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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Widjabul Wia-bal rally against rescission motion

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Last Friday a rally was held at Spinks Park Lismore to urge Rous County Council to hold firm with their decision to stop Dunoon Dam and to rezone the land so that the threat of its flooding would end.

The Widjabul Wia-bal people initiated the rally because a rescission motion proposed for the Rous meeting on February 17 would reverse this decision and once again leave traditional custodians in limbo.

Widjabul Wia-bal Elders and Traditional Owners at the Rous office in Lismore. Photo Maddy Braddon.

The Widjabul Wia-bal released a statement about the dam.

We, Custodians of Widjabul Wia-bal lands of the Bundjalung Nation, and neighbouring tribes, want you to know that the area to be affected by the proposed Dunoon Dam is significant to us, to our  people. We need to protect this land. It is important to our Ancestors and for our future generations to be able to connect to our Ancestors and traditions. 

This land holds our relationship with our living heritage and culture. 

For thousands of generations we have lived on this land and protected it while it protected and fed us. To destroy this land is to destroy the environment which sustains us. The proposed dam would destroy the learning grounds for future generations. 

The suggestion to drown our sites to protect them (as stated in the 2013 Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment) is deeply offensive to us.

Additionally, the valley to be drowned by the dam at the end of Fraser Road is the site where we were moved to after we were dispossessed just over 100 years ago. It is important as part of our survival journey. 

We, the Traditional Custodians of this land, will not accept its destruction. No compensation will replace its importance to us and our following generations.

We call on Rous County Council to return the land that it controls to the Traditional Custodians. 

Do not construct the Dunoon Dam. Do not destroy our living culture.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people at rally

The Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who came to support the traditional custodians. Photo Maddy Braddon.

The rally was attended by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who came to support the traditional custodians and to hear Widjabul Wia-bal elders talk about the destructive Dunoon dam.

On behalf of the Widjabul Wia-bal woman Aunty Lana Hunt said traditional custodians bear responsibilities to their ancestors who have been laid to rest on that ground. ‘We feel this responsibility deeply. Since the dam was first proposed in 1993, it has caused us so much stress – the threat to obliterate our heritage and flood the graves of our ancestors.

‘Over and over again we have voiced our objections and explained the significance of all country to our living culture and families.’

A weight lifted

Aunty Marie Delbridge said when the Rous Board decided to stop the Dunoon Dam in their December meeting and to rezone the land, a weight lifted off their shoulders. ‘At last we felt heard. Then this rescission motion came up to reverse the decision, to place this burden on our shoulders again.

‘We ask Rous to stay firm with its decision to stop the dam, and to remove the threat of it forever, so that we can sleep knowing that our important heritage is safe.  Please take this burden from us, once and for all.’

80 Widjabul Wia-bal elders and TOs sign statement

Widjabul Wia-bal Elders and Traditional Owners prepared a statement to be read at the rally Photo Maddy Braddon.

Cindy Roberts said the statement was signed by more than 80 Widjabul Wia-bal elders and traditional owners. ‘Our cultural heritage is a direct connection to our ancestors and these sites provide us with a link to our traditions, our land and our living heritage.

‘Cultural heritage reports were done in 2011 and 2013 that showed the huge significance of the area. For more than 25 years we have voiced opposition to its destruction. The uncertainty must stop now once and for all. We call on Rous to stop the dam for good.’

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