Byron Bay Tent Embassy challenges legitimacy of land council

Paddy Manning Northern Star 19th Nov 2012

The Byron Bay Tent Embassy has challenged the legitimacy of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, saying local tribes must be consulted on the future of their land.

The challenge came after the land council recently moved to apply for a petroleum prospecting licence spanning 900sq km from Murwillumbah to Mullumbimby.

In response to the application, traditional land owners began camping illegally last week in Heritage Park and plan to do so for the next two months.

Traditional land owners invited the land council, Native Title [??], politicians and mining and gas companies to Heritage Park for discussions.

"We want open dialogue with them," Githabul Elder Rob Williams said on Saturday.

"Native Title and the Aboriginal Land Council, especially at a state level, don't talk for us. It's us as a tribe that's got to say whether it's alright for them to do this or that to our land."

On Saturday, at least 25 traditional land owners discussed ways to regain determination of their land and oppose the land council's recent application for a prospecting licence in the area.

Land owners resolved to send letters to the land council, National Native Title Council, politicians and mining and gas companies.

"At the end of the day, we're against destroying the land," Mr Williams said. "We want to keep it as natural as possible and we don't want any mining or gas company coming in and ruining it.

"We'll tell them that we don't want any of this going on in our country."

Githabul acting original land owner Jarmbije called on local tribes to put aside differences and unite against destruction of their land.

"Whatever issues we have between tribes or clans don't mean a thing anymore. There's not enough of us to look after the whole thing so we have to work together," he said.

Byron Shire Council passed a motion on Thursday to oppose the land council's recent application for a petroleum prospecting licence.

Council will make a submission to the Department of Natural Resources before December 5.