Waste and marine debris in remote northern Australian communities

The communities of remote northern Australia face significant challenges in waste management. Conventional challenges include low public or private investment in waste management, high transport costs, intermittent seasonal access, and a wet-dry climate that makes infrastructure maintenance and scaling-up waste and debris management to cover vast areas of un-serviced land and coastlines particularly challenging. Many coastal communities, particularly those in the Gulf of Carpentaria also have the additional burden of a large volume of rubbish from external sources such as shipping and foreign fishing washing up on remote beaches.

This project will review the current status of waste management in remote communities of northern Australia, and seek examples of best practice models nationally and internationally to improve waste disposal and management. The project will then work with two remote northern Australian communities in a collaborative on-ground case study.

  • Desktop study documenting management bodies across remote north Australia and reviewing existing initiatives that target waste reduction and disposal;
  • Report from two case study communities documenting their waste profile, current waste management approach, waste management gaps and an assessment of the feasibility (including cost effectiveness) of a range of possible actions/solutions;
  • Information and appropriate communications material for communities on waste management issues currently impacting them and local responses to the management issues.

This project looked at three case study communities in Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Waste & debris

February 2022

Hub research in the Gulf of Carpentaria aims to support sustainable development in the region. This includes research to inform water allocation planners and floodplain managers about the potential impacts of changes in flow on fisheries, migratory birds and biodiversity. Rivers that flow into the southern Gulf of Carpentaria are home to high-value ecosystems and support important recreational and commercial fisheries. With increasing development in the region, more information is needed to understand how future water development will impact on the health and productivity of floodplains and coastal areas.

August 2020

Remote communities on Cape York Peninsula face heavy loads of marine debris such as ghost nets that wash up on north Queensland beaches. The remoteness of these communities makes it a challenge to deal with this waste and debris which mostly comes from other places.

Christy Davies (Project Leader, NAILSMA)






  • Turtle hatchling heading for the sea, photo Glenn Campbell.
  • Baled aluminium on Cape York Photography, photo RAIN.
  • Cape York Peninsula marine debris on the beach, photo RAIN.
  • Turtle tracks down to water.
  • Nesting turtle, photo Glenn Campbell.
  • Northern Australia sunset.
  • Rocky beach in northern Australia.
  • Tracks on northern Australia beach.