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February 24, 2024

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Arakwal woman Shamiyah on country finally recognised as the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay’s place. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

Yesterday the Federal Court convened at Brunswick Heads to recognise the native title rights of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay. His Honour Justice Robertson handed down the determination to cheers and tears of joy from over 300 Bundjalung people who gathered for the announcement.

Justice Robertson. Photo Tree Faerie.

A 25-year journey travelled its last leg early in the morning at the Ironbark campsite in Byron before moving to the Cape, The Pass, and finally coming to rest at the Brunswick River where the court convened before Justice Robertson at Torakina.

There the Byron Bay people, the Arakwal–Bumberbin Bundjalung, had their native title rights recognised.

Native title is the recognition by Australian law that the Indigenous people who were the Traditional Owners of an area prior to 1788 have ongoing rights and interests in land, seas and waters that derive from their traditional laws and customs.

‘This is not a determination of rights. This is a recognition that those rights have always been there.’

After describing the area covered by the title, Justice Robertson spoke about the past and the future. ‘This is not a determination of rights. This is a recognition that those rights have always been there.’

Aunty Dulcie Nicholls spoke to the court early in the morning at the Ironbark campsite.

Aunty Dulcie: ‘It is a nice, very good feeling to have it grow and be finalised.’ Photo Tree Faerie.

‘Twenty-five years is a long time,’ she said.

‘We always had to go to meetings and fight. It’s been like forever on this long struggle and now I am happy to be here for my sisters and my family.’

The convoy moved to Cape Byron and heard from Yvonne Stewart Kay, before travelling to The Pass where those gathered listened to Delta Kay talk about that place.

‘An archaeological study was completed at The Pass midden in 1994 after Arakwal elders called for the protection of the site,’ she said.

‘An excavation of an area was dated at over 1,000 years old.

‘Our elders’ stories are proven in the evidence found in the study. This midden is an important link to our past – today our people still gather and eat here.’

The last stop was Torakina, where His Honour Justice Robertson handed down the determination, before more than 300 Bundjalung people who gathered for the announcement.

‘It has been such a long and at times difficult journey, but by working together we have achieved a wonderful result.’

Native Title applicant Stanley Kay expressed his delight at the recognition of native title.

‘I and others were given an obligation and responsibility by the aunties and uncles to stand up and speak for country, to speak for family,’ said Kay.

‘It has been such a long and at times difficult journey, but by working together we have achieved a wonderful result.’

The native title rights and interests will be managed by the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arakwal).

Annette Kelly. Photo Tree Faerie.

Annette Kelly, Chairperson, said that the Corporation is pleased to be holding the rights and interests recognised in the determination.

‘The determination will allow us to create new opportunities for all Arakwal people, particularly in the areas of jobs and housing,’ said Ms Kelly.

‘The corporation will carry on the legacy of our Aunties and implement their vision of caring for country.’

Native Title applicant Uncle Brian Kelly reminded all present that Byron Bay has a black history. ‘Everyone all over the world will now know that Byron Bay Bundjalung are the right people for this county,’ said Uncle Brian. ‘It is good to be back home walking barefoot on our land.’

‘This recognition will bring benefits not only to the Bundjalung people, but the whole of the community.’

Yvonne Stewart asked that those who had passed away waiting for this day be remembered. ‘This is an important day for us,’ she said. ‘A day we  hoped would have come a lot earlier. A journey our Aunties began and a vision they gave us, the responsibility to fulfil.’

‘This consent determination represents the coming together of two systems of law. It formally recognises the rights we know we have. This recognition will bring benefits not only to the Bundjalung people, but the whole of the community.’

Aunty Dulcie is very pleased with the outcome: ‘It is a nice, very good feeling to have it grow and be finalised.’

Photo Tree Faerie


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10 COMMENTS

  1. It was an amazing, rich, emotional day for this mob. I was blessed to be able to stand witness with an aboriginal man (Kevin W.D Thomson) from Brunswick Heads.
    He was over the moon at being able to be there as he understands the ramifications of this determination from the highest court in the land.

  2. Great result. Congratulations for all your hard work and patience to finally receive the right outcome

  3. Wonderful that this recognition has happened. Nothing was given and nothing was taken. It just is, as it always was, and always should have been. My aunties and my grandmothers would be smiling from our country to yours.

  4. This will help heal a lot of white fella souls also
    excoriated by our behaviour collectively for 2 centuries
    Sorry
    So glad our society has reached this point
    and our first nation peoples can take heart in their future

  5. beautiful! I can’t imagine how happy the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay may be!!!
    One more step to Unity!
    Good for the Land and all the people on it!!
    Maybe we could get rid of the monstrous metal stuff in the roundabout in Byron Bay and put there something, some totem animal or whatever is appropriate to let all the world know that yes In Byron we honor the ancestors of this land…. but we could ask the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay if they want to do some statement like this and what they would like…..

  6. This is the greatest victory of the 21st century and thank you for your great example of collective power.

    Never give up. blessings.

  7. I second the comment #6 by Yves. Lets ask the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay how they would like to
    acknowledge this in a public way the whole world can see, and recognise?
    Can we get this proposal moving? Give us something to be rejoicing in instead of being squashed down all the time by phallic sculptures, unwanted developments, potholes, dead animals – give the Council a reason not to hang its head in shame and seek mental health counselling, for a change. Tourists from all over the world will go home saying, hey, ‘ I spent time in Country, in the land of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay! It was wonderful!’
    Bundjalung People of Byron Bay – I apologise. I’m sorry. We are sorry. And I see you – we see you

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