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Byron Shire
November 29, 2021

Indigenous midden under threat

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Arakwal woman, Nickolla Clark, says that erosion has resulted in losing ‘one of our very limited listed cultural sites’. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

A midden of historical significance has been so severely damaged by the coastal erosion of the past week, that the local mob are concerned it may not be saved.

One of the two larger middens in the area has had a huge chunk washed away, and the traditional custodians are hoping that residents and visitors can do their part to help save it.

Arakwal woman Nickolla Clark says that the Clarkes midden, on Clarkes Beach, in the area of the cafe and caravan park, has all but disappeared.

‘Our poor midden! Yes, we are losing sand formations like the dunes and a lot of ecological environments from within these areas, which is very sad, but we have also lost one of our very limited listed cultural sites’, she said.

Midden dated at 263 years old

‘The Clarkes Beach midden has shell dated at 263 years old, and also bone remains dated at over 100 years old’.

‘This is one of the youngest midden sites on country, but the most heavily impacted by humans and extreme weather events’.

Ms Clark says midden sites are important because they are Indigenous significant sites.

‘They have been used for thousands of years by many Aboriginal people all along the east coast lines, as sites for gathering, sharing, feasting and more.

‘As coastal people – my family, the Arakwal People of Byron Bay – we have listed protected midden sites on country.

‘It proves our inhabitancy before European settlement, and tells the history of our old people – what they ate, where they gathered – what tools they used.

Sites shared with other Bundjalung people

‘These sites were shared with other Bundjalung Nation peoples and they are significant to a wide range of clans and stories’.

Ms Clark says taking care of them has been passed down through many generations on Arakwal country and it is important to protect the sites, so they stay on country for future generations and are not ruined by human activities.

‘There are only so many listed protected sites on our coast that we can fully protect as Aboriginal people and we are very lucky as native title holders to have three sites on country protected within this process’.

Ms Clark asks for people to keep away from the site, as that is the best way to help preserve the midden.

‘Avoid walking over the dunes and midden remains and the little that will be left and sensitive vegetation areas on the dunes’.

‘Stick to the Council beach accesses once they open’.

Awareness is key

Ms Clark says learning about the area is also a way to help.

‘Awareness is key to the success and revival of our sites’.

‘Please respect the sensitive ecological environments in these areas, and find out more about middens, their significance, and what they look like.

‘As a community we can work together to protect these sites’.

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