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 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 Wuthathi 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 Wuthathi TUMRA, Traditional Owners advised they did not only want to alter the permit system for traditional activities, additionally, they wanted to develop and manage their own community-based plans for preservation of the Reef.
Traditional use of marine resources encompass: fishing, collecting, hunting and gathering.
Traditional use of marine resource activities can only be conducted in accordance with s 211 of the Native Title Act 1993, the Wuthathi TUMRA or as permitted in writing by the GBRMPA.
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 Wuthathi 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 initial emphasis of the agreement is on the management and hunting of dugong and green turtles within the area covered by the agreement, as they are 'traditional activities'.
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]
- [TUMRAs] will be developed between the Traditional Owners groups and the GBRMPA for cooperatively managing a wide range of 'sea country' issues, and
- Guidelines for establishing...[TUMRAs] (including the contents of such agreements) will be established in consultation with Traditional Owner groups, representative bodies and the Environment Protection Agency
In proposing the new system, the Wuthathi Traditional Owners and GBRMPA agreed (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, RAP Information Sheet, 2002, 1):
- the new system will provide a sound basis for achieving sustainable levels of harvesting as necessary for species conservation
- the new system will meet obligations and establish a framework that is consistent with the Native Title Act 1993, and
- the new system will encourage cooperative and culturally appropriate management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
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.
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.
For further information on these arrangements, see the link to the Great Barrier Reef Management Authority below.
Native Title Provisions
Native Title in the Agreement Area
This agreement is within the area of the native title determination Wuthathi People #2 v State of Queensland  FCA 380 (FCA file no.: QUD6022/2002, NNTT file no.: QCD2015/005).