Sea Country

As Australia’s peak professional body for marine scientists from all disciplines and for over 60 years has promoted all aspects of marine science in Australia. AMSA operates with a membership network of individuals and corporate affiliates as a not-for-profit organisation.

Indigenous Engagement in Marine Science

AMSA acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the Traditional Owners of Australia’s Land and Sea Country

AMSA is committed to building cross-cultural relationships with Indigenous communities. AMSA recognizes that more sustained and meaningful collaborations between Australia’s First Nations people and scientific researchers are needed to improve environmental, cultural and economic management of Sea Country. AMSA also strongly advocates for Indigenous-led marine research and Indigenous scientist development opportunities.

AMSA endorses the AIATSIS Code of Ethics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research and encourages all marine researchers to read the Guide to Applying the AIATSIS Code of Ethics prior to planning their project.

Indigenous Inclusion at AMSA Conference

AMSA promotes Indigenous inclusion at its annual conference and has developed a guide for all those involved in planning and coordinating indigenous inclusion at AMSA conferences, including AMSA members, Indigenous people and other collaborators.


Cairns AMSA 2022 Conference

In August 2022 more than a 100 people travelled from as far as Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to attend the 7th annual AMSA Indigenous Workshop on the lands of the Gimuy Walubara Yidingi Nation and Yirrganydji (Djabugay Nation). The workshop brought together many people involved in Sea Country management, including those involved in grassroots projects such as seagrass and reef restoration, Indigenous research and government agencies. The focus of the workshop was to generate a shared understanding of Indigenous science and research priorities and to consider options for advancing a nationally coordinated approach to Indigenous research priorities and projects. Attendees shared insights about Indigenous research priorities from the far north to the deep south, and from urban coastlines to remote Sea Country. Attendees also supported the concept of a National Indigenous Environmental Research Network (NIERN) to identify and support local Indigenous organisations in developing and implementing Indigenous research priorities and projects for marine and coastal environments. Attendees left the workshop with the message that next steps were to secure funding to develop a working model of the NIERN and identify appropriate regional representation. For more details about the workshop please see the summary report or the 12 minute video.


New South Wales AMSA 2022 Indigenous Workshops

The New South Wales (NSW) 2022 Indigenous workshops were convened on Dharawal country on 6-7 June 2022 and Gumbaynggirr country on 14-15 July 2022. The workshops were designed to build on previous AMSA Indigenous workshops by bringing Indigenous sea country people together from across NSW to discuss their visibility as right holders in sea country, ethical and culturally appropriate approaches to research on sea country and interest in forming an Indigenous-led Sea Country Alliance. The workshop also provided insights to the Indigenous-led initiatives on sea country and the challenges Indigenous people must deal with when engaging in university or government led research.


Fremantle AMSA 2019 Conference

The Fremantle 2019 workshop, convened on Noongar Country from 10-11 July 2019, was designed to build on previous AMSA Indigenous engagement workshops by focussing discussion and interactions on collaborative partnerships for Sea Country research and monitoring in Western Australia (WAA). The workshop brought together approximately 60 invited Indigenous and marine science participants to share their experiences and thoughts about the development of a common standard for Indigenous engagement in Sea Country research and monitoring in WA – better ways of working together on Sea Country.

Workshop participants identified a broad range of opportunities for establishing and developing existing collaborative and respectful partnerships for Sea County research and monitoring in WA including;

  • The need for Indigenous groups, with the support of marine science providers (i.e. marine science institutions and marine management agencies) to develop, adopt and endorse an agreed, common set of standards and guiding principles that apply across Western Australia.
  • Pathways for improved engagement on Sea Country research and monitoring in WA were discussed.

Two documents were developed as a result of this workshop:



Adelaide AMSA 2018 Conference

The ‘Marine Science and Meeting Indigenous Research Priorities’ workshop was convened on Kaurna Country at the 2018 AMSA conference. This workshop was predominantly focussed on capturing current Indigenous research priorities for temperate Australia and identifying key barriers to building cross-cultural relationships and undertaking meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities in marine research. Presentations from 11 Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers actively leading Sea Country initiatives provided a diverse insight to Sea Country knowledge, experiences and future aspirations. The 2018 workshop provided a platform for highlighting Indigenous Sea Country research priorities and tools for building power-sharing relationships through:

  • Sharing cultural insights to Sea Country connection: building an understanding of Indigenous cultural connections and how marine research directly interacts with Country and communities.
  • Insights into future Sea Country aspirations: What are the research priorities for different Aboriginal Communities and what changes need to occur in the way research is undertaken for these priorities to be met. How do you generate more culturally inclusive research.
  • A group discussion which generated a series of recommendations which were then provided to AMSA on how to better position the organisation within marine science to advocate for improved cross-cultural collaborations.

A workshop working group was formed to develop and facilitate the workshop, members included:

Sarah-Lena Reinhold – AMSA committee member
Shane Holland – Primary Industries and Regions SA
Lachlan Sutherland – Department for Environment and Water
Melissa Nursey-Bray – University of Adelaide
Paul Rogers – South Australian Research and Development Institute
Steve Hemming – Flinders University

The workshop was sponsored by the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Marine Biodiversity Hub, Parks Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board and Australian Marine Sciences Association.

Read the report here

Watch a summary of the key messages presented (the videos will play on all browsers except Internet Explorer 11):

Long – (Video no longer available)
Short – (Video no longer available)

Darwin AMSA 2017 Conference

The Indigenous Engagement Workshop was convened in Darwin on the traditional lands of the Larrakia people at the 2017 AMSA Conference to promote Indigenous engagement in marine science by sharing information on successes and identifying what can be done to advance meaningful collaboration. The 2017 workshop created a space for cross-cultural learning about what is needed to develop collaborations through:

  • Sharing examples of successful engagement: how did the partners get started on their collaborative research projects, why do they think these collaborations worked, how did the partners work together to troubleshoot problems along their journey and what were some potential road blocks that could have stopped their collaboration?
  • Providing marine scientists with information on some key resources that are available to help them begin their journey of appropriate Indigenous engagements.
  • Panel discussion around how and when to engage and what is still required to have successful engagement in sea country research collaborations.

Presentations and discussions provided a valuable learning experience about the ways Indigenous communities are engaging in marine science projects and programs in Australia.

A workshop organising committee was formed to develop the workshop program, members included:

Richard Campbell – Northern Land Council
Zoe Cozens – Parks Australia
Christy Davies – North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA)
David Deeley – Australian Institute of Marine Science
Paul Hedge – NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub
Cass Hunter – Oceans and Atmosphere CSIRO
Claire Streten – Australian Institute of Marine Science

The workshop was sponsored by the Marine Biodiversity Hub funded by the National Environmental Science Program and by Parks Australia.

Read the report here

NZMSS-AMSA 2016 Conference

An Indigenous Engagement Panel Discussion was convened on the Ngatiawa lands at the 2016 Joint Conference between AMSA and New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS). Indigenous panellists from Australia and New Zealand met to discuss the benefits that arise from genuine and lasting collaborations, mutual respect of knowledge, and a common purpose, an approach embodied in the Maori proverb ‘He moana pukepuke, e ekengia e te waka’  (Mountainous seas can be navigated in a canoe when we all work together). Key topics of discussion included:

  • Who is responsible for effective engagement between Indigenous peoples and science?
  • How to resolve complex issues in meaningful partnerships.
  • Culturally inclusive and innovative method developments and communication encompassing scientific and cultural perspectives.

Panellists included:

Melissa George – Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance
Duane Fraser – Community Engagement and Indigenous Project Specialist
Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai – Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development
Caine Taiapa – Manaaki Te Awanui Charitable Trust
Anaru Luke – Te Rūnanga O Ngāti, New Zealand Department of Conservation