GBR Traditional Owners empowered by TWQ Hub-supported workshop to begin projects on their country

Effective techniques for restoration of coral reef systems is seen as increasingly important as health impacts continue to compound on the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs worldwide. Best Practice Coral Restoration for Great Barrier Reef aims to collate and evaluate existing restoration projects and approaches and communicates knowledge of effective techniques to decision-makers.

Project leader Dr. Ian McLeod (James Cook University) in collaboration with Reef Ecologic recently delivered a Reef Leadership and Restoration Workshop at Orpheus Island in November 2019. The Tropical Water Quality Hub supported seven GBR Traditional Owners to attend the Workshop.

Gidarjil Development Corporation represents Traditional Owners of the Port Curtis Coral Coast (PCCC) region. Two Land and Sea Rangers were supported in attending Orpheus Island workshop, where they learned new skills in the identification of a wider range of coral and fish species from outside their traditional sea country area and new knowledge about coral restoration.

Gidarjil has now launched the ‘Belbendimin Wulgan Djau’ (‘Caring for Sea Country’) coral monitoring project in the PCCC region and in Butchulla Sea Country, a neighbouring Traditional Owner Sea Country Region. This project is supported by funding from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Office of the Great Barrier Reef.

Belbendimin Wulgan Djau fills a gap on up-to-date consistent information on coral conditions and fish populations in these areas. Eight Gidarjil Sea Country Rangers and two Ranger Coordinators are tasked on the project, which consists of Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) standard reef sampling methods (detailed 5x50m photograph transects spaced 20m apart with a resolution of 1 photo per metre) at multiple survey sites, in addition to counts of live fish and macroinvertebrates along transect lines.

Along with providing detailed information on natural variability in coral condition and fish numbers, these transects also document the effects of acute impact events such as cyclones, mass coral bleaching and Crown-of-Thorns Starfish outbreaks.

Sea Ranger Coordinator Saranne Giudice said the skills picked up by Gidarjil Rangers at the Reef Leadership and Restoration Workshop ‘definitely contributed’ to Gidarjil’s ability to start the project.

“The workshop definitely contributed to the Gidarjil sea ranger’s coral species, fish and macroinvertebrate identification skills and also their experience and confidence in the water,” she said.

“The planning and restoration skills they gained will also set us in good stead to identify any of our inshore reefs that could benefit from restoration.”

Ms. Giudice said the workshop was personally beneficial to the two young Indigenous Sea Rangers that attended and to the wider organisation as a whole when those rangers returned to share what they had learned.

“The Gidarjil Sea Rangers who attended the workshop found it beneficial in a number of ways,” she said.

“Information – the presenters from Reef Ecologic were very knowledgeable and the rangers were excited to learn the names of new coral species and fish that we have not observed in our own Sea Country. When they returned, they sat down with the other members of the team and our coral and fish identification books to show them the new species they had seen. The rangers were also fascinated by the different ways to restore coral populations, in particular coral gardening, and are already thinking ahead about ways we could incorporate the techniques they learned, should our inshore coral reefs become increasingly degraded.

“The rangers also made several awesome connections at the workshop, particularly with the other Indigenous rangers who attended. They really enjoyed talking about the differences between their Sea Countries and their different dreaming stories and they remain in contact today. They all commented that they were in awe of the Elders who attended, particularly Mr Peter Pryor – they said his words during the Acknowledgement of Country made them feel proud and strong. It was also a wonderful opportunity for the rangers to network with other people interested in caring for the reef.

“Our youngest ranger attended the workshop and he said the experience helped him to start feeling more confident when talking to the broader community about the reef and his connection to the reef.”

The technical report is available online, with more information on Best practice coral restoration for the Great Barrier Reef and other restoration and remediation research available on the TWQ Hub website.


Photo: Reef Ecologic


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