Story and photos Eve Jeffery
Today is the third and final day of the Joint Management Custodians of NSW meeting, hosted this year by the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay (Arakwal).
Custodians are landowners leasing their land back or recognised through an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) or a Memorandum of Understanding.
The joint management custodians have been meeting every year since 2009 and the meetings run for two-and-a-half days.
This afternoon’s meeting will conclude the event, which started with a field day on Tuesday that included a visit to the Cape and the official opening of a walkway access path at The Pass.
‘Every time we have these conference meetings we always have one day in the field,’ said Yvonne Stewart, chair of the Arakwal National Park Management Committee.
‘We are just having a look at country and listening to the custodians of the area,’ Ms Stewart said.
‘We went and introduced the delegates to Broken Head. We talked about the dreaming areas and the cultural significance out there and the caravan park and how we jointly manage aligning lands.
‘We had a look around the lighthouse and then The Pass.’
The aim of the conference is to help traditional custodians working with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to ensure the continuing practice of Aboriginal culture in land management.
Ms Stewart said that after all the delegates had arrived their would be a full day and a half of meetings.
‘These people are from groups who are in joint management with National Parks,’ she said.
‘There are 25 different groups who have co-management with National Parks across the state.
‘It’s pretty significant. At one stage we only had Mutawintji at Broken Hill, which was the first National Park that was created with a hand-back to the community through the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
‘Then the Arakwal was the first of its kind because it was through an ILUA, so our park was the first to be done through Native Title negotiations.’
Ms Stewart says that for the Arakwal the ILUA has helped put Aboriginal people in jobs in the administration and care of the National Park.
‘Successful traineeships have seen Arakwal people appointed to a range of positions including ranger, senior field officer and administration officer,’ she said.
She said Aboriginal joint management also provided benefits to the parks system and the broader community.
‘It enables Aboriginal communities to connect with their country and pass on their culture to younger generations, contributing to community well-being through positive health benefits and provision of social and economic opportunities,’ Ms Stewart said.
From a cultural point of view, Ms Stewart believes that every national park should have an Aboriginal custodian involved. ‘It’s up to us to teach our children and to maintain the cultural connections.’