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).
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 Dharumbal / Woppaburra 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 the establishment of various 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).
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 Woppaburra people 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 Dharumbal / Woppaburra TUMRA ensures Woppaburra Traditional Owners form a 'Steering Committee', responsible for prohibiting and authorising certain traditional activities in the Woppaburra Section of the Great Barrier Reef. The Steering Committee works with Traditional Owners, rangers and Government, to cooperatively minimise illegal hunting activities in the region.
The TUMRA, specifically (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2007, 41):
- identifies who the Traditional owners are for the Dharumbal TUMRA (Woppaburra Section)
- imposes a limit on Traditional Owners regarding the traditional activity of turtle harvesting, dugong harvesting
- prohibits hunting by other Indigenous people within the Dharumbal TUMRA area, who are not family to the Woppaburra people
The agreement is to be integrated with the existing zoning and management plans of the GBRMPA so that (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, RAP Information Sheet, 2002, 1):
- Traditional Owners will continue to have access to all zones in the Marine Park according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander custom or tradition, for activities not involving the take of animals, plants or marine products
- Traditional fishing and collecting can be conducted 'as of right' (without a permit) in those zones which generally allow for fishing and collecting
- Traditional hunting of dugong and turtle, and other traditional use that would not be an 'as of right' activity, will be managed through TUMRAs
- Agreements and partnerships will be developed between the Traditional Owners groups and the GBRMPA for cooperatively managing a wide range of 'sea country' issues.
- Guidelines for establishing partnerships, programs and agreements (including the contents of such agreements) will be established in consultation with Traditional Owner groups, representative bodies and the Environment Protection Agency
The Dharumbal / Woppaburra TUMRA proposes a new system where proportionality balances sustainable levels of harvesting with species conservation.
The cooperative arrangements provided for by the agreement complement several other measures providing for the recognition of Indigenous rights and cooperative management including the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). Measures specific to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park include:
- statutory provisions for the appointment of at least one representative of Traditional Owners on the Board of the GBRMPA
- participation on regional and local advisory committees, and
- the establishment of an Indigenous Partnerships Liaison Unit within the Authority.
For further information on these arrangements follow the link to the Great Barrier Reef Management Authority below.
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.