For traditional owners, the spiritual relationship with country has been likened to that with a member of the family: to be loved, nurtured, cared for and above all, respected (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2007, 3). The activities associated with the traditional use of marine resources have great significance and express the continuance of long cultural traditions.
Traditional Use Marine Resource Agreements (TUMRAs) are a new type of legal instrument that describes how Traditional Owner groups wish to manage the traditional use of marine resources (Department of Environment and Heritage, 2004, 3).
The Indigenous Land and Sea Country Partnerships Program is a $20 million investment in Traditional Owner management of the Great Barrier Reef. The program was created to provide resources and funds for the development and implementation of Traditional Use Marine Resource Agreements, such as the Girringun TUMRA. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 established a new framework where GBRMPA and traditional owners segregate different areas or 'zones' of sea country so they can be utilised for specific purposes. The new framework compliments existing community-based measures developed by Traditional Owner Groups to protect marine life while ensuring entitlements enshrined in the Native Title Act 1993 are recognised. The new framework replaces old Zoning Plans and gives more power to traditional owners in managing the reef's resources (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2007, 5).
Under the previous regulatory management approach, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people needed to apply for permits to undertake traditional activities like fishing, collecting and hunting in the Marine Park (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2007, 6).
In discussing the creation of the Girringun TUMRA, Traditional Owners advised they wanted to alter the permit system for traditional activities, by developing their own community-based management regulation plans for traditional activities and conservation.
As part of the new framework, only 'traditional owners' can undertake traditional use of marine resources. The Act includes various provisions that impose penalties for individuals who breach zones and management procedures.
Details of the Agreement:
The Girringun Traditional Owners and GBRMPA are working together to integrate modern marine management and traditional knowledge to ensure sustainability of the environment, while preserving traditional customs and connection to sea country.
The Girringun people from the nine Traditional Owner groups undertake traditional use of marine resource activities to:
- educate younger generations about traditional rules, protocols, practices and activities regarding custom on sea country
- practice their living maritime culture
- fish and collect resources to feed their families
- express traditional activities such as hunting dugong and turtles are are not 'as of right'
The aim of the TUMRA is to minimise the hunting of dugong and green turtles within the agreement area. The agreement area is divided into eight zones, each designed to obtain and preserve a different goal: (a) the General Use Zone; (b) the Habitat Protection Zone; (c) the Conservation Park Zone; (d) the Buffer Zone; (e) the Scientific Research Zone; (f) the Marine National Park Zone; (g) the Preservation Zone; (h) the Commonwealth Islands Zone.
The Girringun TUMRA provides a new framework and basis for achieving sustainable levels of harvesting, while (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, RAP Information Sheet, 2002, 1):
- meeting conservation obligations
- remaining consistent with the Native Title Act 1993
- encouraging cooperative and culturally appropriate management of the reef
- establishing an Indigenous Partnerships Liaison Unit within the GBRMPA