The Widjabul Wia-bal people have been granted native title to a large part of their traditional lands, which span a large swathe of the Northern Rivers.
Representatives of the traditional owners gathered in Goonellabah today for the official determination of their claim by the Federal Court.
The decision grants the Widjabul Wia-bal people non-exclusive native title rights to an area of approximately 1,559kms, which stretched across the Lismore, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Tweed and Richmond Valley local government areas.
It is the outcome of a process that began nearly a decade ago, with a number of those who lead the fight no longer alive to witness the decision.
‘My father loved this country, culture and people and that love for country and culture is what drove his passion for many years to finally get to this point in native title of ownership, of recognition,’ said Nicole Roberts, the daughter of the late Murray John Roberts who died in May.
‘He would be super proud.’
‘I know he is here in spirit along with others that have gone before us and have been instrumental in helping this claim move forward and to where we are here today,’ she said.
The Widjabul Wia-bal people had to prove evidence of continuous and unbroken connection to country in order to establish their claim to native title.
They will now have limited rights to undertake cultural activities on publicly owned land, though not on private land.
These activities include*:
- The right to access, move about and traverse.
- The right to camp and erect temporary shelters but not to permanently camp or occupy.
- The right to hunt and fish for non-commercial purposes.
- The right to access and use natural water resources for non-commercial purposes.
- The right to gather, share and exchange natural resources for non-commercial purposes.
- The right to conduct and participate in ceremonial, ritual and spiritual activities.
- The right to maintain and protect places of importance under traditional laws and customs.
- The right to transmit traditional knowledge to members of the native title claim group
- The right to hold meetings.
(* Source: ABC News)