Traditional Owners along the Queensland coast possess important sea-country connections with the Great Barrier Reef. A history spanning thousands of years many Traditional Owners hold knowledge and wisdom about how we can best live sustainably with our natural environments. 

As part of our Citizen Science Project Reef Check Australia is working with Ngaro Traditional Owners to help improve and revitalise some of those sea-country connections. Australia’s history and treatment of some Aboriginal groups forced many off their land resulting in a broken bond with their ‘country’. Recently, two Ngaro Traditional Owners from Bowen, Lynndel and Milda Oui graduated as part of the Reef Check Australia Ambassador program. In this program community members learn about the Reef, threats to it and ways we can all help support its ongoing health and resilience. As part of the program graduates are expected and encouraged to lead and drive environmental initiatives and raise awareness in their community. 

As part of the training Lynndel and Milda joined RCA on a 3 day trip in the Whitsunday Islands learning a range of citizen science activities. “The first time we travelled out ‘on-country’, I did get emotional,” Lynndel said.”It was a special feeling for me. Being in the water, just to look at the reef, the damage that has been done and to see new life that is settling there. That was really exciting. I am walking away knowing a lot more about [the reef]. I definitely want to come back”. 

During the three days Lynndel and Milda learned about different citizen science methods and techniques including Eye on the Reef Rapid monitoring survey methods, CoralWatch Coral Health surveys and the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef’s Great Reef Census. All this data feeds into respective databases to help management know about and protect our marine environment.  

Recently, Lynndel’s daughter Milda, a 15 year old student from Bowen High School joined another expedition with project partner Reef Ecologic to undertake some monitoring and maintenance of their active reef restoration and helped restock their coral nurseries at two locations in the Whitsundays. 

“This trip was great because I recently became a Reef Check Ambassador and took a trip out on-country in the Whitsundays. On this trip it was great to learn about different methods to help protect our oceans” Milda said. “The best part about this trip has been being in the water because I love the ocean. I just want to stay there. I really enjoyed helping to put the corals in the discs and the ropes as part of the restoration activities to make coral nurseries and I look forward to sharing some of my experience with my family and friends when I get home”

The hope is that by supporting local Traditional Owners to develop stronger sea-country connections and learn techniques to monitor marine habitats, they may be able to play a more active role in managing these important environments. 

The Reef Check Australia Whitsundays Citizen Science Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation