Land Councils to protest against Crown Lands changes

Land Councils to protest against Crown Lands changes

Aboriginal people and their supporters from around New South Wales will gather at Hyde Park this Monday to protest against legislation before Parliament that retrospectively extinguish hundreds of Aboriginal land claims, some dating back as far as two decades.

The peaceful Crown Lands cultural gathering and protest is being organised by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and Local Aboriginal Land Councils from the Sydney / Newcastle region.  It will assemble at the Northern end of Hyde Park (near the Archibald Fountain) at 9:00 am on Monday, 3rd November.

The Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill was introduced by Natural Resources Minister Kevin Humphries last week.  The Government is attempting to rush the legislation through in this sitting of parliament.

NSWALC Chairperson, Cr Craig Cromelin said that no attempt had been made by the Government to consult with Aboriginal Land Councils prior to the Bill's introduction.

"There is no other group of people in NSW who would be treated with such disregard and contempt," Cr Cromelin said.

"The Minister thinks he can get away with this because the only people whose rights are being extinguished are Aboriginal people."

Cr Cromelin said that NSWALC, the state's Local Aboriginal Land Councils and the broader Land Rights movement were united against the Crown Lands Amendment legislation.

Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson, Josh Toomey said that Minister Humphries was trying to re-dispossess Aboriginal people of their land.

"The NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act compensates Aboriginal people for the loss of our land.  Now Minister Humphries wants to take that away," Mr Toomey said.

"We must fight for all those rights that our community struggled so hard to achieve more than 30 years ago.  We must never give up our land without a fight."

Cr Cromelin said that Minister Humphries had misled the NSW people when he introduced the legislation.

The amendments followed a recent Land and Environment Court ruling that granted an Aboriginal land claim over an area known as 'Red Rock', near Coffs Harbour. Orders made in the Red Rock case resulted in land that included a significant stretch of beach and foredune being transferred to an Aboriginal Land Council, subject to easements for public access.

In his second reading speech introducing the Bill, Minister Humphries said the legislation was necessary to "ensure certainty and consistency in beach access and environmental management."

However, Minister Humphries neglected to inform Parliament that the Red Rock land was only returned to Aboriginal people subject to public access in perpetuity.

"Misleading people is not just about what you say but also what you neglect to say.  By omitting any reference to the public access part of the ruling, the Minister deliberately created a false impression in the minds of the public," Cr Cromelin said.

"There is not a single example in NSW of an Aboriginal land claim preventing public access to a beach and Minister Humphries knows that."

Cr Cromelin said that he feared Minister Humphries was attempting to start a divisive debate about land rights ahead of the Government's proposed Crown Lands Review legislation.

"We are now very concerned that Minister Humphries' review will result in unused Crown Lands being sold off rather than being available for return to the Aboriginal people who were dispossessed of this land in the first place," Cr Cromelin said.

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For more information on the Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill and the cultural gathering click here.
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Media contact: Gary Highland on 0418 476 940