Today, Australia’s Traditional Owners with responsibility for Sea Country have come together in Canberra to speak with one voice for Sea Country rights.
The Alliance represents all coastal state and territories, from the Torres Strait Islands to Tiwi Islands, mainland Australia to Tasmania, ensuring that the complexity of our diverse seas, oceans and coastal areas are recognised.
The formation of the Sea Country Alliance was made at a national meeting of Traditional Owners in November last year, representing a step forward in realising the crucial role that Traditional Owners play in protecting and managing their offshore rights.
The Alliance is pleased to introduce its inaugural co-chairs, Dr Heron Loban a proud Mabuyag Malu Ki’ai woman and Gareth Ogilvie a Yamatji-Nanda man and welcomes them both in their newly nominated roles.
The Sea Country Alliance is mandated to ensure the complexity of Traditional Owner rights for seas, oceans and coastal areas are recognised. The Alliance will seek to ensure that that in policy and regulation, Sea Country is recognised not just as a resource but as a cultural place providing sustenance for plants, animals, people and culture.
“As Traditional Owners, our voices must be heard, and our rights respected. Australia must not just meet but exceed international best practice in approaching Sea Country as a holistic environment that includes cultural significance, plants and animals and minerals,” states Co-Chair Heron Loban.
“Our Songlines connect the heart of Australia to the Australian coastline as it once was, now far out at sea and reflected into the sky. Our islands are connected to each other and to the mainland through our dreaming and our stories. We understand Sea Country and terrestrial Country as one. One entity that includes people, plants and animals,” says Co-Chair Gareth Ogilvie
The significance of the Alliance and the responsibilities of its represented members is enormous.
“Our connection to Sea Country is as important as it is to land, and yet, the protections that recognise our rights aren’t the same. For over 65,000 years Traditional Owners have cared for Sea Country, ensuring that the ecosystems thrived, and cultural connections remained strong,” Mr Ogilvie further explains.
“Australia’s bountiful oceans, with diverse species of animals and plants, were sustainably managed by our people for far, far longer than they have been by managed by others,” continues Dr Loban.
Recent decisions in the Federal Court and increasing pressure on Sea Country resources, be that oil, gas or wind; have created an environment of uncertainty.
On the newly formed Alliance and its role to help shape the offshore regulatory and statutory environment, the work now is to ensure that Traditional Owners are at the forefront of decision making as Sea Country rights holders.
The Sea Country Alliance has already started talking to government, international First Nations communities, industry and community to chart a reasonable way forward.
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Heron Loban | Co-Chair
Dr Loban is a proud Mabuyag Malu Ki’ai woman, lawyer, academic and company director. She is currently in-house counsel with Queensland South Native Title Services and is also a company director for Mura Lagh, a First Nations owned and led consulting firm.
She has also recently served as the Director of First Nations Strategy at Queensland Performing Arts Centre and held numerous academic positions including Senior Lecturer posts at Griffith University and James Cook University. Her PHD thesis was on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and consumer law.
Her work as a lawyer has seen Dr Loban work as Principal Legal Officer at Gur A Baradharaw (GBK) Torres Strait Sea and Land Council, CEO of the Torres Strait and NPA Legal Service, solicitor with Torres Strait Regional Authority and as a solicitor with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Gareth Ogilvie | Co-Chair
Gareth Ogilvie is a Yamatji-Nanda man and is a strong role and positive role model for young Yamatji Traditional Owners.
Gareth is a graduate of the University of Melbourne and was previously admitted to practice as an Australian Lawyer at the Supreme Court of Victoria, Western Australia, and the High Court of Australia.
Gareth worked at the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department before moving on to work as a Native Title Lawyer at the Kimberly Land Council.
Gareth is currently the Executive Officer for the Bardi and Jawi Niimidiman Prescribed Body Corporate in the West Kimberley, where he is working to build the cultural, physical, and economic capacity of the Bardi and Jawi Traditional Owners so that they can realise their distinctive relationship
with their land and waters.
Sarah Easson / email@example.com / 0419 228 642
Additional images available on request.