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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.

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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.





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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.