Learm more about this artwork

Our Corporation

The Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arakwal) was established in 1996 and primarily works for the betterment of the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal (Arakwal) People, land and waters. The Corporation is incorporated under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006.

We have a Board of Management, which currently has seven members, and employ 2  full time staff and a number of part time support people. Our Board meets approximately monthly with an annual general meeting, as well as other meetings as required on specific topics such as native title matters. Board members also represent our Corporation at various meetings and on committees with other agencies such as the Cape Byron Reserve Trust, Cape Byron Marine Park, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and Byron Shire Council.

Key Activities

Our Corporation is responsible for representing the interests of the Arakwal people. It is engaged in a wide range of activities to help achieve our objectives in the following key areas:

  • Living and Working back on Country:  including indigenous resource and co-management agreements; Native Title matters; reviewing landuse plans, strategies and development proposals; involvement in Land and Coastcare activities; working and caring for Arakwal National Park and Cape Byron Marine Park; developing affordable housing for our community.
  • Maintaining Cultural Connection to Country:  including revitalising cultural practices, developing and running cultural programs for our people and the wider community, as well as reconciliation activities and events.
  • Business and Economic Development: including education, training and employment strategies, developing and supporting businesses and work for our people, housing and better services for our elders and community.

The Corporation has 5 year strategic plan which includes strategies and actions for these areas. It reviews and renews this plan near the end of each 5 year period. Strategic planning is one of the main roles for our board of directors. They have recently completed a review of our present strategic plan (2012), and are setting priorities and actions for the next 5 year plan period.

Strategic planning is very important  as provides the opportunity to look closely at issues and challenges affecting the corporation and our people, and to plan well for the future. The Board then provides clear direction for our staff who report back to the board on the achievement of these directions, and strategies, and if they are working.  Click here to read more about our Key Activities.

Key Issues We Face

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics census (2011) the Aboriginal population in Australia is 548,368. The total population of Australia is 21,507,717. This equates to Aboriginal people making up 2.5% of total Australian population.

Generally just being Aboriginal exposes you to a vast range of statistics and averages that are equal to and in many cases worse than those living in third world conditions. Have a look at some key statistics below on important social indicators and you can see how we lag behind non-indigenous people in Australia in these and other areas.

• 25% of indigenous people had completed year 12, compared with 52% of non-Indigenous people.
• 26% of Indigenous people reported having a post-school qualification, compared with 49% of non-Indigenous people.
• 4.6% of Indigenous people had attained a bachelor degree or higher, compared with 20% of non-Indigenous people.

• 42% of Indigenous people aged 15 years or older were employed and 17% were unemployed. In comparison, 61% of non-Indigenous people were employed and 5% were unemployed
• The most common occupation classification of employed Indigenous people was ‘labourer’ (18%) followed by ‘community and personal service workers’ (17%). The most common occupation classification of employed non-Indigenous people was ‘professional’ (22%).

• The average gross household income for Indigenous persons was around approximately 59% of that for non-Indigenous persons.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Census of population and housing: characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2011. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Arakwal people are not separate from these statistics and averages. Many of our people have passed on at too young an age, and many still live in harsh conditions. Prior to the Native Title legislation the Arakwal people were not recognised within any level of Government or community. Essential Services and employment opportunities were nonexistent. Many larger communities have developed Aboriginal organisations to address needs and to develop their communities. Many smaller communities had no voice and could only expect to rely on outreach services to try to address issues and deliver vital services.

Substantial improvement to the health and wellbeing of our people requires integrated strategies involving all levels of government, business interests and the wider community working with us to effectively address the complex factors underlying the disadvantages we suffer. This needs to be part of a long-term vision and approach that includes adequate resources and effort being made available over a long period of time, and through changing economic and political cycles.

To learn more about the current conditions the majority of Aboriginal people in Australia live under please have a look at the link below.

The negotiation of the 1st Indigenous Land Use agreements (IULA) in 2001 between the Arakwal people and the NSW Government provided the Arakwal with the first real chance to develop new opportunities for our people. The ILUA’s and the establishment of the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arakwal) has meant that the Arakwal people are now in a better position to care for the well being of Arakwal people and land.To learn more go to the Key Activities under Arakwal Corporation.

Alongside the welfare and social issues that we contend with every day, some of the main issues we seek to address are:

  • Employment and education opportunities
  • Cultural rejuvenation and practices
  • Caring for Country beyond the Arakwal National Park
  • Cultural resources agreement with Cape Byron Marine Park
  • Children and youth support programs
  • Adequate housing so mob can return to Country
  • Business and economic development
  • Social development and positive lifestyle choices

We believe that by working positively on these areas together with the wider community it provides us with the foundation to make real change and a positive impact for the Arakwal people and land now and in the future.


Our Members, Executive & Staff

Our members

are Aboriginal people of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay:

  • descended* from Aboriginal people who lived and/or held native title rights in the Agreement Area at the time of first contact by European settlers in 1820s-30s
  • are known to the acknowledged elders of the Bundjalung People as members of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay; and
  • are resident within the traditional country of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay; or have maintained their primary identification with the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay through regular visits with Bundjalung People of Byron Bay community in traditional country of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay and are acknowledged by the elders of the Bundjalung People as recognising and observing the laws and customs of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay.

(* descended as set out in Schedule 3 of our Corporation Rules)

Our executive and staff

Our current 2017 board members are:

  • Alwyn Roberts – Chairperson
  • Lee King – Vice Chairperson
  • Jennifer King Jnr
  • Cassandra Kelly
  • Steven Kelly
  • Terry Kelly
  • Yvonne Stewart
  • Theresa Nicholls
  • Sharon Roberts Snr
  • Danny Kay Snr.

Arakwal Staff for 2017 are:

  • Sharon Sloane – Acting General Manager
  • Rita Roberts – Administration Assistant

Charter and Objectives

The primary objective of the Corporation is to relieve poverty, sickness, destitution, distress, suffering, misfortune or helplessness of needy members of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay of the land and waters in and around Byron Bay and surrounding areas of New South Wales through:

(a) improving housing, living conditions and general standards of living by the provision of land, housing and other buildings and other services for our people’s use and benefit;

(b) improving vocational skills, employment prospects and employment opportunities of our community members; and

(c) arresting social disintegration by strengthening and fostering development of our Aboriginal identity and culture, ensuring that all programs and actions are in accordance with our cultural values, customs and practices.

Our corporation objectives are to be achieved by, but not limited to, the following:

  • seeking land and/or compensation for the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay of the land and waters in and around Byron Bay under Native Title Act (1993) or by any other means to further Corporation aims

seeking partnerships or Development Enterprise to improve the above objectives, through implementing the Bundjalung of Byron bay Aboriginal Corporation Corporate Plan.


Living and Working back on Country

The Bundjalung of  Byron Bay Arakwal people lodged a Native Title Application over the land and adjoining waters extending from the Brunswick River to the north, past Julian Rocks to the east, Broken Head to the south and around the hinterland areas of Mullumbimby, Coorabell and Bangalow to the west.

A major part of our Native Title journey has been the opportunity  for our mob to live and work on country. The negotiations have enabled this to occur by providing affordable housing, employment and economic development opportunities.

Now quite a few of our mob work back on country but there is a long way to go!!

Key activities include:

  • Native Title Negotiations and Indigenous Land Use Agreements with NSW Government
  • Co-management Agreement with Arakwal National Park
  • Resource Agreement with Cape Byron Marine Park
  • Memorandum of Understanding with Byron Shire Council
  • Iron Bark Elders Housing Project

Learn More

Maintaining Cultural Connection to Country

This introduction and posts are presently being completed in this next phase of our Website development – July to September 2012.

Key activities presently being carried out include:

  • Our Cultural Programs Strategy
  • Cultural Programs eg Dolphin Dreaming
  • The Arakwal Cultural Website
  • Our Arakwal Cultural Induction Program
  • The proposed Learning Room at Byron Bay Library
  • Arakwal Community Programs

Learn More

Business & Economic Development

A very important and necessary part of the Native Title journey is the growth of the Arakwal People towards economic independence and self sufficiency through sustainable business and economic development.

We are focusing on building a foundation for the future so that Arakwal people continue to create opportunities for the benefit of our mob.

Our  ancestors, elders and our people have endured countless hardships and we carry this legacy. Our challenge is to build economic independence and also maintain strong connection to our culural values and country for now and for the future.

Key activities presently being carried out include:

  • Broken Head Holiday Park operation and management
  • Development of an Employment & Training Strategy
  • Ideas for use and purpose of our Wategos Beach freehold land
  • Focus on Affordable Housing for our people
  • Co-Management of Country with NPWS

Learn More

Native Title & Indigenous Land Use Agreements

The Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal People have lived in the coastal landscape around Byron Bay for at least 22,000 years. The Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal People decided to negotiate with the NSW State Government in regard to Native Title Rights not long after the historic ’Mabo’ High Court decision in 1992.

The Arakwal Elders Lorna Kelly, Linda Vidler and Yvonne Graham made the first Native Title Application on behalf of the Arakwal people in 1994.

Since this application, and over the next 15 years, three Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) were negotiated with the State of New South Wales. An indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) is a voluntary agreement about the use and management of land, made between a native title group and other people.

The first ILUA in 2001 was the very first of its kind and a landmark agreement in Australia. It won an international award acknowledging the agreement and the conservation and protection of country. The NSW Government and Arakwal People were awarded the prestigious Fred M. Packard award for distinguished achievements in wildlife preservation by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at the 5th World Parks Congress held in South Africa in 2003.

Negotiations for two more Indigenous Land Use Agreements followed soon after. Governments and Native Title Claiments throughout Australia have used the Arakwal negotiations as a best practice model in their own respective negotiations.

Learn More

Co-management Agreement with National Parks

Arakwal National Park  is located approximately 2 km south-east of Byron Bay in the far north coast of New South Wales (NSW).

It is the first national park in Australia to be created under an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the traditional owners, the Byron Bay Arakwal people, as joint managers with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

 The creation of the Arakwal National Park and subsequent areas has left an everlasting footprint on country.

This footprint is here to be respected and enjoyed by all who live on or the millions of people from all ove rthe world  who visit Arakwal country.

A major part of the Co-Management ILUA agreement is the commitment to Employment and Training for Arakwal People to work on Country.

Since ILUA 1  Arakwal people have been trained and are now employed  in a variety of positions throughout  National Parks.

There is still an ongoing commitment to continue this Employment and Training Strategy.

Arakwal People also have the majority on the Management committees overseeing the Management of these Parks.





Learn More

Resource Agreement with Cape Byron Marine Park


The NSW Government officially established the Cape Byron Marine Park in November, 2002.

The Arakwal People have been  negotiating with Cape Byron Marine Park regarding our right to access our waters. A consultative committee was established to further these negotiations. The Cultural Resource Usage Agreement was finalised and sent to the NPWS Minister for  consideration.

The election  of a new NSW Government in March, 2011, and the subsequent transfer of Marine Parks from NPWS to Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries has seen this proposed agreement sit idle with presently no surety as to when it will be finalised.

Learn More

MoU with Byron Shire Council

Byron Shire Council has been very supportive of our Native Title aspirations since our first Native Title claim was lodged.

This was reflected in the 1998 Heads of Agreement created between our two groups. We are presentlyreviewing and updating the Heads of Agreement.

Byron Shire Council recently reaffirmed their relationship with the Arakwal people through the signing of a Statement of Commitment during Reconciliation Week in May, 2012.  Click on the image of the recently signed Statement of Commitment  to the right here for a closer look

A range of supportive actions have been undertaken in recent times including a Welcome to Country sign being provided and placed on the Byron Bay Community Centre.


Learn More

Iron Bark Elders Housing Project

Our Arakwal elders Lorna Kelly, Yvonne Graham, Linda Vidler and Dulcie Nicholls long dreamed of one day returning to live on the land at Byron Bay where they had lived as children.

Iron Bark  is where the sisters lived as children in a semi-traditional lifestyle with their parents, Jimmy and Linda Kay. At the time of lodging the claim in 1994, Lorna Kelly said the family had lived off the land and the ocean between Cape Byron and Seven Mile Beach. The sisters’ grandfather was very well-known, Harry Bray, after whom Bray’s Hole at Broken Head was named.

In practical terms, the dream began way back in late 1994 when three of the sisters – Lorna, Yvonne and Linda – lodged a Native Title claim over a wide area of coastal Crown land that stretched from Byron Bay to Broken Head. Dulcie joined the claim at a later stage.

Learn More

Cultural Programs Strategy

This report presents the results of research and liaison work related to reviewing our existing cultural awareness programs. Its from this work that we got this website going and have developed it further!

The work was carried out by Sustainable Futures Australia (SFA), supported by the Arakwal Cultural Awareness Project Working Group (ACAPWG),which was established as part of the project. This group included representatives of the Arakwal community and Arakwal Aboriginal Corporation (AAC); Cape Byron Marine Park Authority (CBMPA); Cape Byron Conservation Reserve/National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS); and Sustainable Futures Australia. It continues to be a really positive relationship working together.

The report provides recommendations and next steps for us to develop an improved and integrated Arakwal Cultural Awareness Program (CAP) for our own people and the wider community,  including:

• the Cultural Awareness Working Group to keep supporting ongoing development, implementation, support for, and review of the CAP.

• updating and improving existing cultural awareness programs, including suggested changes and inclusions made in the report.

• developing new activities and events that help connect people to Country and increase awareness about Arakwal culture.

• integrating activities and programs into an annual events calendar with seasonal-themed events that encompass cultural activities and help get people back onto Country and into their culture.

• establishing a strong website presence to assist in connecting people and providing a platform for cultural information, learning and awareness

• preparing a strategic plan including prioritised strategies and actions.

Learn More

Cultural Programs eg. dolphin dreaming

We have a range of cultural learning and awareness programs for our own people and the wider community. They help us maintain our culture and connection to Country, and encourage others to understand the importance of this. They also provide opportunities for our people to work on and share their knowledge about Country. We want people to respect our culture and respect Country. 

A good example of the programs we organise and run is Dolphin Dreaming. An experiential program, it helps people become more aware about respecting, valuing and appreciating Arakwal Country and our culture.  It’s led by an experienced Arakwal guide giving the opportunity for participants to learn about Aboriginal culture, language, music, local families & history in Arakwal Country. We are looking forward to doing more with our programs in the future.

Click here to learn more about Dolphin Dreaming and our other Cultural Programs and Activities.

Learn More

Arakwal Cultural Website

Our website is a place for us to share our culture and passion for Country with you. It’s for our Mob, wherever you are, for learning, to stay in touch and keep connected, sharing our challenges and belonging. It’s for our friends and colleagues to keep in touch, supporting and helping us in what we are doing. It’s for everyone who is interested in what we are doing here, our stories, our creativity, and our love of Country.

We are working on making the site slowly, getting our Mob logged-in and using it to help keep connected. We are working out what information to put up for everyone, like stories we can share, and what needs to stay between us. Its a good place to store information on things we’ve been doing, like the native title negotiations and agreements we’ve made about looking after Country; as well as photos and interesting videos.

We’ve got plans for the website in the near future, and maybe more in years to come …. online media and social networking is something we all are going to have to get used to! It can help us but it won’t replace our real connection to Country and the knowledge and values we hand down through stories and advice from our elders to younger generaltions. This has been going on a long time, and we are going to make sure it keeps on going.

Our Arakwal Aboriginal Corporation Board endorsed the website at its board meeting on the 29th June 2012 ready for its official public launch as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations in early July 2012. The website was presented to friends and invited guests on the afternoon of the 4th July at the Byron Bay Community Centre main theatre.

Learn More

Cultural Induction Program

Our general cultural induction course has been developed to guide people to listen, look and learn, exploring our Arakwal cultural website to gain better understanding about us and our country.

Using a ‘Moodle’ based software program linked to our website, participants log-in and listen to audio, watch video and read from the website. Then you can answer questions to check whether you have understood our messages and protocols about being on Country; know a bit about who we are; what we are doing to care for country; and the sort of challenges we face today.

Our program has 5 sections:

(1) welcome to country  (2) our culture-our stories (3) binungal: stop look and listen                                       (4) looking after country (5) key issues we face today

We hope it is fun, that people learn some things, and pass the ‘test’ to become a more informed friend!                                      

Click here to login to the Cultural Induction Program

Learn More

Learning room at Byron Bay library

The new Byron Bay library scheduled to open by the end of 2012 will contain a designated room for indigenous research and archival material, as well as a room for Arakwal cultural activities. We are excited about the possibilities this can bring in sharing our culture with the wider community, as well as having a place to store some information, and to meet and do things as a community for our own learning.

Learn More

Community support programs

In traditional times our people have always gathered to celebrate or to arrange community business. Whilst these times have changed, gathering as a mob still plays a vital role in our family and community. Community support programs play important roles in building and supporting our community, and linking us with the wider community.

We hold Specific Arakwal Days called Back to Country Days.

Many of our friends work with Arakwal in organising programs and events that bring together our mob and the wider community. These events prove to be beneficial in creating harmony as well as educating the broader community on the Arakwal perspective on history or issues.


Learn More

Broken Head Holiday Park

The Arakwal people officially reclaimed Broken Head Holiday Park in July 2009, as part of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA2) with the New South Wales Government.

Situated on the beachfront of Broken Head approximately seven kilometres south of Byron Bay, Broken Head Holiday Park (BHHP) is surrounded by Arakwal National Park. There are great walks, surfing, swimming, fishing and stunning views north towards Walgun (Cape Byron) and south along the small bays like Bray’s Beach where our people have fished and camped over many generations.

The Arakwal people continue uphold Aboriginal to cultural values whilst also ensuring Broken Head Holiday Park operates as an affordable holiday destination.

Revenue from the Broken Head Holiday Park is being used for upgrades to the BHHP,operating our corporation and supporting other Arakwal projects.

We are also looking  to develop unique cultural and recreational programs linked to the BHHP  holiday experience.

Learn More

Wategos freehold land

Wategos is a small bay and surrounding valley facing north and located next to and overlooked by Cape Byron (Walgun) and its famous lighthouse - the most easterly part of Mainland Australia .

Wategos Beach is a popular visitors spot, and well sought after property area that provides serene views of Nuthungulli and the Wollumbin Mountain caldera hinterland.

As part of ILUA 2 Arakwal People were handed back 2 lots of undeveloped blocks. The Arakwal people are looking at the best options for usage of this land for the long term benefit of our People.


Additional information about our purpose and decisions on this land will be here in the future when available.


Affordable housing

Another goal for the Arakwal people is to provide affordable housing for our People so more of our Mob can live on country.

This is no simple task!!

Our mob have many memories of when Byron Bay was a small isolated fishing town and not known to the world. Now Byron is a very busy and expensive place to live, and  many of our people just simply can’t afford to live here. Seems like the world caught up with Byron Bay and we were left behind!!

It is important that we make the right economic decisions so we can continue to provide much needed affordable housing for our people and our mob can live on country again. So in our business strategies and management of what we have we are looking at how we can bring about our aim to get more Mob back on Country. Watch this space!

Learn More

Employment & Training Strategy

Alongside the Arakwal National Park Employment Strategy we have recently  developed an Employment Strategy with Cape Byron Marine Park.

This Employment and Training Strategy was developed to assist us to identify employment opportunities in and around the Cape Byron Marine Park. It is linked to working on Country, with culture, and linking with other agencies.

It is envisaged that as we continue to grow we will have more capacity to offer meaningful employment to Arakwal people both within this Agency and by partnering with others.

This strategy was funded with the assistance of the Cape Byron Marine Park. For further information about this strategy contact us through this website.


Learn More

Dolphin (Wajung)
Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) is an important totem for our people. Wajoong gives us messages about relationships between our clan members, to our ancestors and the past, and also to particular places and sites in our Country. We have stories of our people and dolphins communicating and connecting with each other, including co-operative fishing, sharing resources from the ocean, and playing in the shallows.
Sea Eagle (Miwing)
White Breasted Sea Eagle (Haliaetus leucogaster) is an important totem for us. Miwing gives us messages about clan and family groups, provides knowledge on hunting practices and environmental events on Country. The second largest raptor (bird of prey), you can see the majestic Miwing soaring above you as you walk along Tallow Beach or around the Cape.
Carpet Snake (Kabul)
Carpet Snake (Morelia spilota) as one of our key totems symbolises the relationship of clan members to each other, to our ancestors and the past, and to particular places or sites. Kabul are important to us for their conservation, wild resource and other cultural values.
Brush Turkey (Wollum)
Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami) is a messenger providing clues about and demonstrating knowledge and adaptability in knowing and using Country. Wollum lives and moves freely in the coastal bush, foraging through leaf litter for food to eat. The male builds large mounds out of vegetative material and uses it to incubate their eggs.
Pied Oystercatcher (language name?)
Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris) is an important bird to us because they provide messages about food sources and environmental events in Country. The Pied forages on the beaches and rocky shores, in mudflats of inlets, bays, ocean beaches, and on offshore islets.
Green Turtle (Bijahlin)
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is an important messenger that provides knowledge of the sea Country. Biwing nests on north coast beaches including Tallow Beach and Lennox Heads to the south. Julian Rocks (Nguthungulli) supports significant populations of the Biwing and if you go snorkeling or diving there, you can have a close encounter with these graceful creatures.