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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

The Widjabul Wia-bal respond to the proposed Sleeping Lizard takeback motion

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Mindy Woods says taking back the land will cause irreparable damage to country, the Widjabul Wia-bal people, their culture, the greater community and the relationship between the Widjabul Wia-bal people with the Lismore City Council Photo Tree Faerie.

Representatives of the Widjabul Wia-bal mob have responded to the news that there is a motion to reverse the handback of the sacred site – Banyam Baigham, to the traditional owners.

Councillor Big Rob has given notice of intention to move that, amongst other things, Council take no further action in relation to its decision of 13 July 2021 to handback all Council-owned land at the North Lismore Plateau to the traditional owners.

Cr Rob’s comments include that: ‘Considering Council’s current financial position, together with various complicated compliance concerns, the outcome sought will ensure Council does not try to prematurely dispose of land prior to exploring various options and issues, including examining any risks, benefits, costs and potential for profit associated with each option and issue. This will allow Council to make an informed decision about how it should or should not proceed.’

Council’s ‘current financial position’ is about to become worse with the expected announcement of the exit of current GM Michel Donnelly this evening.

The Widjabul Wia-bal response

The Echo spoke to two representatives of the local mob, the Widjabul Wia-bal people.

Bundjalung woman Mindy Woods says she not only represents herself but also her bloodline as approved by her elders.

Ms Woods says the Lismore City Council’s proposal to rescind the promise to hand our sacred site Banyam Baigham back to its traditional owners is devastating and damaging to the Widjabul Wia-bal people.

‘Sleeping Lizard Hill is sacred to the Widjabul Wia-bal people and handing the land back was a small but significant act delivering fair and just outcomes to Traditional Custodians in the spirit of reconciliation.

‘The Notice of Motion moved by Mayor Vanessa Ekins was supported by seven Councillors. At this meeting, the significance of this sacred site was formally recognised by Lismore City Council.’

Uncle Mickey Ryan says handing back this land is something our community can feel proud of. Photo David Lowe.

Part of a healing process

Bundjalung elder Uncle Mickey Ryan says that the local mob considered the return of the land on North Lismore Plateau to be part of a healing process between the Widjabul Wia-bal people and the local government, and the broader community.

‘The former council commenced the healing process.  To see the new Council renege on that promise would be an affront to reconciliation and cause further hurt to our mob – it will detrimentally affect the future relationship between the Lismore City Council and the entire Widjabul Wia-bal people.

Uncle Mickey says there are massive limitations for Council in trying to retain or sell that land the land planning and environmental difficulties it will be costly for the ratepayers of Lismore who pay massive rates already. ‘For us mob that land has inherent value it has an irreplaceable spiritual and cultural value. It has educational importance and the future management of that land presents employment opportunities for our mob.

‘Our culture is valuable to us – we are part the oldest continuing culture on the planet. This is something the entire community should recognise and celebrate.

‘Handing back this land is something our community can feel proud of.’

Irreparable damage to Country, people and culture

The Sleeping Lizard of Lismore.

Ms Woods says that if this decision is reversed, taking back the land will cause irreparable damage to Country, the Widjabul Wia-bal people, their culture, the greater community and the relationship between the Widjabul Wia-bal people with the Lismore City Council.

‘The potential – and un-researched – short term financial gain of the proposed sell-off and development of this land fails to compare against the opportunity to protect Country, culture and create opportunities for shared cultural experiences with long term environmental and commercial viability.

‘We request the original motion is upheld not just for our people but for all Australians, who we hope to share with our long, rich and continuing culture.’

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


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  1. The Widjabul Wia-bal people are not responsible for the woeful financial situation of Lismore Council.
    To punish these Indiginous people is to do an injustice to them.
    To not hand the land back is NOT a guarantee that Lismore Council will be in a more financial position as it is the past councillors and the GM that go them into this mess,
    not the Widjabul Wia-bal people.
    When the cap fits you wear the cap yourself. You don’t blame other people.

  2. Re Sleeping Lizard! The original motion must be upheld. If not, then all else
    is a shameful lie that cannot be lived with. Do I need to with-hold paying my
    ‘Rates’ bill?

  3. ‘We request the original motion is upheld not just for our people but for all Australians, who we hope to share with our long, rich and continuing culture.’
    And over 18,000 people so far (who have signed the petition) agree, a number that well exceeds the number of votes Big Rob got at the local election.

  4. What is the Council not getting? I guess it hard for white fellas to give back what never was theirs in the first place, to the true custodians of this Land. First Nations People never sold their land, never gave away their land and never ceded sovereignty, it was stolen from them. C’mon Council, ya gunna do this stealing business, a 2nd time?

  5. Shameful that Council would even think of reneging on the undertaking to return stolen land to the rightful custodians. Despicable that such a motion should be passed. Shame on councillors contemplating this. May her lizard return and bite youse on the bum!

  6. Apart from the land stealing the Northern Rivers area was a place of massacre’s and food poisoning as well as significant oppressions and legal discriminations against the original owners. Stealing again is a stain on all of us invaders.

  7. Not sure what the council’s planning on doing with the land if it’s not handed back. Equally not sure what the Widjabul Wia-bal people intend doing with the land if it is handed back.

  8. And there it is. “Employment opportunities for our mob”.

    Aboriginal organisations taking taxpayer money and using it to create jobs only for Aboriginal people, blocking people of all other races from applying for them, including unemployed people, is “an affront to reconciliation” too.

    If an organisation run by people of any other race discriminates on the basis of race in providing employment opportunity, this is, quite rightly, considered racist. And so it is when this is done by Aboriginal people too

    • I don’t think there’s a problem with indigenous creating jobs for themselves there is a problem with handing rate payer owned land to a group of people with no right to claim it, its not crown land with a native title claim it’s land owned by the community of lismore which includes the widjabul wia bal and with lismore being held hostage by activist councillors and mayor in the previous council its of no surprise we have poorly thought out decisions like this creating conflict in the community.

      • Dennis I referred to Aboriginal people giving out jobs funded by (that is, compulsorily acquired from) taxpayers, not Aboriginal people creating jobs by making money in the marketplace via voluntary customers. There is a difference

    • Check your white privilege, racism is based on oppression, white people have never been oppressed due to the colour of their skin. Read a book.

      • Craigus do explain what the “privilege” is in being unemployed. And while you are at it, explain how an unemployed person being denied an opportunity to apply for a job that they spent years at uni getting a qualification for, based purely on their race, is not oppression.

        You can’t, can you. Your comment is one displaying clear lack of interest in social justice

  9. It would be interesting to hear the views of other Widgabul-wiabul elders who refer to the plateau as ‘the Echidna’ and were surprised when the original motion to hand the land back was made without any community consultation. What responsibilities for maintaining the land would also be ‘handed back’ and who will pay for these?

  10. Totally shameful! The land never belonged to the Lismore Council in the first place. This a perfect example of Racism and False Consciousness by Australian Settlers who seem to choose to remain in the lost world of Wilful Ignorance, when confronted with the truths of Colonization.

    Withhold your Rate payments folk. As we walk to RECONCILIATION with a ratified Uluru Statement, overt Settler Institutions must face the gross contradictions of our history and continue handing back First Nation land to the existing owners. Time to hand back ALL SACRED SITES FOLKS.

  11. Former councillor Neil Marks who supported the hand back nevertheless on the 5th of Feb made some quiet disturbing allegations in the Lismore app in the blogs /letters section ,if his allegations are correct then the integrity of this whole process needs to be throughly investigated especially the actions of then mayor Vanessa Ekins and her close cohorts.Rather than go into details I would urge anyone with an interest to take a look for themselves you will find the allegations I’m referring to towards the end of Neils blog .Personally I have yet to meet a single person against the hand back rather it’s the processes followed that has angered most.

  12. We can ‘do something’ right now… Change.org has 19,604 signatures in its Petition regarding
    Sleeping Lizard. Note – a ‘peaceful gathering is to be held with smoking ceremony at Lismore
    City Council Chambers, Oliver Avenue, Goonellabah’ late afternoon where Council is holding
    its meeting re Sleeping Lizard.’ An Elder will collect all thoughts on paper. The ‘steal back’ with
    Change.org is now world wide. Go check it out or just be there. Remember, this is a ‘peaceful’
    coming together.

  13. Some just don’t get it – the land did not ever belong to the Lismore
    Council. The existing owners are here in spite of the ignorance & the
    use & abuse around them.

  14. Everyone watching last nights Lismore Council meeting got a very clear display of Big Rob’s petty and vengeful ways, trolling back through the information Council has of his detractors so as to wrap them up in red tape seems to be the motivation so far.
    Start fixing the roads and leave our culture and community alone Cr Rob.


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