Coastal News

elemental mktg Named Agency of Record for Great Barrier Reef Foundation

elemental mktg is proud to announce its partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (Queensland, Australia) to elevate the voices of the Traditional Owners of the land and sea Country on and around the Great Barrier Reef.

Australia’s First Nations Peoples are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Many have enduring ancestral and cultural ties to specific areas and are referred to as Traditional Owners. For more than 60,000 years, they have successfully cared for Country using ecological Knowledge passed down through ancestral lines. Now, they are being called upon to co-design critical conservation methods and strategies with the scientific community to mitigate the effects of climate change, and a range of additional local threats to one of the world’s most delicate and complex ecosystems—the Great Barrier Reef.

On April 10, five representatives of Traditional Owner groups will present their groundbreaking model for co-design and co-delivery at the UN Ocean Decades Conference (Event: Indigenous Knowledge systems and community-engaged ocean science) as a leading example of what’s possible when Indigenous Knowledge is combined with western science to create better, stronger, and more enduring outcomes.

What’s happening?

Currently, a mass bleaching event—a widespread, catastrophic heat stress event that threatens the survival of the Reef—is taking place for the eighth time since 1998. While bleached corals are not dead, they are more susceptible to starvation and disease. The bleaching in Australia follows catastrophic mass bleaching during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer in Florida and parts of the Caribbean.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs around the world. Our planet has lost half of its coral reefs since the 1950s. Warmer water temperatures are causing more frequent and severe mass coral bleaching events, while intense weather events like cyclones, flooding, and storms are battering the reefs that remain. A range of other local threats are also impacting the Reef such as poor water quality and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is the lead charity for the Reef, dedicated to finding and growing the best solutions to protect the world’s largest reef from threats. Through the Reef Trust Partnership, an AU$443 million Partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Foundation is working with more than 560 partners on more than 415 Reef conservation projects.

Of this, AU$51.8 million was invested in Traditional Owner-led Reef protection. So far, AU$17.2 million of the budget has already been directly invested into 85 conservation programs led by 33 Traditional Owner organizations, representing 65 Traditional Owner groups. This is the largest ever investment in Indigenous conservation on the Great Barrier Reef and is a world-first co-design and co-delivery model. By honoring the past, co-design strives to protect the future of the Reef while ensuring the ancient Knowledge of Traditional Owners is not lost.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said, “Traditional Owners have nurtured a harmonious and reciprocal relationship with the Reef and the land surrounding it over millennia, through deep spiritual and cultural connections. We're proud to walk in step with Traditional Owners as they generously share their ancient Knowledge and wisdom so that together we can secure a bright future for the Reef.”

Already, this work is having a positive impact and Traditional Owners are ready to share their stories with the world.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Director of Traditional Owner Strategic Initiatives Liz Wren said, “Every day, we see incredible leadership from Traditional Owners using their voices, actions, and cultural Knowledge to care for land and sea Country and protect the Reef. As global leaders in best-practice nature-positive solutions, their stories are changing the global conversation about how best to protect the world’s remaining biodiversity.”

How are Traditional Owners involved?

Traditional Owners are the original custodians of their lands and sea, which are intrinsically linked ecosystems referred to as “Country.” Traditional Owners have deep cultural connections with their Country and take a holistic approach to conservation that inextricably links environmental, animal, and human health and wellbeing.

Concerned about the declining health of the Reef, Traditional Owners sought formal inclusion in management and conservation activities happening on their Country and drafted a Healing Country statement calling for action.

Now, more than 65 Traditional Owner groups are actively involved in creating stronger First Nations-led processes, inclusive governance and management of the Reef, employment pathways for Traditional Owners, and conservation methods that recognize cultural values and diversity.

Yuku Baja Muliku Traditional Owner and Earthshot Prize winner Larissa Hale said, “Scientists are starting to listen and understand that Traditional Owners know what they’re talking about. Scientists are realizing that if they work with Traditional Owners, they’re going to get better outcomes.”


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