struck on native Eden, by Graham Lloyd - 2nd January
Githabul win rights to national parks
Githabul people of northern NSW will get joing management
control of the World Heritage-listed national parks
after securing the biggest native title deal struck
on Australia's eastern seaboard.
Australian can reveal that the NSW Government has
agreed to hand over joint control of 19 national parks
and state forests in some of the nation's most picturesque
claim covers parts of the Githabul nation, which stretches
for more than 6000sqkm, straddling the NSW and Queensland
border near Mt Lindesay and taking in the World Heritage-listed
Border Ranges and Toonumbar national parks.
deal includes job and business opportunities that
Githabul elders hope will help the community end its
dependence on welfare. "This is reconciliation
in a practical sense: we have formed a business with
the state Government," said Githabul claimant
large tracts of the land will be withheld from native
owners due to the intransigence of the Queensland
Government, already under fire from indigenous leaders
for its handling of the 2004 death in custody of Mulrunji
Doomadgee, on Palm Island.
Close said the Queensland Government had refused to
negotiate on the claim for 10 years. As a result,
native title over the lower half of Mt Lindesay has
been granted, but not the peak. The Queensland areas
will be dropped from the original claim and pursued
Githabul deal - the biggest agreed native title settlement
in eastern Australia in terms of area - follows the
High Court's landmark Mabo decision in 1992, which
recognised the existence of native title, and the
Wik decision in 1996 that said native title could
co-exist with pastoral leases.
also follows the Federal Court ruling in September
recognising the native title rights of the Noongar
people over metropolitan Perth. That decision is being
appealed by the West Australian and federal governments.
Close said the significance of the Githabul agreement
was that it dealt with the interests of farmers, did
not seek compensation for past acts, included the
grant of some freehold title, recognised sacred areas
and secured such a large tract of interconnected national
park and forest reserves.
for the NSW Government and the native claimants notified
the Federal Court on December 12 that a consent agreement
had been reached.
agreement is scheduled to be signed at a ceremony
at Toonumbar in the state's northeast on February
28 - three weeks before the NSW election - and will
be attended by NSW Premier Morris Iemma and rock bands
Midnight Oil and the Warumpi Band.
Environment Minister Bob Debus told The Australian
yesterday the process had "involved lengthy negotiation".
"It acknowledges Aboriginal people as traditional
owners and gives them a greater say in how national
parks are managed and conserved," he said.
well as giving native title rights over the national
parks and state forests, the settlement includes freehold
title to an unused nursery, an old forest rangers'
station and three sacred sites, including a water
spring and a mountain. It also gives the Githabul
rights to hunt traditional foods such as turtles.
exchange, the Githabul tribe, which includes 10 families
comprising about 250 people, has relinquished any
native title claim to any farmland.
Githabul community will not seek any financial compensation
for land-use decisions made after the High Court's
1992 Mabo decision and before the Githabul agreement
is signed. But it will have to be consulted for any
future development on land covered by native title.
The deal does not affect freehold land or prevent
access by non-indigenous Australians to any areas.
the agreement, Cazna Williams is being given ownership
of three areas, which the anthropologists' report
for the claim said were among the most significant
within the larger Githabul cultural landscape.
sites include a roadside water spring and Capeen Mountain,
which Ms Williams is not permitted to visit because
it is a men's place. The mountain is regarded as the
residing place of the skull of the Nyihmbuyn, or powerful
Williams said she would not prevent anyone drinking
from the spring or having access to the areas. "In
Aboriginal culture we don't own the land, it owns
us," she said.
Mr Close, the agreement is the culmination of a 10-year
campaign, during which he received advice and financial
assistance from the Canadian Government to mount the
case and study law.
lot of people will say in 10 years from now that we
gave up too much," Mr Close said. "But they
gave us more than we asked for. A lot of lands in
the area have not been surveyed and they just threw
them into the pool."
Githabul clan was able to trace its genealogy back
to 1790 and its original ancestor, Yagoi, meaning
bandicoot, using detailed records kept by the United
Aborigines Missionaries staff who gave out rations
on the basis of skin colour. An anthropological survey
of 10 families has documented how family links and
cultural traditions have survived European settlement.
local Githabul language is still widely spoken and
taught in the local Woodenbong school.
Close said the agreement delivered recognition and
the prospect of employment for local Aboriginal people.
"Under the agreement, the indigenous community
will have statutory obligations for the management
plans. It is going to be a steep learning curve,"
title deal struck on parks and forests (from page
Githabul deal shows way on native title - 2nd January
Man Australia is delighted to assist with media
management of Trevor Close and Doug Williams (of
The Githabul People), who we had the pleasure
to meet and interview on the 2nd January 2007.
and Indiginous Media
and the environment