UWA and Traditional Owners secure $650k for marine park health

21/06/2024 | 3 mins

In a significant boost to marine conservation efforts, The University of Western Australia and First Nations partners have been awarded more than $650,000 for two projects that will help Traditional Owner groups better monitor and manage the health of Australian marine parks.

"The funding will be key to helping us share Sea Country knowledge and support First Nations people in getting more involved in managing and setting priorities for these marine parks."

Dr Matt Navarro, UWA School of Biological Sciences

One project will see UWA partner with six saltwater Bibbulmun Noongar groups in WA’s South West to build and share knowledge of culturally significant marine life and identify priorities for the management of Sea Country.

The second project will allow UWA to work with the Mayala Inninalang Aboriginal Corporation, to support monitoring and protection of key reef species such as trochus (a type of medium-to-large-sized, top-shaped sea snails).

The funding announcement was made at the UWA Oceans Institute by Patrick Gorman MP and Senator Sue Lines, who were joined by project leads Dr Matt Navarro and Dr Tim Langlois from the Oceans Institute along with Traditional Owner project partners.

Marine park group shot

Image: Dr Abbie Rogers, Noel Morich, Professor Anna Nowak, Dr Matt Navarro, Dr Wayne Webb, Toni Webb, Patrick Gorman MP, Senator Sue Lines, Zac Webb, Shawn Colbung, Tim Langlois and Terry Morich at the funding announcement. Image provided by Patrick Gorman's office. Photographer Anna Churack.

“The Waatu Wardan Kaartdijin project represents a major partnership across saltwater Bibbulmun Noongar peoples so that Traditional Owner culture is incorporated into the management of the Australian Marine Parks," Dr Navarro said.

“The funding will be key to helping share Sea Country knowledge and supporting leadership from First Nations people in managing and setting priorities for these marine parks.”

The Mayala Inninalang project, led by Drs Jane Prince, Renae Hovey and Matilda Murley, will help establish a monitoring program for Traditional Owners to manage their offshore marine resources, particularly culturally significant intertidal invertebrate species. 

Dr Murley said an additional outcome would be the benchmarking of marine biodiversity in the Kimberley Marine Park.

“The project will allow the Mayala people to visit and connect with remote parts of their Sea Country and enable them to effectively manage these pristine marine ecosystems,” Dr Murley said.  

Nice sandy beach

The announcement was part of the broader Australian Governments Our Marine Parks Round 4 program which included more than $2 million for eight projects across WA for initiatives that enhance the understanding and management of marine parks through partnerships with Traditional Owners and other stakeholders.

“UWA's involvement in two of the eight funded projects underscores the University's commitment to collaborative, culturally informed environmental stewardship,” Dr Navarro said.

“These partnerships not only highlight the importance of integrating traditional knowledge with Western scientific research but also set a precedent for future collaborative efforts in marine conservation.”

For more information about Australian Marine Parks and about the Australian Governments Our Marine Parks program, see here.

Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media Advisor, 08 6488 7975

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