[ASC-media] Media Release: Old laws are a new way to protect ocean resources

Chloe Lucas chloe.lucas at crcreef.com
Mon Mar 29 08:47:55 EST 2004

CRC Reef Research Centre




29 March 2004<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />




Government representatives and legal experts from across Melanesia and Australia are taking part in a workshop on traditional law at the International Marine Project Activities Centre (IMPAC) this week. They will discuss how traditional law can improve the management of land and sea.


For thousands of years, people across Australia and the Pacific have successfully managed their land and sea resources using customary laws. Now, government agencies in Melanesia want to incorporate some traditional laws into modern legislation.


"Because customary laws were never written down, they have not become part of modern legislation in most countries," said Dr Clive Wilkinson, co-ordinator of IMPAC and senior research scientist with the Australian Institute of Marine Science. "Governments are now seeing the potential benefits of recognising traditional law."


"In Pacific countries, and in coastal Australia, each village or tribal group was responsible for an area that included land and sea. Modern legislation, however, says the sea is commonly owned. Recognition of traditional boundaries makes the community responsible for their own resources. This means that each village has a vested interest in conserving their resources for the future," he said.


"Customary law underpins everything in Papua New Guinea," according to John Genolagani, First Assistant Secretary on National Conservation Matters for the Department of Environment and Conservation in PNG. "It is the soul and spirit and lifeblood of Papua New Guineans. Ninety-seven per cent of our country and our coasts and marine areas have traditional laws acknowledging the ownership of resources, and it is one of the goals of our constitution to recognise these laws."


"This workshop is very exciting because it will allow Melanesian nations to come together and find common ground, and to talk about appropriate ways to harness our resources and to recognise customary laws," he said.


Participants from Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Vanuatu will examine case studies where traditional practices have been successfully incorporated into legislation. They will also look at how traditional knowledge can be used and protected.


The workshop is co-ordinated by IMPAC and supported by the Christensen Fund, CRC Reef Research Centre, Institute of Advanced Studies at the United Nations University, International Ocean Institute (Australia), IUCN Law Commission, South Pacific Regional Environment Program, and the World Bank.


The workshop runs from 29 March to 2 April at IMPAC, 6th Floor, Northtown Tower, 280 Flinders Street, Townsville. Workshop participants are available for interview from 10.30-11.00am and 1.00-2.00pm throughout the week.


For more information:

Dr Clive Wilkinson, IMPAC and AIMS, 07 4729 8452, mobile 0419 130 322, clive.wilkinson at impac.org.au

Mr John Genolagani, Dept of Environment and  Conservation, PNG c/o Chloe Lucas

Ms Chloe Lucas, Media Liaison, CRC Reef, 07 4729 8450, mobile: 0408 884 521, chloe.lucas at crcreef.com

Chloe Lucas
Media and Publications Officer
CRC Reef Research Centre

PO Box 772
Townsville Qld 4810

Tel: (07) 4729 8450
Mob: 0408 884 521
Email: chloe.lucas at crcreef.com 
Please note that I normally work Monday-Wednesday only - please contact Louise Goggin at louise.goggin at crcreef.com or 07 4729 8404 for media assistance when I am unavailable.

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