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.

Eddie Mabo and Native Title History

In May 1982, Eddie Mabo and four other Meriam people of the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait began action in the High Court of Australia seeking confirmation of their traditional land rights.

On 3 June 1992, the High Court by a majority of six to one upheld the claim and ruled that the lands of this continent were not terra nullius or land belonging to no-one when European settlement occurred, and that the Meriam people were ‘entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of (most of) the lands of the Murray Islands.’

The High Court recognised the fact that Aboriginal people had lived in Australia for thousands of years and enjoyed rights to their land according to their own laws and customs. They had been dispossessed of their lands piece by piece as the colony grew and that very dispossession underwrote the development of Australia into a nation.

The Native Title Act 1993 is part of the Commonwealth Government’s response to that historic High Court decision.

Arakwal Native Title History

In late 1994, Lorna Kelly, Linda Vidler and Yvonne Graham on behalf of the Arakwal People from northern NSW, commenced a process for recognition of native title rights in the land and waters around Byron Bay. A formal native title claim was registered with the N

ational Native Title Tribunal in September 1995. Premier Bob Carr at the 1995 NSW State election promised to create a national park on Crown land included in the Arakwal native title claim area. They lodged a further claim in 1997 over additional land in the Byron Shire. The timeline of registered claims and IULAs is at the bottom of this section.

The map below shows the extent of our claims, the outside boundary of these combined showing Country where our traditional custodianship and connection with adjoining traditional custodians extended. The ILUA areas lie within specific coastal areas of this wider Country.


Arakwal ILUA 1, registered in August 2001, was the result of 7 years of consultations between the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal), a range of community groups, the Byron Shire Council and the NSW Government, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). A Consultative Committee was established including Arakwal People, Byron Shire Council, regional interest groups, and environmental and resident bodies to make recommendations about the proposed national park and other Crown lands within the Byron Shire.

A State Recreation Area (SRA) around the Cape Byron Lighthouse, managed by a Trust made up of Arakwal people and community representatives was established in April 1997, as a step towards the national park. The  NSW Government and the Arakwal People signed an agreement that established the recreation area. Hundreds of meetings and consultations were carried out from 1996 with all parties affected, or thought to be affected, by the native title claim.

The process involved negotiations between the Arakwal People and NSW Government about the national park proposal, with mediation assistance from the National Native Title Tribunal from 1998 to 2001. In October, 2000, at a meeting arranged by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the Arakwal People authorised an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) which was registered by the National Native Title Tribunal, on 28 August, 2001.

The ILUA recognised the Arakwal people as the traditional owners of the area of the Arakwal National Park. As outcome of Arakwal ILUA 1 was creation in that year of the Arakwal National Park with supportive funding to be jointly managed by the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and NPWS. An Arakwal National Park Management Committee, made up of representatives of Arakwal, NPWS and Byron Shire Council representatives was established, to advise on park management. The ILUA provides the Arakwal to have access to the park for:

  • protection and conservation of areas of cultural heritage
  • conduct of ceremonies under traditional law and custom
  • gathering of material for traditional medicines and ceremonies
  • fishing and hunting.

IULA 2 & 3

In 2001, a third native title claim was lodged when it became apparent that evidence provided during the negotiations over the first two claims was applicable to additional areas outside the existing claims. This included lands up to Brunswick Heads to the north, Broken Head to the south, Mullumbimby and Bangalow to the west and approximately three nautical miles east of the mean high water mark. Negotiations over the third claim and outstanding portions of the first claim led to the development of two further ILUAs. These are Byron Bay ILUA 2 and Ti Tree Lake ILUA 3 which were signed in December 2006. They were signed on the birthday of our late Auntie Lorna Kelly, one of our Arakwal Elders who have done so much to help get our people back to, and maintaining our connection to Country.

The two new ILUAs built on the first one and the  success of our partnerships with government and the Byron Bay community. These also focused on getting meaningful jobs and training for our people involved in looking after Country and showing people how to look after, respect and understand Country.

ILUA 2 provided an additional 74 hectares to the National Park areas around Byron Bay including:

  • endangered clay heath community at Paterson Hill, and endangered swamp communities (habitat of endangered Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail) west of Red Devil Recreation Grounds added to Arakwal National Park
  • endangered littoral rainforest along the coastal strip to Broken Head Nature Reserve, and
  • endangered swamp forests, and wildlife corridor link along Belongil Creek through doubling the area of Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve.

 ILUA 3 was made to establish a 50 hectare reserve including a lake and surrounding forest sacred to Bundjalung women,  to give Bundjalung Women real power and a say in looking after this area. ILUA 3, on Ti Tree Women’s Lake, has not ultimately been sanctioned due to a previous land claim of January 1985, by the Jali Local Aboriginal land council being granted by NSW government in April, 2012, thus superseding the Native title ILUA 3 Agreement.

 Timeline: Arakwal Native Title & IULA applications

  • 12th December 1994 – Original Arakwal Native Title Application submitted by Arakwal elders Lorna Kelly, Linda Vidler and Yvonne Graham Registered on 8/9/95 (application 1).
  • 3rd April 1997 – Agreement between the Arakwal people and the State of NSW (the 1997 agreement).
  • 28th December 2000 – First ever Australia Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA 1 ) between the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and the State of NSW.
  • 28th August 2001 Australian Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA 1) is registered.
  • 5th December 2001 -Arakwal Native title claim Application 3 is submitted.
  • 4th April 2003 -Arakwal Native title claim Application 3 is Registered
  • 1st July 2003 - Agreement between the Arakwal people and the State. (Lot 4 in DP 830202).
  • 20th December 2006 -Stage two: Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and the State of NSW.
  • 22nd April 2008 - Stage 2 ILUA (ILUA 2) Registered.
  • 20th December 2006 - ILUA executed between the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and State of NSW  (Ti Tree Lake ILUA)  (ILUA 3).
  • 14th March 2011 -Application N6020/01 (application 3) amended.
  • 10th February 2012 -Application NG6010/98 (application 1) discontinued.
  • Note: ILUA 3 on Ti Tree Women’s Lake not sanctioned due to previous land claim dated 16-1-1985 by Jali Local Aboriginal land council being granted by NSW government on 11th April 2012, thus superseding the Native title ILUA 3 Agreement.