Great Australian Bight

Great Australian Bight

With stunning natural wonders, lifeforms found nowhere else and a living culture connecting desert with ocean, the Nullarbor and the Great Australian Bight are worthy of World Heritage.

The Great Australian Bight: an unforgettable, unique Country with awe-inspiring cliffs, an astounding diversity of marine life, and over 65,000 years of Yerkala Mirning culture. It's time this remarkable place is given World Heritage protection.

Banner image: Eliza Muirhead

What makes the Bight worthy of World Heritage?

It's time to support World Heritage protection.

At the Ngargangurie, Bunda cliffs of the Nullarbor, the desert plains meet the deep ocean. This dramatic border between sky, sea and land stretches for hundreds of kilometres—forming the largest single piece of limestone in the world and the longest line of sea cliffs, up to 120 metres high!

Towering limestone cliffs. Image: Robert Norman
Below the surface, leafy sea dragons drift past disguised as seaweed, sheltering in the kelp forests of the Great Southern Reef. Endangered Australian sea lions raise their pups and southern right whales—back from the brink of extinction—come home to rest and give birth before their annual migration to Antarctica.

There is a staggering amount of biodiversity, with more than 85% of species found nowhere else on Earth. Threatened and endangered species include great white sharks, southern bluefin tuna, Australian sea lions, white-bellied sea eagles and albatross, as well as more than 36 species of dolphins and whales.
The ocean doesn’t just provide food. It works to recycle nitrogen, carbon and water: the building blocks of life. Most of the air we breathe is produced in our ocean. By supporting life in the Bight, we are contributing to the health of the ocean as a whole and helping ourselves.
Image: Rita Kluge

Living culture

The Yerkala Mirning of the Nullarbor and the Great Australian Bight have a deep and continuous connection to this sky, sea and land Country—and have had for more than 65,000 years.

Koonalda Cave rests below the vast limestone plain of the Nullarbor—a submerged sacred place of the Yerkala Mirning people. Koonalda is the foremost heritage site in South Australia, holding sacred whale dreaming stories for the Mirning.

“If you listen, learn, understand and observe, then you will receive wisdom and knowledge. For this is the Mirning way.”—Uncle Bunna Lawrie
Djalyingadri, the whale tail of Jeedara. Image (detail): Bill Doyle

From Nullarbor to Ngargangurie cliffs to Billia Mocalba, the Great Australian Bight: all is within the realm of Jeedera, the great Dhoogoor, Dreamtime Creator. Jeedara is the ancestral white whale who came from Yirrerie, the Milky Way. He created Mirning Country and all its creatures, leaving his bloodline in the Yerkala Mirning people, and in their family, the whales.

This is the sacred ceremony place of Miranangu, where the Mirning still honour and call in the whales as family.

Wilderness Journal Issue #009

Wilderness Journal Issue #009

Peter Owen joins Mirning Elders on a remarkable journey into Mirning Country, in issue 9 of Wilderness Journal. Plus discover the unique biodiversity and history of the Nullarbor.

Our vision for World Heritage protection

For almost 20 years, Wilderness Society has worked in collaboration to deliver a highly protected land and sea conservation estate across the Nullarbor and Great Australian Bight.

Our successful campaign to stop the fossil fuel industry expanding into this extraordinary part of Australia also helped to secure a policy commitment from the South Australian Government to support World Heritage Listing for the region.
“Let’s create one of the most amazing conservation estates in the world!” —Peter Owen, Wilderness Society SA Director
Image: Brad Leue
For years, the Australian community and scientists have been calling for protection of this place of outstanding global significance. Together with the Mirning Council of Elders, we’ve drafted a consultation document on the case for World Heritage Nomination, and are currently in negotiations with relevant SA, Australian Government and IUCN World Heritage officials.

Keeping Big Oil out of the Bight

With your support, we've been protecting the Bight from Big Oil for over a decade now—forcing fossil fuel giants BP, Chevron, Equinor and Santos to abandon plans to drill in these wild and beautiful seas.
Ultra-deepwater oil drilling is a high-risk operation that caused the world’s biggest oil spill accident, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, in 2010—when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The Great Australian Bight waters are deeper, more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico.

Not only would an oil spill here have affected wildlife and marine sanctuaries, it could have devastated beach communities, fisheries and tourism. And, if tapped and burned, the oil in our Bight would single-handedly blow Australia’s carbon budget—and our liveable climate

For our climate, coastal communities and wildlife, we must keep this spectacular region safe. And we won't stop until this thriving sanctuary receives the World Heritage protection it deserves.

What we’re doing:

  • Together with the Mirning Council of Elders, negotiating with relevant government and World Heritage officials about the Case for World Heritage Nomination
  • Commissioning independent research to assess cultural and natural values
  • Challenging deepwater drilling permits
  • Countering fossil fuel industry spin in the media
  • Publishing independent modelling and research
  • Helping to fix the regulatory process
  • Supporting the communities standing up to Big Oil in SA and beyond
  • Standing up for intact marine ecosystems and the jobs they provide
  • Championing a swift transition to clean, renewable energy in ways that do not destroy intact ecosystems