Native Title and Land Rights: Derek Hardman
DerekHardman

Native Title and Land Rights : Derek Hardman

Currently our people have two systems that historically have been established to advance our people within our fight within the Land Rights Arena.

I’m not going to provide a history lesson. We all have our own views, beliefs and yarns to share – and this is mine.

The question of how and what can be achieved through the Native Title and Land Rights systems is impacting on many communities in New South Wales.

Through both systems we have fought the fight and won despite all the odds being stacked against us.

That in itself is a victory and many new journeys and uncertainties lay ahead for us all.

In my experience with both systems, I believe there is common ground to advance our people and communities.

Ownership and belonging are two words that for me are similar in context to Native Title and Land Rights. Both sound as if they are separate and have different meaning but in reality when used together they are the essence of Cultural Identity.

Too easily we take a stand of one against the other depending on how each impacts on us as individuals, families, communities or Language groups.

I continually struggle to understand the selfishness of our own people and the lack of respect we give each other.

We can work together and must work together if we are to maintain a Cultural Identity that is linked to our ancient land. This is our right as Traditional Owners.

While we have had to follow the white man’s system to gain land through these processes, it doesn’t mean we sell out on what the vision has always been – Land Rights and our Rights as the people who belong.

If we combine the current, future and outstanding Land Claims through NSW, we would have the wealthiest property portfolio – above and beyond any billionaires or government – and we need to utilise this asset base to take us into a brighter future.

Native Title and Land Rights will open new pathways and a common vision when used in partnership to advance our people economically, socially, spiritually, emotionally, culturally, environmentally and most of all the strengthening of our say on what happens on our land through the continuation of our ancient practices and rights as the people of the land.

We are best-placed to determine our own way forward but struggle to have our voices heard or understood.

We have a proven NSWALC system that has been around for over 30 years and is in my view the peak Aboriginal body within NSW run by the people for the people. In many cases it is all a community has.

I have always been an advocate to Recognise and Respect the Traditional Owners of communities and I believe if NSWALC implements the endorsement of a Traditional Owner Board to each LALC on all matters of Cultural and Heritage significance we will go a long way to uniting many communities. But it can work as Mutawintji LALC has shown us by providing the perfect example of Joint management and a Traditional Owner Board.

This will in turn create a working relationship that bridges a gap that without attention will continually widen. This is a dilemma facing many of us working with the Native Title and Land Rights systems across the State.

As a proud Barkandji man, I am humbled and honoured to represent my Ancestors as an applicant for Barkandji Native Title and through the process have learned that by utilising our most precious asset – our Land – we can shape a brighter future.

Without Land Rights or Native title we are unable to make this dream become reality.

There are many for and against both systems and the whole Land Rights-Native Title system and the fact that we continue under an oppressed white man’s law not our own lore will continue to create that divide.

We must remember that before Land rights and Native Title, the land belonged to the Traditional Owners.

(Editor’s note: For more detail on NSWALC’s submission to the NSW Government’s proposed model for new Aboriginal Culture and Heritage laws, visit https://alc.org.au/culture-and-heritage/more-than-flora–fauna.aspx)