Indigenous fishing rights protest on Far South Coast

LOCAL indigenous families are being asked to join a statewide protest to recognise Aboriginal fishing rights.

The protests are being organised by Wally Stewart, the former indigenous policy advisor to the NSW Marine Park Authority back when it was managed and part of the Department of Environment and Heritage.

The election of the current Liberal state government saw the management of marine parks shifted to the Fisheries within the Department of Primary Industries.

Mr Stewart spent some time in Narooma during the early days of the Batemans Marine Park and has been in contact with local Aboriginal families who traditionally have harvested from the sea.

There is a protest camp planned at Aragunnu in Mimosa Rocks National Parks south of Bermagui this weekend.

“We need to stage a mass protest about how our resources are being abused by Fisheries in NSW and how Fisheries in NSW portray Aboriginal people to be criminals for exercising their traditional rights,” Mr Stewart said.

“We ask all communities in NSW to organize your families and Community and go out to your favourite fishing grounds and gather, dive, fish and take whatever you need to feed your family.”

Local Fisheries officer had been made aware of the protest camp.

Mr Stewart is now based in Byron Bay and his partner Yvonne is chief executive of the Arakwal people of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation.

They say they worked tirelessly with the former Labor government to develop a policy called, so that indigenous peoples in NSW could have access to their marine resources providing it was ecological sustainable and also have a say in managing traditional waters.

But Mr Stewart said the current government had refused to adopt the policy, “Aboriginal Engagement and Cultural Use Of Fisheries Resource in NSW Marine Parks.”

“Since this liberal government has come to power our Cultural Resource Agreement has been swept under the carpet and they still haven't filled the designated (Aboriginal Marine Parks Ranger) position that is vacant in Cape Byron Marine Park,” he said.

“In fact Fisheries are the only government department in NSW that don't work with Aboriginal communities or employ Aboriginal people in their department. That says a lot for me when you look around the state and all other government departments employ our people.

“A good example is National Parks and Wildlife Service employ over 250 Aboriginal people across the state of NSW and have agreements, hand back of lands to Communities, partnerships, arrangements, MOUs, Indigenous land use Agreements and recognize the importance’s of Aboriginal people’s connection to land and water with respect.”

A Facebook page is being developed and Stewarts are asking Aboriginal people in NSW to form an Aboriginal Cultural Fishing Alliance, similar to what NSW recreational fishing did, between the Fishing & Shooters party, as they hold the balance of power and have been very successful influencing NSW Government on its decision making.

FISHING RIGHTS: A indigenous protest boat at Julian Rocks (Nuthungully) on the day Cape Byron Marine Park was celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

FISHING RIGHTS: A indigenous protest boat at Julian Rocks (Nuthungully) on the day Cape Byron Marine Park was celebrating its 10-year anniversary.


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