Flourishing Oceans24 May 2023

Indigenous women take on advanced marine conservation training

A group of eight First Nations women have completed the first seven week program for Indigenous women in advanced marine conservation training on the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo Credit: Coral Sea Foundation.

The women from North Queensland, Papua New Guinea, and Zenadth Kes (Torres Straits Islands) have been learning marine science field skills for conservation, monitoring, and research on tropical coral reefs. The program, supported by Minderoo Foundation, aims to help develop networks between Indigenous women in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Zenadth Kes.

Principal Researcher at Minderoo Foundation Dr. Kate Quigley said the Sea Women of the Great Barrier Reef program was a great opportunity to enable Indigenous women to get more involved in monitoring the health of sea country.

“The women in the program come from diverse backgrounds and locations, but it’s great to see they all share a passion for protecting our marine environments and learning new skills,” Dr Quigley said.

“I have no doubt that these women will make a significant impact in their communities and beyond, and I look forward to seeing the positive changes they will bring about in the marine conservation space.”


Photo Credit: Coral Sea Foundation.

The seven-week marine science and conservation intensive courses are delivered at Magnetic Island and the nearby areas of the Great Barrier Reef. They are supported by the Sea Women of Melanesia and Coral Sea Foundation.

Executive Director Dr Andy Lewis said the program has been ground-breaking in so many ways.

“It has been a pleasure to bring it to fruition with the support of the Minderoo Foundation,” Dr Lewis said.

“The women in the program have forged new connections around the Coral Sea arc, and the speed with which they learned advanced reef survey techniques has broad and far-reaching implications for the development of marine monitoring programs for First Nations communities, the involvement of women in those programs, and the improvement of gender equity within Indigenous conservation organisations.

“The graduate trainees from this program will now be able to take a lead role in monitoring and caring for their traditional sea country and will be instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of protecting the oceans. They will also be able to communicate the ecological, educational, social, and economic importance of sanctuary zones to the public.”


Photo Credit: Coral Sea Foundation.

Participant Quotes

“It has been fantastic participating in the program since the beginning. I personally have learnt a lot from the all the field and classroom sessions, with the instructors. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the women.”

Kerryanne Molai, Director, Sea Women of Melanesia Inc., Papua New Guinea

“This program has been a great learning experience as I’m a Mamu Ranger and haven’t had a lot of experience with looking after sea country. Mamu Rangers have only been established for a year and this program has opened my eyes to a lot of new skills, knowledge and potential monitoring programs to use to start looking after our sea country.”

Francis Joyce Senior Ranger for Mamu Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to learn in-depth about the conservation of marine life and ecosystems within our sea country, as well as combining science with traditional knowledge. I’ve been carefully taking in everything I’ve learnt, from advanced reef surveying methods to scuba diving and boat training, and I plan to use these new skills and knowledge to improve marine monitoring and conservation in sea country within Zenadth Kes, and I hope that after this I encourage other First Nations women to do the same.

Ky-Lou Sagigi, Traditional owner, Badu & Mer Islands, Zenadth Kes (Torres Straits Islands)

“I’m very grateful to be part of this training to learn new skills and share knowledge with other Indigenous women who share a passion for marine conservation.”

Mildred Kelokelo, Sea Women of Melanesia member and PhD Candidate, University of Newcastle.

“Such a wonderful experience to see women from PNG, Torres Strait and Northern Queensland participating in this program. From learning to snorkel to scuba diving and driving boats, their passion and interest in the ocean and sea country have been the best since the beginning. The skills that they’ve learnt are the tools they need to take back home and look after their sea country. It’s an amazing journey so far and I’m so glad to work with this team that is not only driven by the love for the ocean but have the courage to learn as much as they can, overcome their fear and keep ticking the boxes.”

Naomi Longa, Director, Sea Women of Melanesia PNG

Minderoo Foundation is committed to empowering First Nations women with the practical marine science skills they need to take a lead role in the sustainable management of the marine resources on their traditional sea country.

Click here to read more: https://www.seawomen.net/GBR/

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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