At Lismore Council’s meeting next week (15 July), Mayor Vanessa Ekins will move a motion that Council hand back council-owned land on the North Lismore Plateau to the Traditional Owners.
Council owns 35 hectares at the south end of the plateau including an old quarry, 11 hectares of residential zoned land, and environmental zoned land with sites of cultural significance.
Cr Ekins says the motion recognises the importance of the North Lismore Plateau to Widjabul Wia-bal people and is in response to the proposed housing developments. It ensures that the management of sites of cultural significance are in the hands of the traditional owners.
Handing the land back a small but significant act
‘The land is zoned environmental conservation specifically to protect the significant cultural heritage on the site,’ said Cr Ekins. ‘We now know how important Sleeping Lizard Hill is to the Widjabul Wia-bal people and handing the land back is a small but significant act.’
North Lismore Plateau Protection Association Inc. spokesperson Dot Moller said that Bundjalung Elder, Uncle Mickey has spoken about the development plans for the Banyam Baigham (North Lismore Plateau). ‘Uncle Mickey says that “If they take away our history, we have no future”. In this, NAIDOC week, and for that matter, any time, these words are both powerful, and a warning to us all.’
Ms Moller said that Widjabul Wia-bal heritage sits up on the North Lismore Plateau. ‘Quietly for thousands of years, this place has held Aboriginal stories, burials, and Sacred Sites undisturbed except for the occasional agricultural clearing work. “Aborigines” (Northies) were forced off the Plateau – their home – many years ago, but their long history remains in this special place.’
Developers have a history of getting it wrong
Ms Moller said that developers have a history of getting it wrong and that there is an expectation that local developers will behave with the same lack of care as Rio Tinto.
‘They didn’t stop the destruction of irreplaceable heritage. The Juukan Caves are no more. It appears our very own Lismore Council’s push to add 1,000+ houses on the North Lismore Plateau has great potential to go the same way – the loss of something we never knew we had,’ she said.
‘The Council Urban Release Plan has many parks and quiet places dotted between houses and streets. The Council has marked known aboriginal sites on the plans. The parallels are there. The Rio Tinto executive had all the paperwork to prove they were well aware of the importance of those amazing caves. Then, during on-ground works “Oops”! We could quite rightly call the Council mitigation of Aboriginal Heritage, the “Oops policy”.’
Cultural heritage significance of the site
Cr Ekins said the development of the North Lismore Plateau has been a big conversation in our community for many years. ‘Most people are aware of the cultural heritage significance of the site. This is the piece of land that Council has that contains known sites of cultural significance and the traditional owners are supportive of returning Country to their care and control.’
‘This action by Lismore is part of a national approach to delivering justice outcomes to Traditional Custodians by returning country. I hope it gets the support it deserves from Lismore City Councillors.’
The next Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 13.