Justice Jayne Jagot (fifth from left) meets local elders after handing down the historic decision.
Justice Jayne Jagot (fifth from left) meets local elders after handing down the historic decision.

Federal Court gives title to Gumbaynggirr People of Nambucca

THERE were more smiles than tears after an epic 18-year struggle ended when the Federal Court made an historic sitting in Nambucca Heads on Friday.

Settlement of one of New South Wales' longest running native title claims was made when Justice Jayne Jagot formally recognised the Gumbaynggirr People's native title rights in a purpose-built courtroom on the shores of the Nambucca River overlooking the claim area.

In another first, the ceremony was presented primarily in traditional language.

The judgement recognises 'by consent' Gumbaynggirr People's native title rights to hunt, fish, camp, gather natural resources and protect cultural sites, in accordance with their traditional laws and customs.

Gumbaynggirr People can now protect a highly significant piece of coastal land used to pass cultural knowledge to younger generations.

The area recognised 'by consent' encompasses coastal land just south of the town of Nambucca Heads, which today forms part of the Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park.

The claim area covers a combined total of 6.2352 square km.

Speaking during official proceedings, traditional owner Uncle Gary Williams praised the foresight of elders who started the claim in 1996.

"Our elders had the vision to use whatever laws available to protect this special place," Uncle Gary said.

"When we were young families we would go over to Gaagal Wanggaan.

"As children we would be walking along the sand, past Gumma.

"It was a chance for the elders to point out the track going into the ceremonial grounds where we knew we weren't supposed to walk.

"In that way they could tell about the importance of the area, the lore and what areas we needed to protect.

"We'd walk past the middens, places where generations of Gumbaynggirr People before had come together for ceremony and to celebrate.

"Today our elders would be very proud to have their land back."

Sadly, only one of the original claimants is still living.



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