[author]Story & photo Eve Jeffery[/author]
Arakwal elder Aunty Dulcie Nicholls celebrated her 82nd birthday with a cake as the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay celebrated the tenth anniversary of the first Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the NSW government.
The chair of the Arakwal National Park Management Committee Yvonne Stewart spoke to the crowd about the history of local Indigenous people, past and present, who worked on making the agreements a reality.
‘Wow it has been ten years and we’re still here,’ said Ms Stewart. ‘What a monster we created. With all the agreements and management arrangements in place in this beautiful country, we know now that it is protected forever. Preserved forever for our people to walk in and learn from.’
Ms Stewart went on to say that the last ten years had seen three Indigenous land use agreements under the Native Title Act had been achieved and two memorandums of understanding (MOU) with the government.
‘Two hundred and sixty hectares of country has been protected in and around Byron Bay as national parks and reserve. I think we have done pretty well to wrap our town up in a national park.’
As part of the celebrations Aunty Dulcie unveiled a plaque commemorating the historical markers of the Arakwal people from a time 1500 years ago and a midden at The Pass, to the naming on Cape Byron by Captain Cook in 1770 through to more the recent history of Native Title applications and the passing of local elders. A tree was then planted in the garden to celebrate the day and Aunty Dulcie blew out her birthday cake candles.