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February 26, 2021

Police to examine gravesite on Nth Lismore Plateau

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A view of the North Lismore Plateau. (Darren Coyne)
A view of the North Lismore Plateau. (Darren Coyne)

By Darren Coyne

A gravesite believed to contain two bodies that was discovered on the North Lismore Plateau will now be examined by police and forensic archeologists after pressure from opponents to a proposed development near the site.

Bundjalung elder Mickey Ryan has been pushing for the investigation into the gravesite as part of his opposition to a proposed housing estate on the plateau that would cater to 3600 people.

Mr Ryan is also set to lodge a complaint from the Human Rights Commission against the Lismore City Council saying he is ‘sick of not being listened to’, and is today meeting with the Bundjalung Council of Elders, which is unanimous in support of his continued opposition.

Mr Ryan is asking the HRC to investigate the council’s refusal to have his own archaeologist attend a meeting, on August 19 at the council chambers  of the Representative Aboriginal Parties to finalise a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the proposed development on the plateau.

He claims that the developer and his consultants are attending the meeting, yet his request to have his own archeologist attend and a make a presentation to councillors has been rejected.

‘I am sick of not being listened too. The council are attempting to manipulate Aboriginal people to agree to the destruction of the most significant site in the Lismore area,’ he said.

‘The NLP is the home of the sleeping lizard, the sacred totem of the Wiyabal people within the Bundjalung nation,

‘I am being discriminated, everything I put forward is being knocked on the head even to the point I am being denied having an archaeologist -cultural heritage expert being allowed to make a small presentation to the Aboriginal representatives.

Mr Ryan wants councillors to hear from Scott Franks, managing director from Tocomwall, an Aboriginal cultural heritage consultancy firm that provides archeological, ecological and cultural heritage services across Australia.

After a previous site visit to examine rock walls on the plateau, Mr Franks told Echonetdaily that the plateau could be as significant as Uluru, and should be further examined and protected.

‘I believe it’s highly significant and the council should be turning their minds to ways to protect this. If this area is cleaned up and managed properly, and the right protocols are put in place with the right knowledge holders, I think it could be an unbelievable teaching area for archeology, and also for tourism.’

Meanwhile, Echonetdaily reported recently that a report by Georadar Pty Ltd for the Everick Heritage Consultants , who are acting for the developers, presented the results of a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Survey performed on 18 January 2017 at the Winten Property Group Site on the North Lismore Plateau.

The objectives of the GPR survey were to establish if a grave-like feature was a human burial, or not.

The report concludes: ‘From an examination of the GPR data, it is our interpretation that this grave-like feature near the ridge line on the Winten Property Group site on the North Lismore Plateau represents the probable burial of two persons. They appear to be the graves of early settlers inferred to be from the 1850 – 1890 period,’ the report states.

Mr Ryan said the discovery of the bodies in a shallow grave was the latest example of the prejudice that the council had shown him and other Aboriginal custodians.

‘If it was not for my vigilance, the burial would have been totally ignored, covered over and risk destruction for development, in fact it has taken 10 months for the authorities to be notified,’ he said.

‘The council and the developer’s consultant failed to report, as is required the discovery of human remains. That burial could be a crime scene, an Aboriginal burial or as is being put by the developer without forensic evidence, the graves of European settlers.

‘This shows the lack of respect that council and the developer have for even their own heritage.

‘I am very pleased that the police and forensic archaeologists are now taking an active interest in the burial and I have since been informed that the site will be exhumed.

‘This burial may be the tip of the iceberg. My heritage consultant says that burials may be far more extensive on the Plateau and further research will need to be undertaken.

‘The original heritage reports only surveyed 20 per cent of the Plateau with the registering of four very significant Aboriginal sites.’


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  1. well done Mickey Ryan, for your vigilance and persistence in this! The developer and the survey companies should [have reported] their suspicions of human remains to police!

  2. Everyone has a responsiblity to protect and respect ancient aboriginal cultural heritage from destruction. Let us be together learn and share and with one voice say we as peoples of the present acknowledge the ancient past survivors and want to keep protected all that remains for the future generations.
    Enough has been disregarded and destroyed.
    Lets do our share to protect and support Sacred Sites here.. and all over the world.
    No Development should begin upon this special land area of North Lismore.


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