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August 1, 2021

Lismore Plateau: Mayor says hand back the land

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North Lismore Plateau. Photo Darren Coyne.

Eve Jeffery

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.

Lismore Mayor Vanessa Ekins says the motion recognises the importance of the North Lismore Plateau to Widjabul Wia-bal people. Photo David Lowe.

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.’

Lismore plateau area to be rezoned for a new housing development. Source Lismore City Council.

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”.’

Bundjalung Elder, Uncle Mickey Ryan. ‘If they take away our history, we have no future’. Photo Darren Coyne.

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.

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  1. What the hell has this got to do with” The Juukan Caves” ?
    We are talking about degraded and eroded cattle country, and what ever ‘Uncle Mickey says’ it has about as much heritage value as any other 35 hectares on the North Coast. This belongs to the ratepayers and it is not up to the new mayor to make some P.C. grand- gesture with our property.
    Get serious, G”)

  2. Great news Mayor Ekins a very intelligent & compassionate stand you’re taking. It never ceases to amaze me at the ruthlessness & brutality of our colonial ancestors. First Nations people were ‘removed’ off the Lismore Plateau as Ms Ekins explains. They were just treated like ‘pests’ to be removed, similar to our long suffering & persecuted wildlife , it’s the same disgusting attitude. Thank goodness we have a new progressive /caring Mayor that is determined to do whatever she can to right the many wrongs inflicted upon Indigenous peoples , at least in her region. Hopefully, she will be embraced & supported ….hopefully …..although ‘she’ is a woman ! We have seen how that has turned out in other political circles.

  3. Agreed give the land for the indidginous so they can look after their sites, and home place, as it seems we can’t manage that. Good move Vanessa.

  4. This only happens because children grow up and want somewhere to build a house. How many children has Cr Ekins got?

  5. So good to discover and read this article submitted by Dot Moller. A very timely message on this week being NAIDOC WEEK. I would personally like to thank Mayor Vanessa Ekins along with the other supportive Councillors and look forward to listening in on the next Lismore City Council Meeting.

  6. Move them into the council building there not using that for anything important .
    P.s. if you want to represent us dress appropriately

  7. Thank you Mayor Cr Ekins,
    A perfect time to do this – making the announcement during Naidoc week . It is high time to give the North Lismore Plateau back to the Widjabul Wia-bal people. The land was stolen from them and its fitting that they finally get it back. Luke Pond says “The Mayor inspires little confidence”. I would say, Mayor Ekins inspires great confidence and i hope the council backs this motion. Thank you Mayor for your wisdom, foresight and acting boldly.

  8. Encouraging houses to be built in non flood areas in Lismore should be the priority. Lismore city is in a flood area and continues to die.This mayor is hammering the nails in Lismore’s coffin. Instead of encouraging jobs and growth to the city she pursues her anti Lismore development wagon. She is a complete disgrace and should be sacked.

  9. Yes. 100%! This is a vision for a better future, rather than just more of the same. Well done Mayor Ekins! I hope this motion is successful.

  10. Does Mayor Ekins personally own any land, and if so does she want to give that “back” too? Who else wants to give their land “back”?


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