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December 2, 2022

Lismore Council to vote on taking back Banyam Baigham

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Will the Sleeping Lizard be taken from the Widjabal Wia-bal people, again?  Photo David Lowe.

At the first ordinary meeting of the new Lismore City Council, Councillor Big Rob has lodged a motion to halt the hand back of significant cultural and environmental land to the Widjabal Wia-bal people.

Last July’s historic vote by Lismore City Council, to pass a motion to hand back Banyam Baigham – Sleeping Lizard, known as the North Lismore Plateau, to the Traditional Custodians, was an emotional day for both Indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Former Lismore Mayor and current Councillor Vanessa Ekins, said that Lismore Council emerged as a leader in walking with local Aboriginal community. ‘We announced the hand back of 35 hectares of land including numerous sacred sites and important environmental zones on land adjoining the controversial North Lismore Plateau Development,’ she said.

But will Council vote to take the land back again?

Outrageous to renege on a promise

Cr Vanessa Ekins says it is outrageous that Councillors would even consider reneging on the promise to hand the land back. Photo Tree Faerie.

Cr Ekins is outraged by the proposed motion, which will be debated at next Tuesday’s Council Meeting. ‘It is outrageous that Councillors would even consider reneging on our promise to hand the land back,’ she said. ‘Adopting this motion would set us back years, seriously damaging Lismore City Council’s credibility and fracturing important relationships between Council and the Widjabal Wia-bal people.’

Cr Ekins says that Cr Big Rob’s motion suggests that a portion of the land be sold for development. ‘But this makes no economic sense. The cost of providing road, water and sewer infrastructure would far outweigh any gains.’

Widjabal Wia-bal representatives say that Council going back on their word is destructive, and request that Lismore City Council continue to walk with them, strengthen discussion and heal past wrongs. ‘How is Lismore City Council going to show leadership with broken promises?’ said a representative.

Bundjalung man Uncle Mickey Ryan says the handback is a very big step by our community for justice and reconciliation. Photo David Lowe.

A deep connection to Widjabal Wia-bal people

Bundjalung elder, Uncle Mickey Ryan said the land has a deep connection to his people. ‘There is no question the land to be handed back has been identified as containing some of the most significant and sacred sites within the Bundjalung nation.

‘The hand back is a very big step by our community for justice and reconciliation, for all of us, Aboriginal and non-Indigenous alike.’

Councillor Ekins is calling on supporters of the historic hand back decision to let their Councillors know that a promise to the Widjabal Wia-bal people has been made. ‘We must honour that promise,’ she said.

Hand back is significant and important

Everybody (almost) hands up! The vote with Councillors Vanessa Ekins, Darlene Cook, Elly Bird, Eddie Lloyd, Nancy Casson, Adam Guise and Neil Marks, saying yes to hand back the Sleeping Lizard to the local mob.

‘The hand back is too significant and important to Lismore. There is a legitimate expectation by the Widjabal Wia-bal people and the broader community, that the handover of this land will happen,’ said Cr Ekins.

Cr Ekins is urging people to email and phone Lismore City Councillors. ‘Make your feelings known.’

Contact details for all new Councillors are here https://lismore.nsw.gov.au/your-councillors-at-work-information.

A gathering is being held outside the Council Chambers next Tuesday, February 8 at 5pm, prior to the Council meeting where the motion will be debated.

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  1. How extraordinary!
    The big lizard raises its head to Big Rob. This was a big deal on an ordinary day. This could be a big day.
    At the very first ordinary meeting of the new Lismore City Council, Councillor Big Rob has lodged a motion to halt the big hand-back of significant cultural and environmental land to the Widjabal Wia-bal people. How big is that? Not very big of Big Rob. The lizard is wide awake.

  2. i hope they do something with the part that has been partly develeoped and left mid constuction with spray on grass turned weeds covering the mess that is an absolute eyesore and a swamp to the people living near by. surely the people that put a stop to this delevopment cant be happy with its current state or was just stopping it enough and who cares about it just the people that actually live here.?

    • You do realise you live on stolen land Dennis, what about they eye sore of urban developers… or who cares about the people that have actually lived here for millenia..?

      • You can believe that you live on stolen land all you want it’s a meaningless gesture that only serves a select group of people out of a small minority and makes white people feel good without having to sacrifice anything, and every day I look out my windows at a unused hill full of weeds a partly developed landscape that could be homes.

  3. Repeated delays to the North Lismore Plateau subdivision have added $75,000 to each block.
    The ‘lizard’ certainly has a venomous bite over increasing local housing costs !
    Four previous Lismore City counsellors are wholly responsible for this infamous fiasco and that generous gift to a minority group.
    I hope our ratepayers will remember their names.

    • “Four previous Lismore City Councilors are wholly responsible for this infamous fiasco …”
      The article reports seven Councillors voted for this proposal, not four.
      Ekins, Cook,Bird, lloyd. Casson,Guise and Marks.
      I do hope that this reneging on previous council decisions is not goingto be a hallmark of this council.
      I do not recall The Sleeping Lizard land being an issue at the recent elections.
      The Independents said they were going to focus on the basics of council activities, and I hope they do.
      The road I live on , Richmond Hill road ,is a major artery that is in a very dangerous state of disrepair, as are many, many other roads in the Lismore LGA.
      Councilor Robs proposal looks like ideological revenge and mean spiritedness which we can well do without.

  4. The original proposal to hand the land back was only a symbolic gesture with no substance, I am sure most people have not even read the detail of the original proposal, that can be viewed in the Council report.

    Eve, have you actually read the original Council report presented to Council to hand land back? its only a PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION into the possibility of being able to do it! How about presenting facts not media spin, your as bad as the right wing murdoch outlets in spruiking your ideology, and yes it is an ideology. All you care about is the catchy headline and generating fear amongst your supporters.

    I am not against the concept, I am all for the concept of handing land back, if it can be done correctly but the proposal as it stands has no legs, it needs to be revisited because it is only a PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION. Moving ahead without any legal pathway forward is like trying to drive with a blindfold.

    There had been no economic analysis, legal basis or an understanding WHO would get the land…its OK as white people to feel warm and fuzzy and handing back land but you have to look at how this can happen in a suitable way that actually benefits those receiving the land and also the rate payer.

  5. This motion is an unfortunate degradation of the exceptional Leadership which has until now been a hallmark of Lismore City councillors. I am wondering at the motivations of Mr Rob in moving this motion. Given the site Is marginal at best for development, financial incentives for Council are unlikely to be a rational factor. Is it in response to the pent up resentment about land rights. Or a desire to destroy the legacy of previous Councillors, for the sake of destroying the legacy? Or perhaps an unfortunate by-product of a narcissistic personality? Or all the above. Until now I have been willing to support the current Leadership, along with the changes in direction it has brought with it. But behaviour and attitudes as exhibited by Mr Rob are changing my mind. I look to the other Councillors, both new and experienced, for their response, and I hope that they will not collectively support this motion.

  6. Wow, the first glimmer of sanity to come from Lismore Council in forty years !
    The nonsense of giving away assets belonging to rate-payers, by a bankrupt council ( due to previous incompetences ) always stank of criminal neglect.
    Big Rob may be the kick in the pants this council so richly deserves. Perhaps it would also be a good time to address the total lack of preparedness for natural disasters and building a workforce capable of constructing a proper road system, while dispensing with contractors who have a vested interest in seeing road-works fail quickly.
    The hideous ‘artworks’ have wasted huge amounts of cash, coupled with the gross overpayment of management staff , could be better spent on real needs and local employment.
    A council of the people, for the people, G”)

  7. Sick, racist, National-Party inspired move, supported no less by Nationals’ Kevin Hogan MP who used same argument soon after handback vote. How can the community and nation ever move forward, become proud and stronger, with this rubbish. Defenders of the move, no matter it’s a ‘preliminary investigation’, show their lack of any morality or empathy. Money is not everything

  8. This whole issue has been very poorly managed from the beginning there was never any community consultation from the previous council on what was always going to be a divisive issue. Former mayor Ekins has a lot to answer for this mess,what would have been the problem with having a full and open discussion in the first place.Then again what can you expect from someone who votes herself a 20% pay rise in full knowledge that council is in dire financial trouble.

  9. Over 3,500 signatories in two days.

    Let this council know what you think of this racist attempt by Big Ratbags to divide the community along 1950s political lines.

    Personally I doubt that even all of the fake independents will stoop this low, unless they’re looking for huge confrontation with I daresay the majority of Shire residents.


  10. Sadly the world is full of miserable, selfish, short-sighted and greedy people. Shame on my ancestors who came uninvited to this country and did their utmost to deny the history and existence of an extraordinary race of human beings. Hundreds of years of lying to children in schools, pretending that we were the good guys saving those dirty heathen losers from themselves, as if living in harmony with their natural environment for millennia was a danger to them and all mankind.


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