Australian Marine Parks

Framlingham Aboriginal Trust and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation, 2004.

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Kooyong Sea Country Plan, cover

About the plans

Australia’s Oceans Policy recognises the responsibilities and interests of Indigenous peoples in ocean environments.

The Policy’s objectives include “to involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the use, conservation and management of Australia’s marine jurisdiction”.

The Australian Government, through the National Oceans Office, has taken measures to engage Indigenous people in progressing key goals of Australia’s Oceans Policy.

Australia’s first Regional Marine Plan – the South-east Regional Marine Plan (SERMP) – was released in 2004. One of the actions identified in the Plan is the development of Sea Country plans as a potential vehicle for Indigenous involvement in natural resources uses and management.

Sea country planning aims to help Indigenous people negotiate with other marine managers and users to develop policies and institutional arrangements that are respectful of Indigenous peoples’ rights, interests and responsibilities in sea country.

A Sea Country Plan seeks to marry Indigenous communities’ priorities and aspirations with those of other oceans stakeholders to enhance shared investment in sustainable oceans management.

  • improve Indigenous participation in marine planning and management
  • address a range of cultural, ecological and economic issues and enable Indigenous people to identify opportunities to derive greater social and economic benefit from the management of sea country
  • facilitate Indigenous participation in sea country management at appropriate geographical and cultural scales and
  • help others develop greater understanding of Indigenous peoples’ sea country interests and responsibilities.

Preamble to Kooyang Sea Country Plan

The Kirrae Wirrung, Gunditj Mara and Gadabanud, collectively known as Maar (the people) are the first peoples of South-west Victoria.

Our coastal country extends approximately from the South Australian border eastward to Lorne and extends far out to sea.

Though severely and adversely impacted by European colonisation and settlement, we have retained contact with our traditional country, continued to use the resources of our country to sustain us and maintained our inherited responsibilities to take care of our country.

When we talk about our country we include the ocean, our sea country that provides so much of the resources we still depend upon for our wellbeing, and which covers the submerged lands that bear the footprints of our ancestors.

While we have retained our traditional ownership and responsibility to country, this ancient relationship between Maar, land, sea and natural resources has, by and large, been ignored by colonial administrations and their successors, right up to the government legislation and agencies of the present day.

The wealth of modern Victoria has been built on the land, sea and resources of Maar and other Aboriginal people of the region, while our rights and responsibilities, inherited through our own laws and customs, have not been recognised by those who now share our country.

The most worrying result of denying our control over natural resource management is the continued environmental destruction in our region.

The environment upon which we based our ancient and irreplaceable culture, and upon which the whole community now depends, has been mistreated by those who seized control, is sick and in need of healing.

We are not opposed to progress or to sharing our land and resources; it is what we have always done, but we would like to see some sharing by others too.

Sharing the economic benefits of the natural resources of the land and the sea, sharing the power to make decisions that impact on these natural resources and sharing the responsibility for caring properly for the country.

Our culture and traditions require us to take responsibility for maintaining the country in a healthy state. We owe this to our ancestors and to our future generations.

We consider this Sea Country Plan as an important step in re-asserting our responsibilities for the management and protection of the natural resources of our country.

We hope it will help us to address our concerns in a positive way. We feel our only influence at present lies in asserting our legal right to object to actions that damage our heritage.

While we will continue to assert this right if necessary, we believe it would be far better not to have to resort to this.

Respecting the values of our people and adopting the approaches outlined in this plan will lead to more ordered development decisions, less conflict and a sustainable future for the region.

Our Sea Country Plan outlines for ourselves and for others the things we are concerned about and how they need to be managed. This is not a selfish plan or one that seeks to exclude. It is us who have been excluded and this plan is an indication that we are not prepared to be spectators any more.

We invite others to read this plan, to consider openly what we have to say and to discuss it with us. We need your good will, support and advice and hope our Sea Country Plan guides our future co-existence with greater equality than in the past.

Our country needs us all working together, understanding its needs and limitations, not just what it can provide in the short term. Without this there is no healthy and sustainable future for any of us.