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Survey reveals what Sea Country means to Aboriginal Peoples


Aboriginal image with graphic showing Aboriginal art design fish lobster and hands together (indicating ‘working together’)


The recent Connection to Sea Country – Aboriginal Peoples of Coastal NSW survey has confirmed the crucial significance of Sea Country to cultural connections, and the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal Peoples.

Aboriginal communities in 11 locations along the NSW coast were invited to complete a survey. This survey was co-designed with DPI and the Ipsos Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Unit and delivered by local Aboriginal people.  Over 560 people were engaged across these locations to understand how important the coast, or Sea Country, is to them.

The answers highlighted that Aboriginal Peoples hold a deep sense of cultural and personal duty of care for Sea Country, expressing concerns about current and future environmental threats and impacts.  

One community member revealed, “To be out on Country is very important to my quality of life. I have grown up on Sea Country my whole life, it is a part of who I am, it helps my health, mental health and wellbeing to stay culturally connected to mother earth and passing on knowledge to my kids through being able to take them out on Country.”

The survey found factors impacting Aboriginal Peoples’ cultural connections to Sea Country include habitat damage or loss, illegal activities, restricted access to culturally significant sites due to management practices, and climate change.

As one participant put it, “Climate change is ruining the environment for the next generations. This impacts on how we can teach the young ones about the environment”.

Natalie Gollan, Senior Manager of Marine Estate - Monitoring and Evaluation-Community Wellbeing is part of the survey team.

“This is the first time we have conducted a survey of this type. It was commissioned to better understand what connections to Sea Country means for Aboriginal Peoples of Coastal NSW and what we need to do to have a healthy, thriving Sea Country now, and for future generations,” she said.

“We greatly appreciated the volume and depth of feedback we have received from the survey. This is just the start. We want to share the report findings and continue to work together, as we implement projects to protect Aboriginal cultural values as part of the Marine Estate Management Strategy.”

You can learn more about the findings from the Connections to Sea Country – Aboriginal People of Coastal NSW Report (Wave 1), including animations, factsheet and a toolkit on NSW marine estate website.

The NSW Marine Estate Community Wellbeing Survey is a DPI Fisheries project funded via the Marine Estate Management strategy.


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