$5 million to support better management of dugongs

The role of Indigenous communities in protecting and managing dugongs will be expanded under a new $5 million Gillard Government package announced today.

Federal Minister for Environment, Tony Burke, and Queensland Environment Minister, Vicky Darling, today announced the funding package which comes at a crucial time for Queensland's dugong population which is suffering the ongoing effects of the state's summer floods and cyclones.

Mr Burke said the new funding would foster greater leadership and education in Indigenous communities in regard to sustainable traditional dugong and turtle hunting.

"This project, from beginning to end, is about Indigenous leadership," Mr Burke said.

"The knowledge of Traditional Owners is crucial to our ongoing management of dugongs and sea-country in Queensland.

"This new funding will help engage with Traditional Owners to manage dugongs and broader sea country activities such as sustainable traditional practices and community-led compliance work.

"Regional forums will be the first step to establishing community-based management planning and partnering with scientists to monitor dugong populations."

Under the package Traditional Owners will be able to apply directly for funding to increase leadership and capacity in sea country management.

"Where there is community demand there are opportunities for teams of Queensland Parks and Wildlife rangers to support communities in the management effort," Mr Burke said.

"In the long term, this will build sustainable dugong management skills, while in the short term there are opportunities to provide training in dugong management and compliance."

The funding recognises that there will be a community-by-community approach to dugong and turtle management and sets out the framework to provide a range of support measures.

It will also bring together traditional ecological knowledge and western science to provide a better view of the dugong population, their habitats and the effectiveness of management actions.

"There will be opportunities to support the participation of Traditional Owners in monitoring and data collection to help with local management planning. Engaging with Indigenous communities is essential to ensuring the long term protection and management of dugong populations in Queensland," Mr Burke said.

"Today's announcement will also support Traditional Owners to come together to discuss priorities and advise government on how best to support Indigenous communities to effectively manage dugong and marine resources."

Dugongs are protected under both Commonwealth and Queensland legislation. However, dugong populations along the Great Barrier Reef coast and in the Torres Strait are under considerable threat, particularly as Queensland's summer floods and cyclones had a devastating effect on seagrass beds - their major food source.

"We are seeing large number of both dugong and turtle deaths this year as a direct result of a lack of food source and while hunting of these animals continues in Indigenous communities, it is not the main game in the numbers of deaths this year," Ms Darling said.

"But we recognise that many communities have already taken the lead on dugong hunting and sustainable hunting numbers - these communities see protection of dugong as a priority and they want control of policing their own communities," Ms Darling said.

"It's imperative we act in partnership with our Indigenous communities and encourage them to be our eyes and ears to stamp out poaching.

"Additionally, this funding package will focus on monitoring this species and their habitat.

"The conservative side of politics, such as the LNP, has consistently opted for regulation to address hunting. We don't believe a heavy handed approach is necessary if you have well resourced communities managing a local response to dugong conservation, which is what this package is designed to do."

The initiative builds on existing Australian and Queensland Government investment under the Working on Country Indigenous ranger program, Wild River Ranger and Reef Rescue programs and is undertaken in conjunction with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

This page was last updated on 8 September 2011