Community Reef Protection

Improving the engagement of the broader community in the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

Turbo-charging the positive impact that community action has for the Reef and for people.

#Turbo-charging the positive impact that community action has for the Reef and for people.

Budget: $10 million

This component of the Reef Trust Partnership builds on and celebrates work already underway through committed groups and individuals across the Reef and catchments. Yet it also acknowledges that to meet the scale and urgency of the challenges we face, more must be done and we must find new ways to work together to make change happen.

Projects will support and enhance people’s capacity to deliver on-ground action that reduces Reef threats and increases Reef resilience. This will be achieved by making it easier for people to get involved and stay involved in conservation of the Reef (irrespective of where they live); improving sharing, connection and collaboration between individuals, community groups and Reef managers; and providing hope that inspires greater action by demonstrating that the collective efforts of many can and will make a difference.

#End of Partnership Outcomes

The Partnership’s Community Reef Protection component will result in:

Community action delivering effective outcomes for the Reef and community

Targeted local action aligning with strategic needs

A dynamic suite of tools for enduring funding and partnerships for community action made available

Community action is recognised, valued and celebrated

Shared knowledge and decision-making enhancing governance and delivery models

#Progress Dashboard

​Transparency and accountability are key guiding principles for the Foundation in delivering the Reef Trust Partnership.

A series of interactive dashboards has been developed as part of our Monitoring and Evaluation Plan. The dashboards are updated every six months to demonstrate progress towards meeting End-of-Partnership Outcomes. The following dashboard provides a snapshot of progress towards the Community Reef Protection component’s end-of-Partnership outcomes. These are in addition to the Reef health outcomes achieved through the more than 30 on-ground local action, citizen science and local restoration and stewardship projects underway.  

This dashboard is current as of 31 December 2020.  

Find out more about the RTP progress dashboards in these Frequently Asked Questions.

#Partnership Activities

Our five-year plan for the Community Reef Protection component includes the following eight Partnership Activities:

Citizen science

Budget: $3.02 million

Citizen science engages the community in data collection and sharing to increase understanding about the condition of Reef habitats and species. While citizen science is gaining momentum, there is potential for data from these programs to better inform decision-making and enhance community benefits. This funding is supporting strategic and collaborative citizen science data collection, reporting and application.

Local action

Budget: $1.67 million

Local action projects are championed through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Local Marine Advisory Committees who already provide a platform to directly connect community with decision making. This funding is supporting and enhancing community capacity to collaboratively address locally-specific Reef threats and work with managers to build on and enhance approaches that engage the community in planning, delivery and monitoring of Reef protection activities.

Local-scale coral restoration and stewardship

Budget: $1.1 million

Restoration is an emerging priority as a tool to build Reef and community resilience in the face of climate change. This funding is supporting the development of a Cairns Port Douglas Reef Hub to strengthen collaboration across a range of scales of reef intervention and stewardship actions to deliver greater collective impact. It will also enable on-ground projects that trial impactful approaches to accelerate coral recovery and site stewardship, with learnings shared across the Hub network.

Integrated Decision Making: Community Action Plans

Budget: $1 million

Collaborative design to connect key management priorities with community knowledge, aspirations and capacity can help drive more effective local-scale actions. This funding will support working with the Reef 2050 Regional Report Cards and Community Action Plans along the length of the Great Barrier Reef to turbo-charge local Reef protection and community outcomes through collaborative planning and delivery of on-ground action.

Supporting enduring investment and partnership models

Budget: $130,000

This funding will document work taking place across community-led Reef protection efforts and grow capacity for long-term organisational sustainability. It will deliver a comprehensive snapshot of community Reef protection activities and seek to strengthen tools and models for funding community Reef protection activities to achieve more efficient and enduring outcomes.

Empowering community heroes

Budget: $530,000

This funding will identify and deliver key capacity building needs for individuals and organisations, to amplify community partnerships and leadership. Cultural capacity building, monitoring and evaluation and empowering youth leadership are three key focus areas.

National Reef Protection Challenge

Budget: $2.48 million

Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and this funding will enable a behaviour change initiative designed to empower Australians across the country to take simple, measurable and impactful actions to reduce their carbon footprint for the Reef.

Communicating case studies and stories of hope

Budget: $70,000

This funding will capture and share community driven solutions from a range of people and projects to celebrate achievements, share learnings and inspire increased engagement.



Under the overarching Partnership Activities in our Annual Work Plan sits a suite of Projects.

Projects include both our impact-driven, largely on-ground actions being delivered by our more than 170 partners, as well as a small number of enabling and supporting activities that together, will achieve the End of Partnership Outcomes. 

Below is a summary of the on-ground projects funded so far under the Community Reef Protection component.  

#Citizen science

Citizen science engages the community in data collection and sharing, to increase understanding about the condition of Reef habitats and species.

Wreck Rock Turtle Monitoring Project

Turtle Care Volunteers Queensland Inc.

Wreck Rock Beach is the second largest mainland nesting site for loggerheads in the South Pacific Ocean. Turtle Care Volunteers Queensland Inc. will engage volunteers to monitor population information provided to land managers to implement response strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of climate and weather factors and other threats such as predation, with the goal to increase the numbers of hatchlings from this site.

Team Turtle CQ

Fitzroy Basin Association

The Team Turtle CQ Project aims to empower community volunteers to participate in citizen science, recording data on nesting marine turtles along the Capricorn and Curtis coasts of Central Queensland. Project data is used to inform a behaviour change campaign to help implement on-ground action to protect nesting beaches and reduce impacts threatening local turtles.

Community Caring for Sea Country: Seagrass

Gidarjil Development Corporation Limited

Led by the Gidarjil Land and Sea rangers, with guidance and participation from Elders of the Port Curtis Coral Coast (PCCC) region, this project will address a significant knowledge gap in the condition and health of seagrass and saltmarsh in Bustard Bay. Traditional Owners, youth and community members will join field-based training and data collection activities to establish and monitor local seagrass using the Seagrass Watch.

Amplifying Reef Citizen Science

Great Barrier Reef Legacy

A new model for place-based citizen science data integration and reporting will be piloted, with potential opportunities for scaling to other locations. This project will demonstrate how multiple citizen science datasets can be collected and combined for three sites (inshore, offshore, midshelf) to improve model estimates and predictive performance of Reef health and reported using a central platform.

Cairns and Far North Queensland MangroveWatch

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre

This project will enhance existing MangroveWatch monitoring by facilitating citizen science tidal wetland data collection on ecosystem condition in seven estuaries within the Wet Tropics and Southern Cape York region. The project scales previously established MangroveWatch methods in new locations and demonstrated connectivity across multiple sites and land-to-sea connections.

Combining Citizen Science and innovative technologies to enhance reef management

QUT - Virtual Reef Diver

This project will develop a cloud-based image platform, Virtual Reef Diver, and integrate with the existing Eye on the Reef app to enable the upload of underwater and classification of images showing the seafloor. This close an adaptive management loop by enabling data to be analysed together and deliver predictive maps that can be downloaded and summarised to facilitate, local, regional, and GBR scale reporting that are accessible to reef communities.

Protecting wetlands for the future

Earthwatch Institute

This project will support teacher training, student engagement and curriculum materials to help deliver a framework for a standardised school-based Mangrove Watch monitoring program. Data can inform local mangrove management and conservation.

Extending the success of REDMAP Australia to Queensland

JCU - Redmap

The project seeks to inform, engage and educate fishers, divers, boaters and the general public about marine species that are shifting southwards with warming waters. Program ambassadors will be trained along the coast to engage with SCUBA, snorkelling and fishing organisations to help communities report unusual sightings and track key species.

Building understanding through participation in seagrass mapping and data visualisation

Science Under Sail

This project works to address a knowledge gap in seagrass spatial extent by training high schools students along the coast to collect and share rapid spatial assessments of seagrass.

Great Barrier Reef health monitoring and training project

Reef Teach

This project will train tourism operators to undertake geo-referenced photo sections as an expanded activity for GBRMPA’s Eye on The Reef program. It will engage a minimum of eight local operators and provide a replicable model for other regions. This will also include trialling and implementing models for engaging guests in activities, including internship programs and Master Reef Guide-led programs for visitors.

Educating communities to help ACT and PROTECT our GBR

UQ - CoralWatch

CoralWatch will partner with Environmental Education Centres to develop reef citizen science materials tailored to the coastal areas of Palm Island, North Keppel Island, Gladstone and Heron Island. This will include curriculum-linked lesson plans, coral identification sheets, virtual reef posters and display material for EECs and other suitable venues, as well as field-based data collection activities.

Lady Musgrave Reef Custodians

Lady Musgrave Experience

This project will build a collaborative model for citizen science at Lady Musgrave working with local Traditional Owners, schools, Reef managers and community groups to collect Reef health data through CoralWatch and Eye on the Reef programs.

Integrated coral reef citizen science

Reef Ecologic

This project aims to integrate existing citizen science organisations and complementary reef monitoring projects in the Townsville region (Eye on the Reef, Reef Check, Coral Watch, Reef Recovery, Earth Watch, Virtual Reef Diver) and increase collaboration between multiple reef citizen science organisations to deliver a broader suite of not only ecological, but also socio-economic information from their monitoring activities.

Whitsunday reef monitoring for long-term health

Reef Check Australia

Reef Check Australia will continue collecting reef health data on long-term sites in the Whitsundays region, as well as working with project partners to expand the number of volunteers engaged in GBRMPA Reef Health and Impact Survey (RHIS) methods. The project will also train the first cohort of Reef Ambassadors as enthusiastic community leaders looking to promote information about the condition of our coral reefs and what communities can do to help.

Whitsunday Water Quality Monitoring Blue Print for Tourism Operators

Reef Catchments

Whitsunday Bareboat Operators Association – representing six companies and 150 vessels. Training of tourism operators to build on water quality monitoring at key tourism locations. The project will collaboratively develop a framework for connecting citizen science and the regional report card partnership.

#Local action

Local action projects – championed through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Local Marine Advisory Committees – are addressing locally-specific Reef threats.

#LessIsMore for the Great Barrier Reef

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Cooperative

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Cooperative, supported by the Burnett Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners, is building on its first Local Action project in 2019 – 2020 to continue its #LessIsMore campaign. Last year, the project removed 17,750 plastic straws from circulation by working with eleven local companies. It also held train-the-trainer beeswax wrap workshops with nearly 500 teachers and students, preventing the use of over 38 kilometres of single-use plastic clingwrap. This year, the behaviour change project will continue the train-the-trainer workshops, swapping plastic for paper straws in local businesses, repurposing the plastic straws, purchasing a portable water bottle refill station for community events and installing 10 cigarette butt bins and signage.

Warriors of the waterways

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, supported by the Cairns Local Marine Advisory Committee, is building on its first Local Action Project in 2019-20 that strengthened the capacity of community groups to take local action in protecting urban waterways. Last year, the project worked with 10 community groups to develop storylines, project videos and social media strategies to raise awareness of urban waterways and community initiatives. This year, it will build on this work by delivering leadership support for an additional 10 community groups – strengthening skills and networks to deliver collaborative local action for improving urban waterway health.

Promoting sustainable fishing practices

Douglas Shire Council

Douglas Shire Council, supported by the Douglas Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners, is building on a project delivered by Port Douglas Daintree Tourism in 2019-20 to promote sustainable practices that improve water quality. Last year, the project showcased four local business "champions" and their actions to improve water quality through videos and widely promoted them to raise awareness and encourage behaviour change. This year, the project will continue with a focus on sustainable fishing practices. The project will develop educational materials including a video, website information, signage and hold a community workshop to improve engagement and explore sustainable fishing practices that aim to foster long-term improvements in the Douglas Shire fishing community.

What’s down our drains?

Fitzroy Basin Association

Fitzroy Basin Association, supported by the Capricorn Coast and Gladstone Local Marine Advisory Committees and project partners, is building on its first Local Action project in 2019-20 to undertake stage two of its "What’s down our drains?" initiative. Last year, the project prevented 27,191 pieces of litter and 721kg of pollutants (including 13,828 cigarette butts) from entering the Great Barrier Reef, through the installation of drain buddies. The project also conducted a communication and behaviour change campaign across Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Gladstone. This year, the project will install, monitor and collect data on drain buddies in new hotspots and encourage behaviour change using community-based social marketing techniques.

Coastal adaptation and ecosystem restoration in the Lower Herbert

OzFish Unlimited

OzFish Unlimited, supported by the Hinchinbrook Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners, will undertake a new Local Action project this year to improve awareness, understanding and local actions for coastal ecosystem restoration and adaptation in the lower Herbert. This habitat restoration project will deliver the design for a demonstration fishway at Tyto wetlands, conduct a coastal adaptation community forum and prepare a report on opportunities for community to contribute to improved outcomes for coastal ecosystem restoration and adaptation measures. The project will hold a citizen science community event to collect baseline fish data at the wetlands to inform subsequent monitoring activities to measure changes from the future fishway.

Targeted cigarette butt source reduction media campaign

Reef Catchments

Reef Catchments, supported by the Mackay Local Marine Advisory Committee, is building on its first Local Action project in 2019-20 to reduce litter at its source and prevent it from entering the Great Barrier Reef. Last year, the project delivered four community engagement events with 66 community volunteers that counted and sorted debris from 12 gross pollutant traps. The data identified cigarette butts as the most widespread and prolific pollutant in the region. This year, the litter and marine debris source reduction project will deliver an education and communication campaign to encourage smokers to stop tossing their cigarette butts.

Cape York Reef visitors interpretive signage

South Cape York Catchments

South Cape York Catchments, supported by Cape York Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners, will build on its first Local Action project in 2019-20 that created a Northern Great Barrier Reef Visitors Guide to encourage environmentally-friendly behaviour in locals and tourists. This year, the behaviour-change project will create and install three interpretive signs in visitor hotspot locations to further increase awareness and encourage visitors to minimise their impacts on the environment. Surveys will be conducted before and after the installation of the signs to monitor effectiveness.

Strain the drains Townsville

Townsville City Council

Townsville City Council, supported by Townsville Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners, is building on a project delivered by Conservation Volunteers Australia in 2019-20 that developed a Townsville Urban Marine Debris Strategy. Last year, the project conducted beach clean-ups, created school educational resources, analysed data from litter traps and drafted the strategy. This year, the litter and marine debris source reduction project will install 20 litter traps to prevent litter entering the Great Barrier Reef through Ross Creek. The project will hold community engagement events, collect and analyse data from the traps, update the strategy, and develop source reduction programs to address hotspot areas.

Twin Creek Restoration Project – Area D

Whitsunday Regional Council

Whitsunday Regional Council, supported by Whitsunday Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners, is building on its first Local Action project in 2019-20 to undertake stage two of its revegetation project. Last year, 1,500 native trees were planted by the community to address erosion and water quality issues by restoring the riparian vegetation along this popular local creek that feeds into the Great Barrier Reef. This year, the habitat restoration project will plant another 1,500 native trees with the community, including Whitsunday Landcare Catchment volunteers. This will further stabilise the degraded urban creek system and increase biodiversity. The site will be monitored and an interpretive sign will be installed to increase awareness of the community planting site and the role that riparian vegetation plays in addressing water quality issues for the Great Barrier Reef.

Schools and community ecologically engineered drainage improvements

Johnstone River Catchment Management Association Inc

Johnstone River Catchment Management Association supported by the Cassowary Coast Local Marine Advisory Committee and project partners are improving urban drainage systems for improved water quality, increased biodiversity and as an educational resource.

#Local-scale coral restoration and stewardship

Establishing the Cairns-Port Douglas Hub and investing in on-ground Reef stewardship and restoration projects.

Cairns-Port Douglas Hub

The Cairns-Port Douglas Hub will build on, and accelerate, work underway on local Reef site stewardship and connect local action with large-scale coral intervention and adaptation research.

Coral Nurture Program

A unique tourism-research partnership in the Cairns-Port Douglas region is building reef site stewardship capacity through supporting nursery-based coral propagation, out-planting and monitoring of 100,000 corals on local reefs. This project will build knowledge about the cost-effectiveness of coral out-planting at scale across diverse “high value” sites and operations, as well as explore sustainable financing options to deliver a new reef stewardship model needed to enhance resilience under climate change. The project brings together five local tourism operators working with University of Technology Sydney to evaluate and optimise practices for wider adoption.

Wavelength/Reef Guardians Coral Larvae Project

This project tests a new method of creating coral larval seeding units using “mini-tiles”: small clay tiles that offer a place for new coral larvae to settle and grow. Such mini-tiles could play a future role in local-scale restoration and be a useful tool for researching how micro-habitat influences coral out-plant survival. STEM students will help with the making of the mini-tiles, and participate in coral monitoring.

The use of mini-tiles is made possible by Coralclips, a small attachment device developed by Wavelength that enables rapid and secure fixing to any consolidated reef substrate.

The project focuses on 'brooder' coral species, which fertilise and release relatively advanced coral larvae that are almost immediately ready to settle, unlike 'broadcast spawning' coral species that release eggs and sperm into the ocean, and larval development then takes days to weeks.

KulBul – the Spirit of Sea Country

The combination of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) with contemporary biological monitoring practices can help to holistically assess the health of coral reef sites. The KulBul project aims to develop a scalable template for site stewardship plans for tourism operators and Traditional Owners to promote and conserve the outstanding natural and cultural values of the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. The plans will guide future on-ground actions, including interventions at three reefs in Yirrganydji sea country.

Together, Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation, Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel, Reef Restoration Foundation will develop a comprehensive reef assessment tool, drawing on ancestral knowledge, inspiration and insights from a local Yirrganydji Traditional Owner perspective that may be relevant to informing and guiding reef intervention methods on the Great Barrier Reef. The project team along with our project partners (Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, James Cook University and Mars) will engage a range of community partners through a series of educational training workshops.

#Community Action Plans

Community Action Plan Leaders along the length of the Reef are right now working with their communities to collaboratively plan coastal, estuarine, citizen science and local action projects tailored to their region.

Cape York Reef Community Action Plan

Cape York Natural Resource Management

Cape York Natural Resource Management is leading the development of the Cape York Reef Community Action Plan in partnership with South Cape York Catchments. Engagements will be focused in the Bloomfield, Cooktown and Hopevale regions and will provide an opportunity to combine the voices of Traditional Owners, community members and youth, and bring together different views on Reef protection actions that will reduce local and climatic impacts on the Reef.

Burdekin Dry Tropics Reef Community Action Plan

NQ Dry Tropics & Reef Ecologic

NQ Dry Tropics is leading the development of the Burdekin Dry Tropics Reef Community Action Plan (CAP) in collaboration with Reef Ecologic. Reef Ecologic will be leading communication activities for the CAP and delivering specific youth engagement opportunities. Engagements to develop the CAP will be focused on the Townsville, Ayr and Bowen regions. The CAP will increase the coordination and collaboration between community groups in the region that are working towards Reef resilience and develop strategic community-based projects.

Magnetic Island Reef Community Action Plan

Magnetic Island Community Development Association (MICDA)

MICDA is leading the development of the Magnetic Island Reef Community Action Plan (CAP). This local scale CAP will build the leadership capacity of Magnetic Island residents through the co-design and implementation of a range of accelerated, targeted actions to promote Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area resilience.

Mackay Whitsunday Isaac Community Action Plan

Reef Catchments

Reef Catchments is leading the development of the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac Community Action Plan (CAP). A broad range of stakeholders from the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac regions will be invited to develop visions, high priority goals and associated projects as part of a relevant and useful living document to guide the community to achieve meaningful change.

Capricorn Coast Reef Community Action Plan

Fitzroy Basin Association & Capricornia Catchments

Fitzroy Basin Association is leading the development of the Capricorn Coast Reef Community Action Plan (CAP) in collaboration with Capricornia Catchments. Capricornia Catchments will lead the community engagement activities including with Traditional Owners and the delivery of specific youth engagement opportunities. The CAP will identify local priorities, plan future on-ground community actions and integrate, collate and celebrate the actions of diverse community stakeholders.

Burnett Mary Reef Community Action Plan

Burnett Mary Regional Group

Burnett Mary Regional Group is leading the development of the Burnett Mary Reef Community Action Plan (CAP). The CAP will focus on communities within the coastal, estuarine and marine areas of the Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and Gympie Local Government areas and the traditional Land and Sea Country of the Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang, Tarebilang Bunda, Bailai and Butchulla peoples.