Published: 21 June 2021 Updated: 9 April 2024
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The Fisheries Research & Development Corporation (FRDC) recognises the Indigenous sector as one of the four key sectors to Australian Fishing and Aquaculture and as such is dedicated to investing in research, development, and extension (RD&E) to advance the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

The FRDC Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) is a committee comprising Indigenous experts from diverse backgrounds across Australian fishing and aquaculture. Established in 2010 after consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, The IRG oversees project progress and offers technical guidance to the FRDC on broader issues and initiatives.  The IRG collaborates with organisations such as the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, CSIRO, the Department of Climate Change, Environment, Energy and Water, and state and territory governments to support Indigenous-focused research, development, and extension efforts. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples possess Indigenous Knowledge (IK) encompassing the holistic understanding of Country, which encompasses both land and sea, serving as the foundation for life, identity, and cultural values. This connection to land and sea acknowledges the spiritual, personal, and traditional ties of Indigenous peoples to their territories, with responsibilities towards ancestral lands and waterways. Traditional fishing rights, supported by legislative changes stemming from Native Title determinations, empower Indigenous communities towards economic self-determination, notably within the emerging First Nations commercial fishing sector.
Australia's aquatic resources have historically sustained Indigenous Australians’ livelihoods, trade, and cultural practices, and in present times with contemporary relevance and future prospects. Integrating traditional fishing knowledge into research projects that look though a lens of adaptive management plans, offers a pathway for economic self-determination, preserving cultural ties to sea Country while generating income for Indigenous peoples and communities.

In reflection of the past fourteen years of dedicated collaboration and progress, the FRDC reaffirms its commitment to Indigenous engagement and empowerment through the IRG. From its inception in 2010 to the present day, the IRG has stood as a beacon of Indigenous expertise and leadership within the fisheries sector, championing the voices and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
As we look towards the future, we are excited to embark on the next phase of the IRG's journey, guided by a refreshed vision and strategic direction. Led by Mr. Stan Lui and Miss Samantha Coates of Five Cubed Environmental Indigenous Consultants, our collective efforts aim to further amplify Indigenous voices, enhance collaboration, and drive meaningful impact for Indigenous Australians in research, commercial activities, and cultural primacy.
With a renewed focus on innovation, inclusivity, and sustainability, we are poised to continue building upon the foundation laid by the IRG over the past decade. Together, we will forge ahead, ensuring that Indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and aspirations remain at the forefront of fisheries research, development, and extension efforts for years to come.

Research priorities

Key priority areas for the IRG are:



Primacy for Indigenous people

Indigenous people have certain recognised rights associated with and based on the prior and continuing occupation of country and water and the activities (e.g. fishing, gathering) associated with the use and management of these.

Acknowledgement of Indigenous cultural practices

Indigenous people have the right to maintain and develop cultural practices to address spiritual, cultural, social and economic needs associated with aquatic resources and landscapes.

Self-determination of Indigenous rights to use and manage cultural assets and resources

Indigenous people have the right to determine courses of action in relation to the use and management of aquatic biological resources.

Economic development opportunities arising from Indigenous peoples’ cultural assets and associated rights

Indigenous people have the right to engage in economic activity based on the use of traditional aquatic biological resources and/or the right to share in the benefits derived from aquatic biological resources.

Enhanced capacity building opportunities for Indigenous people

Indigenous people have the right to access capacity building activities to further their aspirations in the use and management of aquatic biological resources.


  • Bryan Denny
  • Chels Marshall
  • Francis Parriman
  • Matt Osborne
  • Michael Gilby
  • Shane Holland
  • Stan Lui
  • Stephan Schnierer
  • Terry Yumbulul
  • Traceylee Forester

IRG Contact

FRDC Management Contacts

Joshua Fielding – FRDC Senior Research Portfolio Manager
(M: 0417 324 182; E:

Background documents 

Related projects

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