The Widjabul Wia-bal people have won their decade-long claim for native title rights and interests over 1559 km2 of lands and waters around Lismore.
The native title determination area is bounded by Bagotville, Tuckean Nature Reserve and Tucki Tucki to the south; Bungabee State Forest and Cawongla to the west; Nightcap National Park in the north and Wollongbar and Alstonville in the east. The decision means Widjabul Wia-bal traditional owners now have the rights to carry out a number of cultural activities on non-freehold land, such as national parks and crown land.
Speaking at the announcement of the determination in Goonellabah, NTSCORP chief executive and Minjungbal Bundjalung woman Natalie Rotumah paid tribute the traditional owners who were not able to see the the claim cross the line.
“The native title process takes a toll on our elders and our communities.”
“I have no doubt they are celebrating by that big campfire in the sky looking down and sharing our joy,” she said.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the Federal Court consent determination marked an important moment for the Widjabul Wia-bal of the Bundjalung Nation, who have cared for the land and waters for thousands of years.
“The Widjabul Wia-bal and the NSW Government have worked together to deliver the Widjabul Wia-bal’s vision for greater land management opportunities, economic prosperity and employment opportunities, and a framework for strong, collaborative relationships into the future.”
As part of the settlement of the native title claim, the NSW Government has also provided capacity building support to the Widjabul Wia-bal and has entered into an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the Widjabul Wia-bal.
The settlement also includes an agreement to disregard historical extinguishment of native title in national parks within the claim area, paving the way for the future recognition of native title over an additional 2600 hectares of national parks.
It is anticipated that the Widjabul Wia-bal ILUA will be registered by the National Native Title Tribunal in 2023. When the ILUA is registered, it will be the 18th ILUA registered in NSW in the last 6 years, with more than 60% of all ILUAs in NSW having been registered over this period.
The victory is one of many long fights for the traditional owners. Last year the Lismore City Council voted to hand back Banyam Baigham ‘Sleeping Lizard Hill’ to the Widjabul Wia-bal people. Their fight against the proposed Dunoon Dam continues after Rous City Council voted to put the proposal back on the table in February.