The New South Wales Government has withdrawn the Crown Lands Amendment Act, which sought to stop Land Claims on coastal lands.
The decision came after hundreds from across New South Wales marched on Parliament House to oppose the proposed legislation which would have seen thousands of land claims retrospectively extinguished.
Deputy Chairman Roy Ah See said, “It’s a fantastic result for the network, Local Land Councils, for Aboriginal people and more importantly our future generations.”
NSW Minister Kevin Humphries had tabled the surprise legislation without any prior notice. He claims it was necessary to ensure certainty and consistency in beach access and environmental management.
It followed the success of a recent ruling on a Land Claim over Red Rock near Coffs Harbour – a case that didn’t prevent public access.
“What people do not know about that court ruling in the Land and Environment Court was there was specific legislation or court ruling that said we had to provide easements for public access to that particular beach. Which means as a Local Aboriginal Land Council we cannot lock that beach up.” Said Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Chris Spence.
Land Rights Legend Ossie Cruise said, “It shows no respect to the Local Land Councils and it’s disrespectful to us as Aboriginal people saying we can’t manage those rights. We really need access to those lands for hunting and gathering purposes and sharing with other people.”
But there’s fear there’s a bigger agenda at play. “We believe there’s undertones here, that it’s possibly the start of dismantling the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.” said Chairman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Craig Cromelin.
Josh Toomey Darkinjung Land Council Chairman said, “I think it’s important not just as legislation or land rights, I think it’s important as human beings, as Aboriginal people as First Nations people of this country to say this is a direct attack, straight out racist attack of who we are and what we stand for.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney addressed the crowd to thunderous applause, highly critical of the Bill.
“In the Labor caucus tomorrow, the position will be put, that Labor will not support Kevin Humphries Legislation.” She said.
Greens member of the NSW Upper House Jan Barham strongly opposed it. While, support was also pledged by Christian Democratic Leader Fred Nile, who along with the Shooters and Fishers party, hold the balance of power in the upper house of NSW Parliament.
“ I’ve been speaking with some of the members yes, saying this is a terrible Bill and I want to try and get to the premier and ask him to pull the Bill out, sit down and let’s talk with Aboriginal Land Councils” he said.
While the demonstration was a success, Minister Humphries has vowed to eventually reintroduce the Bill, but for now he says he will consult with Aboriginal Land Councils, a move that is welcomed by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.