Back in January 2007 I reported on the agreement between the Githabul people and the NSW Government about a large native title land claim over a large portion of New England. Now the claim has moved another step forward. I was going to give you a link, but the story seems to have vanished into Fairfax's digital store, so I will just report the key facts.
In the first claim in ten years settled under the Commonwealth's Native Title Legislation and the first time that the Sydney Government and an indigenous community have jointly sought a decision, the Githabul people have won rights over an area of 112,000 hectares including nine national parks and thirteen state forests in the Kyogle and Tenterfield Shires.
The decision will afford traditional owners the right of access to the area for spiritual purposes; to camp, fish, hunt and gather animals, plants and water there for non-commercial needs and to lawfully protect places of importance to them.
One thing that made me sad, though, was a comment from Trevor Close, the successful applicant of the claim. He said:
You will never see this again in NSW. Too many elders have passed away who
hold the information and language necessary to pass the evidence test.
In the midst of all the macro Australian argument about things like reconciliation and saying sorry, my concern has been much more local. Recording and preserving what we have now, while meeting the needs of New England's indigenous peoples as they are today.