaigi and Warrgamay 

Location: The flood plains and coastal areas between North Maria Creek near Mission Beach to the north and Rollingstone to the south, as well as all offshore islands and waters within this region of northern Queensland. 

This project will provide support for rangers to undertake training with an Indigenous Maritime Training Company to obtain formal maritime qualifications in Deckhand and Coxswains certificates. These qualifications will enhance the ability of rangers to look after their vast areas of sea country.  


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Yuku Baja Muliku Landowner & Reserves

Yuku-Baja-Muliku Junior Ranger Project

Traditional Owner Group Represented: Yuku Baja Muliku 

Location: Archer Point  

A full-time Junior ranger co-ordinator will be funded to operate and expand the existing successful program that is currently run in Cooktown.  The YBM Junior Ranger Program runs weekly after school and has been supported and run by YBM Indigenous rangers in the past.  With a dedicated project officer in place, the program can be expanded, and many more environmental and cultural extension activities can be designed and delivered.  In addition to the junior ranger program, the coordinator will be able to drive the establishment of the YBM Cadet Ranger Program for high school aged students. 


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Balkanu Cape York Development Corp

Dabu Jajikal Land and Sea Country Planning Project

Traditional Owner Group: Dabu Jajikal Aboriginal Corp 

Location: Emmagen Creek to Obree Point and out to Hope Island. Country extends out to Bloomfield River/ Lilly Creek and Imagen Creek.  Areas to be included in the plan are Cedar Bay; Weary Bay; Bloomfield River and Cape Tribulation. 

Development of a sea country plan by Traditional Owners in partnership with other stakeholders. The sea country plan will be developed through a series of on-country meetings and workshops and will culminate in the production of a plan in the form of a book, video and audio recordings. Future workshops will also be planned to ensure commitments made during the initial phases are acted on. 

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Juru Enterprises

Juru Land and Sea Country Planning Project

Traditional Owner Group: Juru People 

Location: From the Burdekin River to south of Bowen 

The Juru people want to protect all heritage areas whilst maintaining, developing and strengthening the culture and heritage values and Lores of the Juru peoples. A management plan will be created by identifying, collating and reviewing existing information, reports, data and knowledge of heritage areas within the project site. This will be the foundation for Traditional Owners to develop and sustain strong partnerships with Government and NGOs to protect Country and the marine estate. The project will provide a platform for Traditional Owners to discuss and document their aspirations for management of their Country. 

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Radiant Life College

Goondoi Junior Rangers Program

Traditional Owner Group: Dyirrabarra & Bagirgabara 

Location: The sea area takes in the northern point of Ella Bay National Park and extends south to Mourilyan Harbour. 

The Goondoi Junior Rangers Program will provide opportunities for elders to spend time with young ones to pass on cultural knowledge about their country.  This will be done through school-based activities and camps. 

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Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation

Implementing Yirrganydji Sea Country Plan - Empowering Today’s Generation for Tomorrow’s Future

Traditional Owner Group: Yirrganydji 

Location: Coastal region between Cairns and Port Douglas including wetlands of national significance. 

This project will take the next step in Yirrganydji’s management journey and establish a clear pathway for the future management of the ecological and cultural values and aspirations set out in their community endorsed Sea Country Plan. This includes activities such as: establishing a Yirrganydji ‘Keeping Place’ to preserve, protect, and promote traditional knowledge, developing a Yirrganydji cultural heritage policy, and a cultural landscape atlas that maps bio-cultural values and knowledge. 

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Djarnda Enterprises

Wulgurukaba Land & Sea Country Renewal and Planning

Traditional Owner Group: Wulgurukaba 

Location: Ross River to Rollingstone. This includes Townsville, Magnetic Island and surrounds. 

The project supports the Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners to revisit their existing Sea Country Plan in order to address gaps and establish baselines relating to resources. The area of sea country for which the plan is being renewed is the subject of significant development pressure making an updated Sea Country Plan important for the management of the area. 

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Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation

Cape York GBR Sea Country Management Plan

Traditional Owner Group Represented: Gudang & Yadhaykenu Clans 

Location: Northern Cape York Peninsula - Captain Billy Landing to North of Mt Adolphus Island at the tip of Cape York. East past the Great Barrier Reef. Inclusive of the Denham Islands. 

A country-based plan will be developed by the two Traditional Owner clans with cultural authority for the Northern Peninsular Area of Cape York, Great Barrier Reef. This project will greatly assist the Traditional Owners to develop a coordinated approach to the management of their sea country areas and to apply community authorised strategies that look to address natural resource management and sustainable use. 

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South Cape York Catchments

Healthy Country Planning for Normanby Station

Traditional Owner Group: Balnggarrawarra 

Location: Normanby Station, North east from Cooktown in the Southern Cape York Region.  

Normanby Station is situated in the heart of the fourth largest Great Barrier Reef river catchment. This project will see a Country plan created that will guide future land management practices, stakeholder investment and business enterprises whilst ensuring compatibility with customary obligations. This project links cultural values and natural values. 

3 key focus areas of the grants program

Focus area 1: Supporting Traditional Owner groups to undertake (land and sea) country-based planning

Funding for Traditional Owner groups who don't have a country-based plan or wish to renew an existing plan. Activities could include:

  • Traditional Owner workshops or on-country activities that allow for the recording, documentation and safeguarding of traditional knowledge and country-based aspirations
  • Enabling Elders and knowledge holders to participate in the planning process
  • Documenting and reporting on the values that exist within Traditional Owner estates and their management

Grants valued up to $150,000


Focus area 2: Supporting Traditional Owner groups to implement their (land and sea) country-based plans

Funding to support Traditional Owner groups to look after country by implementing or facilitating on-ground and in-water activities in accordance with their community endorsed country-based plans. Activities could include:

  • On-ground and in-water activities
  • Enabling Elders and knowledge holders to guide, mentor and participate in on-ground and in-water activities
  • Cultural mapping and knowledge documentation
  • Coastal, wetland, island and sea country activities
  • Caring for culturally significant plants and animals
  • Research and monitoring activities
  • Capacity building, knowledge sharing and project updates

Grants valued up to $150,000


Focus area 3: Supporting Indigenous junior ranger programs that provide leadership, resilience and collaborative opportunities within communities

Funding for Great Barrier Reef Traditional Owner groups seeking to establish or support existing junior ranger programs within their community. Activities could include:

  • Activities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, together with non-Indigenous children, to learn about culture, country and community
  • Enabling Elders and knowledge holders to guide, mentor and participate in junior ranger programs, including where this supports community cohesion, cultural and artistic strengthening, language revitalisation, and individual and community healing
  • Equipment and supplies directly supporting junior ranger activities 

Grants valued up to $50,000

Key dates

Grant applications open25 February 2019
Applications close17 March 2019, 11.59pm AEST (Queensland time)
Successful applicants announcedApril 2019
Projects to commenceJune 2019
Projects to be completedJune 2021

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.