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Cultural economic development

Published 8 September 2023 Working with Aboriginal communities to increase opportunities to work and develop businesses on Sea Country.


Aboriginal people have cared for Sea Country for thousands of years, passing on their knowledge and tradition to each new generation.

The Cultural Economic Development project is working with communities to increase the number of local Aboriginal people working on Sea Country both as employees and in their own businesses.

We are doing this by providing accredited training for marine skills qualifications (such as a Coxswain certificate) as well as business support.

Check out the videos below to see how participants have trained to work on Sea Country, or develop their own business on Sea Country, in the NSW Sea country Playlist.

Some Sea Country videos you can see include:

Business support

We are supporting Aboriginal people to start and expand businesses such as cultural tourism, commercial and charter fishing across the NSW coast.

This business support includes assistance with business planning, marketing and grant writing.

Marine skills training

The marine skills training program is co-designed with Aboriginal communities across NSW and commenced in 2018.

This collaboration ensures all the programs are culturally appropriate and meet the needs of communities.

For instance, training programs include Aboriginal mentors to guide and assist participants through the course.

The high completion rate shows that this approach works.

To date, more than 300 Aboriginal people from communities up and down the NSW coast have participated in the program to gain qualifications as detailed below.

  • Accredited training
  • General Boat Licence
  • Scientific Diver Certificate
  • Senior First Aid Certificate
  • Open Water Diver Certificate
  • Certificate I in Maritime Operations (General Purpose Hand)
  • Certificate II in Maritime Operations (Coxswain Grade 1 Near Coastal)
  • Certificate II in Tourism
  • Non-accredited training
  • Flatwater training
  • Plastic recycling training

Training has been conducted with Aboriginal communities across the NSW coast, from Tweed Heads to Eden.

Graduates have used these skills to gain employment in the industry and develop their own marine businesses.

Did you know?

Two Aboriginal owned and operated businesses, Gadu Charters and Joonga Land and Water Aboriginal Corporation Narooma, were awarded NSW Government SMART Drumline contracts through an open tender process in 2022.

Both businesses are staffed largely by graduates of this program.

Participant feedback

“I decided to do the course to further my knowledge and make myself more employable.”

Ron Pearce, Participant in Certificate II in Maritime Operations.

“We’re all saltwater people here, we all used to be seafarers here, so to do that again now is just amazing.”

Adrian Webster, Participant Certificate II in Maritime Operations.

“It has always been a goal of mine to work for Fisheries or National Parks so I can protect my sites and culture and hand that over to my community and my family.”

Gordon Campbell, Participant in General Boat Licence training.


Training has occurred in multiple locations in NSW

  • General Boat Licence (GBL) – Narooma, Huskisson, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Urunga, McLean and Ballina
  • Deckhand – Huskisson and Narooma
  • Coxswains – Huskisson, Narooma and Ballina
  • Certificate II in Tourism – Narooma and Arrawarra
  • Flatwater canoe training – Coffs Harbour

Local government areas - Ballina Shire Council, Bellingen Shire Council, City of Newcastle, Clarence Valley Council, Coffs Harbour City Council, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Port Stephens Council, Shoalhaven City Council

Lead agency

Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries


We are working with local councils, the Recreational Fishing Saltwater Trust Fund (DPI Fisheries), and other government agencies and communities to complete this project.

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