Aboriginal Fisheries Business Development Program

NSW DPI and the Department of Regional NSW (DRNSW), together with our program partners, has established the Aboriginal Fisheries Business Development Program (the program), a two-year program to support the development of new, economically viable fisheries businesses that are owned and managed by Aboriginal community organisations in NSW.

A key focus for the program is ensuring a broader benefit to the local Aboriginal community, through reinvestment in community and economic empowerment through employment, training and development. The program seeks to build on the success of similar initiatives in other jurisdictions of Australia, where Traditional Owners have partnered with state governments and other partners such as the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.

NSW DPI has worked in consultation with the Aboriginal Fishing Advisory Council (AFAC) to develop the program.  Other key program partners supporting the delivery of the program are:

  • Department of Aboriginal Affairs
  • Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC)
  • Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC)
  • Representative for the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO - NSW Aboriginal Land Council representative (NSWALC))
  • NTSCORP Limited
  • the three selected program participants

Selection process

A state-wide Expression of Interest process attracted Aboriginal-community owned fisheries business proposals from across NSW.  Run as a competitive process, applications were assessed on their merits and against the program’s criteria outlined in the guidelines for applications. The three proposals selected to participate in the program during 2023-25 are:

  • a commercial fishing enterprise to be developed with the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation on the North Coast,
  • a Walbunja Aboriginal Fishing Cooperative to be developed with Joonga Land and Water Aboriginal Corporation on the South Coast, and
  • a recirculating aquaculture and aquaponics enterprise to be developed with the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation in the Upper Hunter region.

Feasibility assessments and business case development

In partnership with the selected participants, NSW DPI and the program partners will assist in developing the three new community-owned and run businesses, that provide a strong connection between the involved communities and management of aquatic resources. Participants in the program will be supported through feasibility studies and business planning processes, whilst also taking advantage of networking opportunities and capacity building exercises with existing successful fisheries and aquaculture business models.

The final stages of the program will work to leverage investment in the three new businesses across both the public and private sector with the support of the program partners.

This program is part of the NSW Closing the Gap Implementation Plan 2022-24 under the “Sharing the Catch” initiative for Socio-economic Outcome 15B (increasing Aboriginal people’s legal rights and interests in the Sea) for which the Minister for Agriculture, NSW DPI and NSW Aboriginal Land Council (as NSW CAPO lead partner) are responsible for delivering.

Meet the program participants

Yaegl commercial fishing enterprise, Project Lead – Grant Brown

Image of Grant BrownMeet Grant Brown from the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and a participant of the Aboriginal Fisheries Business Development Program.

Grant Brown is a strong proud Yaegl man working and living on his mother’s country.

I’m very passionate about the work I do and the opportunities I can assist with providing. I believe in sustainable, viable resource Land & Sea Management cultural ways which our People know as lore. I carry this pride with modern techniques/strategies and implement them in cultural ways – Never Reap Where We Don’t Sow.”

Holding the role of Business Manager, Grant established the Yaegl Wadyarr Gargle Land & Sea Contractors, undertaking and managing various resource management projects on his country.

My inspiration is to help guide, encourage, support and inspire my people to become more confident, stronger and self-sustainable on Country.”

Grant will be working with DPI Fisheries and the program partners to develop a new commercial fisheries enterprise on Yaegl Country, with benefits to flow back to their community.

Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation Aquaculture, Project Lead – Laurie Perry

Image of Laurie PerryMeet Laurie Perry from the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation and a participant in the Aboriginal Fisheries Business Development Program.

Laurie Perry has been the CEO of Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation for nearly 10 years. After leaving school in Singleton in 1979, Laurie soon commenced working at Liddell Colliery in Ravensworth, working underground for 10 years, before a serious accident put him out of work.

My passion is to look after our membership, build our communities, to make sure our traditional country is legislatively protected and managed our way”.

Returning to Liddell Colliery after two years, Laurie soon after faced retrenchment due to the mine’s closure. Laurie furthered his studies at Singleton TAFE over several years working on developing his business skills, including a focus on Aboriginal tours across his traditional country.

“I live in the largest mining, wine, tourism and power industry and see my role in building a futuristic Aboriginal Industry. My key objectives are closing the gap, supporting youth, supporting emerging Elders and current Elders needs and to reduce the high levels of youth unemployment and incarceration levels across our region. I want to create an Aboriginal economic future for all Aboriginal people living in Wonnarua Country”.

The Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation will be working with DPI Fisheries and the program partners to develop a new aquaculture enterprise on Wonnurua Country, with benefits to flow back to their community.

Walbunja Aboriginal Fishing Cooperative, Project Lead - Wally Stewart

Image of Wally StewartMeet Wally Stewart from the Walbunja Aboriginal Fishing Cooperative and a participant of the Aboriginal Fisheries Business Development Program.

A Walbunja man from the Yuin nation on the far south coast of NSW, Wally is also an applicant for the South Coast People native title claim and member of NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group.  Wally is currently employed as a part-time Project Officer with Joonga Land and Water Aboriginal Corporation.

“I manage projects for Joonga Corporation including the SMART Drumline (shark) contract in Eurobodalla Shire, running Cultural boat tours in Narooma to deliver awareness and understanding on the impact of colonisation. I am also responsible for coordinating a scientific dive team and sourcing other contract opportunities for Joonga staff”.

Wally has previously worked with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, provided a maintenance program for Cape Byron Marine Park and Byron Bay Lighthouse, Aboriginal Liaison Officer for Batemans Marine Park, and was also the Incident Controller for marine mammal strandings for the north coast whale disentanglement team. Wally regularly volunteers his time working closely with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Wollongong Uni (Blue Economy) and Oxfam to build a foundation for economic development for his community.

“My passion is Aboriginal fishing rights and working towards building a sustainable healthy Yuin Land and Sea Country. I believe if you have healthy Land and Sea, you will have healthy Yuin people”.

Wally will be working with DPI Fisheries and the program partners to develop a new Aboriginal Fishing Cooperative enterprise on Walbunja Country, with benefits to flow back to their community.

Media releases

More information

For further assistance, email aboriginal.fishing@dpi.nsw.gov.au