NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group starts petition

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, Robert Chewying and Wally Stewart from the NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group and Rod Kennett, director of Native Title Research Unit at AIATSIS, at the Native Title Conference in Townsville. Photo courtesy of Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, Robert Chewying and Wally Stewart from the NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group and Rod Kennett, director of Native Title Research Unit at AIATSIS, at the Native Title Conference in Townsville. Photo courtesy of Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

The NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group has started a petition calling on the NSW Government not to prosecute South Coast Aboriginal fishers until the South Coast Native Title Claim has been determined.

This follows group members attending the Native Title Conference in Townsville this month, where the federal government announced $20 million to develop cultural commercial fishing opportunities.

The NSW Government has announced a $1.5 million Aboriginal Fishing Trust Fund over three years. 

But NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group spokesperson Wally Stewart, of Narooma, said it did not make any sense that the government was supporting cultural fishing rights when, at the same time, Aboriginal people were being prosecuted for violating regulations. Mr Stewart said the group had started a petition on the issue.

“They could be sending Aboriginal people and Native Title holders to jail when they have a right to fish and access their traditional resources,” he said.

“The NSW Minister and Attorney General are ignoring the fact we have the right under the Native Title law passed under the highest court in the land.

“They are choosing to prosecute us under the State law ignoring the Federal Native Title legislation.”

This includes the case of the largest abalone seizure in more than 20 years involving a 59-year-old Mogo man and Sydney-based receivers, who allegedly received 3300 abalone. Click here for more

The fishing rights group was planning on having a stall at the NAIDOC Week Family Day at Moruya on Tuesday, July 4 where it would circulate the petition, but also have a kids’ fishing workshop, a case study of the impact of prosecutions and other material to hand out.

“We have the case study that proves the impact Fisheries prosecutions are having on our people, our way of life and culture,” he said.

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Here is the full wording of the NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group petition currently being circulated:

We, the NSW South Coast Aboriginal People, descended from our ancestors, practicing our culture since time immemorial, note that NSW Fisheries continues to prosecute our people for offences against the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994,

We call on the NSW State Government of NSW to urgently act to ensure that our native title rights are respected and upheld, and that there be no more prosecutions of our South Coast Aboriginal people until the determination of our South Coast Native Title Claim has been addressed.

We seek the support of NSW NATIVE TITLE services to condemn the Attorney General of NSW and this abuse of State power against our people and their rights, and the Minister for Fisheries for his continued disrespect for the Native Title Act 1992 (Cth), and the rights of Aboriginal People.

Further more we call on the NSW State Government to commence section 21AA of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 as a matter of urgency, which will allow Aboriginal Peoples across NSW to feed themselves, their family, and our community's without fear of being prosecuted.

He has been told by our Elders, and has continued to sanction this oppression of our People living in NSW.