Transitioning towards a respectful custodianship of our oceans and coasts

Oceans and coasts are changing. We're listening to those changes. Complex challenges take a diverse community to hear, understand and act.

A transdisciplinary, multi-format international conference to share and co-produce knowledge and enable effective action.

17 - 20 October 2021
Southern Cross University
Gold Coast, Australia

Conference Update – COVID-19

15 February 2021

Further to our update below, The Our Coastal Futures Conference (OCF) committee have made the difficult decision to postpone the conference due to the continuing situation concerning COVD-19 and the reopening of international borders in Australia. No new date has been set as yet but is hoped to be late 2022 or 2023.

Please continue to visit the website for further updates and announcements. Any enquiries please email [email protected].

Kind regards,

Prof Anja Scheffers,
Chair, OCF on behalf of Our Coastal Futures Committee

30 March 2020

The Our Coastal Futures Conference (OCF) committee have made the difficult decision to postpone OCF2020 which was due to take place from 19 – 22 October 2020 at Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, due to the current situation concerning the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the unknown future impact this may have.  The committee is working with the Southern Cross University to select a suitable date and will keep you posted.

We have a duty of care to our speakers, sponsors, and delegates and the wider community, to minimise the risk of further spread of the COVID-19. Collectively the committee felt it was also in the best interests of our delegates to arrive at this decision now to prevent the potential loss of investment people may make in order to attend the meeting..

Thank you to everyone who submitted a proposal for a session, workshop, artistic expression, panel, or one of our other formats, these will be carried over into the dates and you will all be emailed on the next steps.

All enquiries regarding the postponement should be directed to Kate and Jenny, our conference managers via email at [email protected]

Kind regards,

Prof Anja Scheffers,
Chair, OCF on behalf of Our Coastal Futures Committee

Our Story

Our oceans and coasts are diverse and interconnected. Collaboration is our strength, underlying and reinforcing our capacity to think, innovate, and invest in their long-term wellbeing. The Our Coastal Futures conference will bring together voices from researchers, practitioners, Indigenous peoples, activists, businesses, youth, and decision-makers. This vibrant conference will inspire new ideas to enable a transition towards respectful custodianship of our oceans and coasts. This event is designed to foster a sense of trust and respect among all, emphasizing diversity, innovation, and connections. The program will include traditional formats and other expressions, to create a new narrative on the role of respectful ocean and coastal custodianship, based on trust, reciprocity, communication and collaboration.

Come join us at Our Coastal Futures 2022 conference, (dates to be confirmed) plus three days of workshop and excursion opportunities on the Gold Coast, Australia. We’re still finalizing the agenda, but a fantastic line-up is already taking shape.

Endorsed by the United Nations

Hosted By

Early bird registration is open now and is just $650 AUD for OECD countries and $430 AUD for non-OECD countries.

We will host a fabulous closing evening event in form of a cosy Twilight Market with local food and drinks. So, if you are passionate about putting ideas into action and you like to have fun doing so, then you will love this conference. Looking forward to seeing everyone in October 2021!

Our Coastal Futures will open submissions for traditional sessions alongside a variety of creative formats including:

We believe that this variety of formats will make the conference more engaging and inclusive for a variety of participants, not limited to academics but also extending to practitioners, Indigenous peoples, activists, businesses, youths, and decision-makers.

Following the selection of the sessions and other formats, Our Coastal Futures conference will open the call for abstracts for individual presentations, both oral and posters, into the selected sessions.


The Our Coastal Futures conference celebrates four main themes exploring our understanding of the oceans, the communities they support and their diverse ecosystems. 

What we Know

Ontology is the study of the nature and ways of ‘being’. This theme begins with the provocative imperative that ontological transitions are required to give ‘us’ a future. We ask for contributions that enquire into oceanic and coastal pasts, presents and futures through an ontological (way of being) and epistemological (way of knowing) viewpoint. We are particularly encouraging discussions on the role of modernity and its darker side and colonialism in shaping ways of being and knowing around the globe. What modes of producing knowledge, systems, images, significance, patterns of expression and beliefs seduce and repress societies, and how does this live on in our relationship with oceans and coasts? What multiple truths exist of our oceans and coasts, how do these truths mingle, co-exist and design new perceptions? This theme raises the stakes and asks what ontologies de-fuse and re-fuse our genes, cultures and evolutionary relationships with our oceans and coasts? In spite of such upheaval, what multiple cosmologies and ontologies remain and emerge as options to navigate our coastal futures?
Understanding from Diverse Knowledge Systems

Transitions in general are seen as large-scale changes over a long period of time, with often significant and revolutionary symptoms that fundamentally change a social subsystem. The theme of ‘transitioning sciences’ for oceans and coasts, therefore, implies fundamental shifts in perceptions, values and cognitions about the role of science in society. Coastal communities already face escalating risks, disasters and threats to livelihoods due to environmental degradation, ocean acidification, and climate change impacts including sea-level rise. Addressing these challenges requires a different modality of science, which links different disciplines, knowledge systems and societal partners. Linkages between western constructs of science, indigenous, tacit and local forms of knowledge, can reframe worldviews, necessary to shape transitions that are invariably deeply political and contested. Our Coastal Futures provides a unique opportunity to engage in this discourse with a rich diversity of actors; and to explore the synergies in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths and the Humanities in the pursuit of sustainability science for the oceans and coasts.
Prosperity and Livelihoods

Our Coastal Futures will explore innovative ways of transitioning the economies of our oceans and coasts by taking a holistic view of how to sustain the many forms of coastal and ocean livelihoods. Blue Growth, depending on interpretation, provides opportunities in emerging sectors, such as offshore aquaculture and marine renewable energy, with potential socio-economic benefits for peripheral coastal communities. These developments are linked to technological breakthroughs, new forms of ethical investment, ‘green’ finance, and entrepreneurial endeavour. However, economic transitions require a more fundamental root and branch review of the failure of neo-classical economics, globalisation, and market drivers such as the behavioural drivers that drive unsustainable patterns of consumption and production of coastal and marine resources. The conference provides a space to consider knowledge from fields such as development, resource and ecological economics, together with philosophical, political and psychological dimensions of a new Blue Economy, with social justice and equity at the core.
Mutually Beneficial Interactions

Reciprocity is about the interactions and inter-relationships within and between ocean and coastal systems. To engage in our oceans and coasts in a relational way there is a need to respect these environments as complex ‘lifeworlds’. This is to acknowledge we are in a reciprocal exchange with our oceans and coasts. We are in dialogue with a biosphere upon which we depend. This theme seeks contributions exploring reciprocal relationships with these environments as lifeworlds. How does the agency in these lifeworlds change us, as much as we change them, and in this exchange what is sustained and what is destroyed? This is an opportunity to engage in questions about our coastal futures from divergent as well as a systemic, holistic worldview that crosses fields as diverse as Indigenous Knowledge, sustainability sciences, complexity theory, deep ecology, critical design and systems thinking.


Presentation Formats


We encourage proposals for traditional conference sessions that will then be assigned submissions for oral presentations by the organisers.

Presentations (open date to be confirmed)

Oral presentations can be run in traditional 15-20 minute blocks, or take the form of rapid-fire 5-minute talks. Please indicate whether you intend to run long or short-form talks.

Posters (open date to be confirmed)

Poster abstracts can be submitted during the call for abstracts. Posters will be displayed at the venue for the duration of the event, and a poster-viewing night will allow for the presentation of posters to conference attendees.


Workshops can take the form of, for instance, interactive events, discussions, or tutorials. Workshops can run for 40 min, 1 hour, or longer (1/2 day or full day). Please indicate in your submission the intended duration of the workshop and the minimum and maximum number of attendees.


We welcome proposals for panels that bring together key stakeholders to discuss topics with each other and the audience. Panels can run for 40 minutes or 1 hour. Please indicate in your submission the intended duration of the panel event.

Virtual Engagement

New technologies will play an essential role in the future of coasts, and they have a place in our conference. Whether you want to display your innovations, livestream an event, encourage live blogging, or ensure equitable access to our event, you are welcome to propose a virtual engagement. Virtual engagements can vary in duration. Please indicate in your submission the intended duration of the virtual engagement.

Artistic Expressions

We welcome a variety of artistic expressions at the conference, which can take the form of one-time events, ongoing installations, or other formats and durations. As these will be bespoke artistic expressions, please indicate in your submission the intended format, duration, and preferred location for your expression.

Youth Event

Please submit suggestions for events particularly targeting the younger generation here. Please indicate what your target audience will be, e.g. high school students, and how you are intending to engage with them.

Yarning (talking) circle

In a yarning circle, a facilitator mediates contributions from participants, and all voices are given the same respect and given the same importance.
Please propose topics with you as a moderator and indicate the minimum and maximum number of attendees and envisioned duration. Please click here for more information on yarning circles.

Journal Special Issue

Please submit ideas for special issues in scholarly journals here. Please also provide information on potential target journals and guest editors.

Community activations, interventions and other events

We seek your ideas on community activations that would transform spaces,
getting people actively involved in a certain topic, and provide longer-term
benefits to the broader public or specific communities. We also encourage any type of outdoor event run before and/or after the regular conference program, such as day or field trips. Please indicate your involvement, the timeframe and minimum/maximum number of attendees. Please submit proposals for any other type of activities not listed above here.

Key Dates

Following the selection of the sessions and other formats, Our Coastal Futures conference will open the call for abstracts for individual presentations, both oral and posters, into the selected sessions.

Following the postponement of the conference all of the below dates are no longer applicable.  We will update this page when more information is available.

Open call for contributions

TBC Call for contributions opens
(all formats except individual
TBC Call for contributions closes

Call for abstracts

TBC Call for abstracts opens
(presentations and posters)
TBC Call for abstracts closes


TBC Registrations open
TBC Early bird closes
TBC Conference commences

Submissions are currently closed.


Hear from a diverse group of inspirational thinkers and doers in a series of main stage talks over three days. OCF 2021 speakers offer insights and inspiration to guide action for the next decade. More speakers will be announced soon here.

Head of Marine Policy and Regional Coordination Section, UNESCO, France.

Julian Barbière is Head of Marine Policy and Regional Coordination Section at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. Educated as an environmental scientist, he has approximately 20 years of experience at the international level in the field of ocean sustainability, ocean governance, and the implementation of ecosystem-based management approaches at various geographical locations. He is the lead person responsible for Sustainable Development at the IOC Secretariat, and is known within the UN for his contribution to ocean ecosystem management. Working at the interface of science and policy, he has led a number of UN initiatives, such as the start up phase of UN Regular Process -2006-2009 aimed at delivering a global integrated assessment of the state of the ocean. He has been instrumental in developing the IOC portfolio in Marine Spatial Planning since 2005, and is now leading the preparation phase of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Political geographer, ARC Laureate Fellow, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Jon Barnett is a political geographer whose research investigates social impacts and responses to environmental change. He has twenty years of experience conducting field-based research in several Pacific Island countries, and in Australia, China, and Timor-Leste. This research has helped explain the impacts of climate change on cultures, food security, inequality, instability, migration, and water security, and ways in which adaptation can promote social justice and peace. Jon is Professor and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Geography at The University of Melbourne. He was a lead author of the chapter on Human Security in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, and he co-edits the journal Global Environmental Change.

Biological Oceanographer, Member of the Executive Planning Group (EPG) of the Un Decade of Ocean Sciences, Universidad Nacional Autónoma De Mexico

Elva Escobar Briones, UNAM, has a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography. As an expert in Mexican deep sea diversity she collaborates with national and international scientific groups and supports decision making by ISA’s LTC from 2006-2015 and the CBD EBSA committee since 2008. She is a DOSI leading member since 2013; participated in, in drafting the outline for the IPCC Oceans and Cryosphere in 2016; a member of the NASEM UGOS committee since 2018, and EPG member of the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for the Sustainable Development 2021-2030. She directed the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology (ICM-UNAM) from 2011-2019.

Director of the Department of Climate Change and Disaster, Government of Tuvalu

Pepetua E Latasi is the Director of the Department of Climate Change and Disaster, Government of Tuvalu, and is responsible for overall coordination of climate change and disaster-related matters at the national, regional, and international levels. She played a key role in developing Tuvalu’s National Adaptation Programme of Action – and in supporting the implementation of priority actions through the NAPA 1 and NAPA 2 projects – and was involved in the preparation of the project proposal for the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project. Ms Latasi is the designated National Focal Point for the UNFCCC.

Scholar of Indigenous Knowledge, collaborative leader in Aboriginal Community Development and Aboriginal Higher Education, Australia

Norm Sheehan is a Wiradjuri man, born in Mudgee NSW. He is a collaborative leader in Aboriginal Community Development and Aboriginal Higher Education, a Professor of Indigenous Knowledge, and a leading Design Thinking practitioner. His expertise lies in identifying and activating existing strengths within communities as a basis for relevant education, research, and development initiatives. Professor Sheehan has more than 30 years’ working in education and is responsible for the development of the first Australian Bachelor degree of Indigenous Knowledge and Doctoral degree in Indigenous Philosophies. He is recognised as contributing significantly to the development of Indigenous Knowledge as an academic discipline.

Oceanographer, Chair of the Center for Ocean Mega-Science, Director of Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research and the Institute of Oceanology (Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Fan Wang is the Chair of the Center for Ocean Mega-Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Director of Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, CAS (YICCAS), and the Institute of Oceanology, CAS (IOCAS). He is mainly working on ocean circulation dynamics, including the western boundary currents in the low-latitude Pacific, tropical ocean circulation, and shelf circulations in the China Seas. He led the constructions of CAS buoy networks in the Yellow and East China Seas, and CAS real-time mooring array in the western tropical Pacific. He undertook more than 30 projects funded by National Basic Research Program, National High Technology Research and Development and National Natural Science Foundation of China. Dr. Wang has published over 140 papers and 3 Academic Monographs. He serves as deputy chair of Chinese Society of Oceanology and Limnology, vice chair of Northwestern Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment (NPOCE) SSC, and member of Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO).

Surf culture researcher & Master Shaper, Australia

Tom Wegener has complemented his physical work as a surfboard manufacturer with academic scholarship.  Tom started making surfboards in 1979 and has led the industry in many ways from starting the green surfboard movement to igniting the rebirth of ancient Hawaiian surfing. He was awarded Surfboard Shaper of the Year in 2009 and Australian Good Design Award 2011.  In 2019 Tom Received a PhD from the University of the Sunshine Coast. His research focused on how culture sustains local industry – namely how the culture of surfing supports the thousands of surfboard artisans in Australia and around the world.


Future Earth Coasts


Future Earth Coasts is a platform for translating sustainability knowledge into action, providing access to a growing network of coastal researchers, and their connections with a diversity of coastal champions and advocates worldwide. 

The purpose of Future Earth Coast is to enable the transition towards respectful custodianship of our coasts, in particular to

Through Our Coastal Futures, Future Earth Coasts provides an independent forum for regional coastal stakeholders to transform the way they engage with their coasts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Future Earth Coasts is a core project of Future Earth, connected to a number of United Nations agencies, intergovernmental bodies, and organisations such as the International Council for Science.

UN Decade of the Oceans & Coasts 2021 – 2030

Actions Towards

Our Coastal Futures 2021 is an endorsed event by the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences.

On 5 December 2017, the United Nations proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, to be held from 2021 to 2030. The Decade will provide a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the Oceans and more particularly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The main principle is that the Decade will address both deep disciplinary understanding of ocean processes and solution-oriented research to generate new knowledge. This knowledge will support societal actors in reducing pressures on the ocean, preserving and restoring ocean ecosystems and safeguarding ocean-related prosperity for generations to come. The Decade should turn the scientific knowledge and understanding into effective actions supporting improved ocean management, stewardship and sustainable development.

The Roadmap identifies six societal outcomes:

Read the full vision of the UN Decade here.

You can link your proposed contribution to one of the six societal goals of the UN Decade:

Whereby sources of pollution are identified, quantified and reduced and pollutants removed

Whereby marine ecosystems are mapped and protected, multiple impacts, including climate change, are measured and reduced, and provision of ocean and coastal ecosystem services is maintained

Whereby society has the capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions, forecast their change and impact on human wellbeing and livelihoods

Whereby human communities are protected from ocean hazards and where the safety of operations at sea and on the coast is ensured

Ensuring the provision of food supply and alternative livelihoods

Whereby all nations, stakeholders and citizens have access to data and information, technologies and have the capacities to inform their decisions

Read about the people on the Scientific Steering Committee and Organising Team here.

Contact Us

Conference Secretariat

Kate Murphy and Jenny Lawler
YRD Event Management
P. +61 7 3368 2422 E: [email protected]

Venue & Accommodation. You find more information here.


Early bird registration is now open

Conference package including:

Note: Your registration will not be valid until you have paid your registration fee. Students should be prepared to show their full-time student status. Fill out the form carefully. Your contact information will be used for the name badges and also to provide input for our diversity measures.

You will find the List of OECD Member countries here


Registration TypeEarly BirdRegular
OECD Resident – Full Registration$650$800
Non-OECD Resident – Full Registration$430$580
OECD Resident – Full-time Student$300$400
Non-OECD Resident – Full-time Student$200$270


Registrations are currently closed

Please explore workshops, excursions and social tours here


We’re honoured to partner with some of the most innovative companies and stakeholders in the world that have set to support sustainability and adaptation to global change in the coastal zone. Each of our partners brings a unique perspective to the future of our oceans and coasts and with their support, Our Coastal Futures is made possible. Thank you to the following partners for collaborating with us:

Made possible by:

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International Project Office Future Earth Coasts: