Elders say there's no private ownership in land claims

IT'S a stretch of beach that's culturally significant to the Garby Aboriginal community, yet the State Government sees the successful land rights claim between Corindi Beach and Red Rock as a test case in private beach ownership.

To the surprise of the Coffs Harbour Aboriginal Land Council its successful claim to the dunal area, behind the Corindi Beach sports fields north to the Red Rock Bowling Club, has prompted a proposed amendment to the Crown Lands bill.

Under protest, New South Wales lands councils marched on State Parliament and with the support of Labor and the minor parties this week pressured the government to shelve the change.

Coffs Harbour Aboriginal Land Council CEO Chris Spencer said he was surprised to learn the Corindi/Red Rock land claim was used by the government as an example of a privately owned beach when many beaches seemingly already belong to resorts and even individuals.

"Our concern was this particular amendment would extinguish 600km of available Aboriginal land rights claims in New South Wales," Mr Spencer said.

"Further to that we were not very impressed with the government in identifying our claim as the catalyst for this particular legislation change."

In the Upper House, where the Coalition does not hold a majority, Labor, the Greens and the Christian Democrats made it clear the amendment would not pass.

Natural Resources and Lands Minister Kevin Humphries responded in postponing debate.

"The government remains firmly committed to the notion that the state's beaches belong to every resident of New South Wales and should not be privatised," Mr Humphries said.

The Garby Elders land rights claim was made in 1993, yet refused in 2009, before it was contested in the Land and Environment Court where it was granted in December, 2013 subject to a number of caveats.

"This is sacred traditional land to our communities that under the land claim was identified as not being managed appropriately given its cultural significance," Mr Spencer said.

"This area has a myriad of cultural associations to the local Aboriginal community and it is important to the Garby Elders that the beach can be used to reconnect our young people to country.

"The public still and will always have access to the beach."



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