Girt by sea: the challenge of managing Australia's marine resources
Advance Australia Fair includes the words 'Our home is girt by sea'. This line of the national anthem emphasises that Australia, as an island continent, is fundamentally connected to its surrounding oceans. Australians have always had strong associations with the marine environment. Many Australian Aboriginal communities have enduring spiritual connections to coastal areas. Australia's coastal environments, especially the beach, are also an intrinsic facet of the modern Australian way of life. Indeed, Australia has been termed a 'coastal society', an observation that is underscored by the fact that approximately 85 per cent of its population live within 50 kilometres of the coast. Further, maritime Australia encompasses iconic socio-environmental features and landmarks that are deeply important to the Australian identity (such as the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour), as well as famous events and popular activities (such as the annual Sydney-Hobart yacht race and surfing and recreational fishing). Alternatively, it could be argued that the reference to Australia's surrounding seas in the national anthem is included merely as a means of framing what is perceived as the 'important bit' - the land - and to help identify Australia as separate and distinct from the rest of the world. Some might suggest that the line should instead read 'Our home is girt by beach' to represent more accurately the extent of the average Australian's maritime horizon. However, Australia is undeniably a major maritime country, most obviously in terms of the enormous size of its maritime jurisdiction, but increasingly also in terms of the significance of the marine resources contained within this area.
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