People’s values to inform Kimberley coastal management

May 4, 2015

Svitzer Doolja Barge at Yampi SoundA team of researchers from Murdoch University are exploring how people value the Kimberley coast and marine environment, and how they would like to see it managed into the future.

Dr Jennifer Strickland-Munro and her colleagues have interviewed more than 200 Kimberley residents and other community members to find out which places are important to them and why.

Dr Strickland-Munro said that the Kimberley coast was a special place for many.

“The Kimberley coast is clearly a very special place for many different people for various reasons and we are aiming to find out why,” Dr Strickland-Munro said.

Dr Strickland-Munro said that understanding peoples’ needs and values was particularly important for the Kimberley coast and waters, with its spectacular scenery and nature, and long history of continuous occupation by Aboriginal people.

“For planning and management to be effective, we must have a good understanding of what people value about the coast. There has been limited documented research across the Kimberley in this regard,” Dr Strickland-Munro said.

“This lack of research was no exception, as little attention has been paid to date in Australia or elsewhere to the social values associated with marine parks.”

Dr Strickland-Munro and her colleagues spoke to people across the Kimberley and in Perth and Darwin, asking people to locate the places they valued on maps of the coast.

This hand drawn information was then digitised, providing spatially linked data on social values.

Interviews focused on seven geographic areas: Darwin, Kununurra/Wyndham, Derby, Broome, the Dampier Peninsula, Eighty Mile Beach, and Perth.

Opinions from local residents, commercial fishing and aquaculture, tourists, resource industries, Federal, State and local Government and environmental non-government organisations were all sought.

The enduring relationship of Traditional owners to sea country and their role as land managers was also a strong focus in the study.

The results demonstrated that despite difficulties accessing the rugged and remote region, the entire coastline, from Eighty Mile Beach to the Northen Territory border, is valued.

Values relating to the physical landscape such as aesthetics, coastal geology, and the Kimberley’s ‘pristine wild environment’ were dominant. Together with biodiversity values they are pivotal to peoples’ experiences of the Kimberley.

Physical landscape and biodiversity values were present in 77 per cent and 80 per cent of all interviews, respectively. Aboriginal culture was the third most common value (63 per cent) mentioned in the interviews.

“There was a broad appreciation of Aboriginal culture from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and the values of Aboriginal people themselves extend well beyond cultural matters, highlighting the importance of including Traditional Owners in decision making for all aspects of coastal management,” Dr Strickland-Munro said.

The results also showed the Dampier Peninsula as greatly valued for diverse reasons, highlighting the need for careful consideration of social impacts associated with improved access to the area.

Building on this data, Dr Strickland-Munro and her colleagues have launched a web-based survey to obtain the widest possible range of views regarding what is valued about the Kimberley now and into the future.

The survey is open to anyone with an interest in the Kimberley and can be found here.

The study is part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s Kimberley Marine Research Program. For more information about the study, contact Dr Strickland-Munro at

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