This month marks 40 years since Australia listed the world’s first Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, at Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory. 

“Today we’re celebrating 40 years of Australian leadership in wetland protection,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

“When Cobourg became the world’s first Ramsar site in 1974, it kick-started four decades of wetlands protection – and paved the way for Kakadu to become Australia’s second Ramsar site.

“Ramsar listing has brought international recognition to the remote and unspoilt wilderness of Cobourg Peninsula on the far northern coast of the Territory. Cobourg is recognised as a Wetland of International Importance for its diversity of wetland habitats, threatened marine species, significant seabird colonies and value as a refuge and breeding site. 

“The 40th anniversary is a chance to learn more about Australia’s outstanding wetland areas, including Cobourg Peninsula and Kakadu National Park,” he said.

Cobourg Peninsula, now known as Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, is jointly managed by the Arrarrkbi people and the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory.

Northern Territory Minister for Parks and Wildlife Bess Price said the area is notable as another first, being the first reserve in Australia to have a formal joint management arrangement established with Indigenous people.  

“Garig Gunak Barlu is a unique corner of Australia, with environmental values complemented by a fascinating Indigenous, Macassan and European history,” Minister Price said. 

“Working with the traditional owners, we’re conserving Cobourg’s wetlands and ensuring their wise use—maintaining Australia’s commitments under the Ramsar Convention.”

Australia currently has 65 Ramsar wetlands with an area of 8.3 million hectares, covering coral reefs, coastal lagoons, mangroves, inland rivers, mountain peat bogs and underground caves.

On a visit to the Territory today, Senator Birmingham said he is pleased to be recognising this important milestone in the Top End. He will tour wetland sites in Kakadu National Park this week, meeting with traditional owners, discussing joint management arrangements and seeing the outstanding environments that made Kakadu Australia’s second Ramsar designation.

Further information about Cobourg Peninsula and the anniversary celebrations can be found at: