Managing Commonwealth Islands

Commonwealth Islands in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park stretch from the tip of Cape York at Albany Rock to the southern most island on the Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island.

There are 70 Commonwealth Islands that together form the Commonwealth Islands Zone. They are the only land component of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Twenty-one of these 70 islands are held and managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The islands reflect the diverse use of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A number of islands are important tourism, recreation, heritage and research sites with at least 21 islands housing navigational light houses and a large number hosting defence activities.

Many Commonwealth Islands have significant heritage value with historic light stations, associated shipping and navigational history, Indigenous significance and natural value. This includes considerable interconnected reef and island localities that support some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, including turtle and seabird nesting sites, pisonia forests, and hard and soft corals.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works closely with state and federal agencies and lease holders to work towards the long-term protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment through the care and development of the Commonwealth Islands.

A number of formal and informal arrangements underpin this work, including:

  • The Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement 2009 (which ensures a collaborative approach between the Australian and Queensland Governments to manage the marine and land environments of the Great Barrier Reef Region)
  • Public lease arrangements with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
  • Caretaker services agreement for undertaking day-to-day maintenance and communications at Low Isles
  • Lease arrangement for the research station at Low Isles
  • Collaborative lease arrangements with a tourism operator to ensure cooperative management of Lady Elliot Island
  • Important contributions by volunteer groups and school groups, including the Low Isles Preservation Society and Conservation Volunteers Australia.