Great Sandy Man and the Biosphere Region
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About The Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere

The Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere addresses the need for equal status to be given to continued social and economic development of the human population and the conservation and preservation of natural assets. Traditionally, economic development and ecosystem conservation have been seen as disparate and conflicting ideas. The Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere seeks to unify these endeavours and promotes mechanisms that allow these competing principles to co-exist.

The Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere Region is a non-regulatory, internationally recognised area that is made up of existing, established areas of natural significance such as:
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  • Fraser Island
    • National and World Heritage Listed
    • Patterned Fens - only known example of a peat marsh in a temperate zone in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Cooloola Sandmass
    • World Heritage Listed
  • Great Sandy Strait
    • RAMSAR Wetland of International Significance
  • Mon Repos
    • Marine turtle nesting sites
  • Hervey Bay
    • Platypus Bay Humpback Whale watching area and transitory point for Humpback Whale Southern Migration
    • Sea Grass beds and endangered Dugong population
    • Fringing Coral reef and diverse marine fauna
    • Nesting and feeding area for resident and migratory shorebirds
  • Woongarra Coast
    • Most southerly coastal fringing coral reefs (hard and soft coral species) in Eastern Australia
    • Rich and diverse marine life including nudibranches
  • Burrum River Estuary
    • Extensive intertidal flats incorporating mangrove and saltmarsh ecosystems
    • Habitat for more than 20 rare and endangered migratory shorebird species
    • The southern transition point for subtropical to temperate climate zones
  • Wide Bay Military Training Area
    • Commonwealth Heritage listed site
    • Undeveloped area that is a sanctuary for more than 250 bird species
    • Habitat for rare and endangered Ground Parrots and the Water Mouse

Click on a heading below to view more information

Our Vision for a Sustainable Future

Our vision involves understanding that Man exists within, as an integral part of, his environment and that finding a balance between resource development and resource conservation is essential in achieving a sustainable future.

Increased population growth and development is inevitable and the Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere seeks to create an understanding that everyone has a role to play in examining innovative approaches to sustainable development challenges.

The Great Sandy Region

The Great Sandy Region is located in Queensland, Australia and was chosen by UNESCO as a Biosphere region in 2009 due to its outstanding natural assets and biodiversity.

Geographically, the region encompasses an island (Fraser Island), regional cities and towns and a well-developed production and industrial base, extensive tourism activity and a rapidly increasing population.

The region extends along the east coast of QLD from the northern tip of Fraser island (including the Wide Bay marine area) to the Cooloola coast and Mary Valley in the south. Read more ...

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

A UNESCO Biosphere reserve is a unique concept which includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.

UNESCO Biosphere reserves are internationally recognised on the basis of nomination by national governments to promote sustainable development based upon local community efforts and sound scientific practice.

Biosphere zones are organised into three distinct areas:

  • Core Area –

    a legally protected area where lands and waters are protected and conserved (eg. Fraser Island World Heritage Area)

  • Buffer Zone –

    a clearly identified area where cooperative activities compatible with the functions of the core zone take place in line with overall conservation objectives (eg. Low impact tourism, education and recreation)

  • Transition Zone –

    areas where local communities, scientists, non-governmental organisations, cultural groups, economic interests and other stakeholders work together to implement model projects for sustainable economic development of the areas resources.

Collectively, Biospheres form a global network where ideas and practical experiences are shared and results are assembled, tested and disseminated for universal applicability.

Biosphere regions seek to emphasise partnerships between people and nature to reconcile conservation of biological and cultural diversity and economic and social development. They are living laboratories for testing and demonstrating innovative approaches to sustainable development.

UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme

Building upon the Biosphere concept, the Man and the Biosphere programme aims to set a scientific basis for the improvement of the relationship between people and their environment on a global level.

The Man and the Biosphere programme combines natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve economic activities whilst safeguarding natural ecosystems.

By predicting the consequences of today's actions on tomorrows world, the Man and the Biosphere programme facilitates the efficient management of natural resources for the well-being of human populations and the environment.

Click here to download the MAB Biosphere Reserves Information

Regulatory Framework

The UNESCO designation does not impose any legislatory or regulatory restrictions on actions within the Biosphere region. Rather it seeks to encourage communities and individuals to work together with local governments and councils, business and educators in creating tangible frameworks for sustainable actions that preserve the natural environment and add to economic and social development.


The Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management Ltd (BMRG) is the parent organisation and patron of the Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere. A not for profit, non-governmental organisation, BMRG administered the nomination process for the region and is currently the sole provider of funding and activities that progress the Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere and its aims.

Biospheres require financial support from many different sources in order to function in a way that promotes its aims effectively.

In typical cases, evidenced from successful Biospheres, the funding of a Biosphere derives from a variety of sources: national governments, international development corporations, industry, tourism operators, foundations, research funding agencies and local municipalities. A core budget from government is indispensable in order to enable the Biosphere to coordinate the fulfillment of its objectives and to also attract additional funding.

Community and the Great Sandy – Man and the Biosphere

Community buy in and involvement is an essential component in the success of a Biosphere. The Great Sandy Biosphere creates ground floor opportunities for individuals and community groups to work together without the restrictions and impositions that bureaucracy and legislative and regulatory conditions can apply.

Communities within the Biosphere have the most to gain from a Biosphere's sustainable actions. The Great Sandy Biosphere is not owned by any single organisation or entity but rather seeks to distribute responsibility across the region so that everyone is represented and involved in its development.

Cultural Values

Indigenous peoples are more commonly referred to as Traditional Owners. Traditional Owners have always cared for Country.

The Great Sandy Biosphere region incorporates the following Traditional Owner groups:
  • Butchulla/Badtjala
  • Kabbi Kabbi
  • Taribelang Bunda

Complex tribal arrangements shaped the relationships between the Traditional Owner groups and tribal boundaries and pathways were defined by many factors:
  • Languages and spoken dialects
  • Custodial responsibilities - tribal laws and customs, social organisation and kinship systems
  • Spiritual associations and beliefs
  • Food supplies
  • Seasonal and climatic changes

Essentially living a nomadic existence, Traditional Owner groups utilised the rich resources of the Great Sandy Region and had the ability to understand seasonal changes and adapted land management principles accordingly. Guided by traditional boundaries and cultural obligations and responsibilities to neighbouring groups, the regions' Traditional Owners established a way of life that involved a connection to and a responsibility for caring for everything that belonged within the land.

"From the forest and scrub they got wallabies, opossums, bandicoots, iguanas, snakes, sleeping lizards, yams, macrozamia nuts, fern roots, grass seeds, tree grubs, honey from wallum, honeysuckle and native bees: and various fruits, nuts and beans. Birds and eggs and many water fowl were in great abundance. The western shores were covered with crabs and oysters. The fresh water creeks were full of fish and eels and salt water gave them boundless stores of fish, turtle and dugong" (Fraser Island considered as an Aboriginal Reserve. Reprinted in the Fraser Island Transcript pg 115-122.)

A History of Habitation

Throughout the Biosphere region, archaeological evidence supports Aboriginal occupation and activity. Traditional stories and the transmission of culture also point a long involvement within the region.

Archaeological works point to some artefacts at least 5000 years old and recorded sites include:
  • Scatters of stone artefacts
  • Quarries
  • Stone tools
  • Grinding grooves
  • Shell middens

Evidence pertaining to extensive ceremonial sites and areas of cultural significance have also been found including:
  • Earthen rings and stone rings
  • Scarred trees
  • Carved trees
  • Dreaming Places

A Long History of Sustainable Practice

A nomadic lifestyle by definition promotes sustainable land management. Moving with the seasons and taking advantage of differing food supplies at differing times naturally preserves a regions natural resources.

Added to this a cultural focus that establishes the land as "Mother" results in a responsibility for caring and ongoing survival meant sustainable land management conduct.

Traditional Owners understood and utilised fire as a land management tool. Rather than being destructive, fire was used clear old growth, to make country easier to travel through, to create fire breaks and signal other tribes. It was also used spiritually to cleanse areas and practically for hunting purposes.

Indigenous Projects

With our partners BMRG, FFI and Qantas Foundation , the Great Sandy Biosphere is proudly supporting a range of indigenous projects.

Traditional Knowledge Recording

Encouraging Indigenous communities and encouraging knowledge transfer of valuable ecological knowledge with the aim of combining it with modern conservation practices.

Indigenous Natural Resource Management working crews

Helping Indigenous individuals and groups to be better integrated into Natural Resource Management activities by creating pathways that close the gap between environmental training to employment and meeting the need for more Land Management contracting groups within the region.

Our Partners

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Burnett Mary Regional Group

Qantas Foundation

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

UNESCO'S Man and the Biosphere Programme

Fauna & Flora International Australia

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