Historic South Coast Native Title claim heads to Federal Court

A historic claim for native title from Nowra to Eden is ready to be lodged with the Federal Court of Australia.

The South Coast claim was registered with the National Native Title Tribunal on January 31 and public notices are being prepared. 

It will be advertised in the Koori Mail and other media outlets, so anyone with an interest in the claim area can become a party to the application.

One of 12 claimants listed is Wally Stewart, of Narooma.

He said the successful registration immediately required government departments to consult with the claimants on any development or land use projects.

It also meant the claimants would have a greater say in management of the land and sea, whether through National Parks or NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), including the Fisheries department.

Mr Stewart said it was exciting the tribunal had found sufficient evidence for the claim to go before the court for determination. 

“It will be going to court because it is proven that we have sufficient evidence that our people have been living off the land and ocean for at least 21,000 years,” Mr Stewart said.

“It’s very exciting that it we are going to be recognised and that enough evidence exists to support our claim.”

The next step was for the claimants to discuss further gathering of evidence and start preparing a brief for the Federal Court with the assistance of the Native Title Services Corporation (NTSCORP).

CLAIM AREA: The proposed area of claim highlighted in the South Coast Native Title application.

CLAIM AREA: The proposed area of claim highlighted in the South Coast Native Title application.

The claim is huge, covering about 14,000 square kilometres and the entire South Coast, from Bundeena in the north to south of Eden, west towards Braidwood and also extends 3 nautical miles into ocean.

The claim does not affect freehold land but does extend to National Parks, State Forests, council land and Crown land.

The corporation held a meeting in Narooma back in December 2016 to discuss the application. The meeting drew more than 500 people from up and down the South Coast, from 52 family groups.

The applicants will now continue to collate and review of anthropological and historical research, and discussions about the identity of the claim group, conditions to be imposed and and desired outcomes of the native title application.


Fishing Trust Fund

In other Indigenous news, the NSW Government’s Aboriginal Fishing Trust Fund is now open for applications with  $1.5 million being made available over three years.

The NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group was encouraging local Indigenous people and families to apply for a new round of funding.

Mr Stewart, who is also a fishing rights group spokesman, said this was good news and a start of recognition of Indigenous fishing rights.

Possible projects included cultural workshops to teach traditional fishing methods to young people.

The trust aims to enhance and protect of Aboriginal cultural fishing, along with supporting fisheries related business opportunities.

Aboriginal people, businesses and community groups are encouraged to apply for funding to support projects and enterprises that benefit the aspirations of Aboriginal communities throughout NSW.

The Aboriginal Fishing Advisory Council, with assistance from the Aboriginal Fishing Trust Expenditure Committee, will assess applications and make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industries on expenditure of the $500,000 dollars available this year from the Trust Fund. 

The inaugural round of applications under the Aboriginal Fishing Trust Fund is now open with the application period open until March 21.

Meanwhile it was announced last year that Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion would provide a $5 million grant to the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council for the purchase of fishing licences in saltwater and freshwater areas of New South Wales. 

Mr Stewart said this process was also being finalised but again his NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group was keen to see local South Coast fishing families take advantage of the funds and increase their ability to catch fish commercially.