Aboriginal engagement in marine park conservation and management

Ms Zoe Cozens1

1Parks Australia, Marine Protected Areas Branch, Kingston, Australia


Parks Australia manages more than 3 million square kilometres of Australia’s ocean, in 58 marine parks located in Commonwealth waters around the country.

In recognition that Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country, including areas now in marine parks, for tens of thousands of years, and the deep understanding and experience that Indigenous people can contribute, Parks Australia has committed to working with Indigenous people to collaboratively manage these parks into the future.

To inform our approach to this collaboration, Parks Australia worked with representatives from land councils, native title representative bodies and Indigenous ranger groups to develop a set of collaborative management principles to support Indigenous involvement in the management of Australian Marine Parks. These principles have informed development of management plans for these parks, as well as our approach to building partnerships and engaging with Indigenous people about marine parks.

Parks Australia has also committed to a national Indigenous engagement program, which is building partnerships with traditional owners and Indigenous people with responsibilities for sea country.

In many locations, Indigenous communities have established ranger groups and dedicated Indigenous Protected Areas over sea country nearby or overlapping with Australian Marine Parks. These rangers are making a significant contribution to the management of sea country, including in Australian Marine Parks.

Though the Indigenous engagement program, we are developing partnership and contracts to support Indigenous rangers and groups to manage our marine parks, taking actions like monitoring and research, surveillance, marine debris clean-ups and patrols.

This is an exciting time for Parks Australia, building partnerships that we hope will last the test of time and strengthen our approach to managing Australia’s important and unique oceans.


I have worked for the Department of Environment for the last 10+ years on migratory and marine species,  marine bioregional planning, marine park design,  planning and management and also worked as the manager of the cultural heritage and biodiversity management team at Kakadu National Park. Currently I lead the Indigenous engagement program for Australian Marine Parks (formerly known as Commonwealth Marine Reserves).