Editorial: Native Title – what local recognition means

Eve Jeffery, guest editorial

After last week’s news that the Federal Court recognised the Native Tile of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay, the Arakwal-Bumberbin, many are wondering what this means in terms of day-to-day life in the Byron Shire.

Australian law has recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Native Title since the historic Mabo case in 1992.

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.

Native Title rights and interests may include rights to access an area for traditional purposes, like camping or to conduct ceremonies and cultural activities; to visit, protect, and maintain important places and sites; to hunt, fish, and take natural resources and water; to teach law and custom on traditional Country; and be accompanied by others when undertaking those activities.

The consent determination in and around Byron Bay, Brunswick Heads, Bangalow, and Mullumbimby will be the 11th in NSW, and only the second over sea country in NSW and the first over such a densely settled area. This consent determination concluded the current longest-running Native Title claim in NSW after 18 years of litigation.

The Arakwal-Bumberbin were able to provide strong evidence of their continuing traditional connection to Country and this formed the basis of the negotiations with the state and Commonwealth, and other parties.

The local mob say this is a celebration time for them and have asked the community to allow Arakwal people to have this time to reflect on the elders’ journey and what lies ahead for them as Native Title holders. This is an exciting time, but a lengthy process of legalities lies ahead.

Arakwal Corp GM Sharon Sloane says there is a registration process, and until that is finalised, Arakwal Corporation is continuing with running their core business.

‘One in particular is the Cultural Centre for Arakwal,’ says Ms Sloane. ‘The board of directors this weekend are focusing on what a cultural centre will look like, and are visiting northern Queensland to gain some greater perspectives of what works.’  

Sloane says the Arakwal people are keen to develop their own unique cultural and recreational programs that add to the experience for visitors to this great area.

‘A cultural centre and carpark will employ Arakwal people, offer cultural tours, and connect and be the link not only between the town of Byron and the Cape Byron Lighthouse, but also a key to ensuring that local culture and stories are told and understood.’  

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