Chairperson of Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal Corporation Yvonne Stewart, Aunty Dulcie Nicholls and Theresa Nicholls examine plans for the elders housing at the Ironbark Avenue site.
Chairperson of Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal Corporation Yvonne Stewart, Aunty Dulcie Nicholls and Theresa Nicholls examine plans for the elders housing at the Ironbark Avenue site. Kate O'Neill

Aunty dreams of home

AUNTY Dulcie Nicholls' eyes light up as soon as she steps onto the vacant bush block in Ironbark Ave, Byron Bay.

This is where the 82-year-old Arakwal elder spent an idyllic childhood at her parent's camp - playing, swimming and fishing in the nearby creek.

She left the camp when she married, but has spent almost two decades battling to return.

Aunty Dulcie was one of the four Arakwal sisters behind the Indigenous Land Use Agreement that handed the Ironbark Ave land back to the Arakwal people in 2001.

The parcel of land was negotiated to provide housing for Aunty Dulcie and the three other elders - Lorna Kelly, Yvonne Graham and Linda Vidler.

The housing has always been a top priority for the Arakwal Corporation, but it has struggled to find the funds.

Three of the four sisters have passed away since the original agreement was made. But now the sole surviving sister, Aunty Dulcie, may yet see their dream realised.

The Arakwal Corporation has entered into a joint venture with a development company, which will fund the construction of the housing via a development on Arakwal-owned land at Wategos Beach.

Chairperson the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal Corporation, Yvonne Stewart, said the arrangement followed the corporation's failure to secure any form of government funding.

"We tried various government agencies for funding, but the housing would have been managed by another entity," she said.

"You don't fight for 15 years for someone else to manage the land when we're quite capable of managing our own affairs."

The corporation has now lodged a development application with Byron Shire Council for four houses on the Ironbark site, with one to be handed to Aunty Dulcie and the remaining to be inherited by the families of the three other sisters.

Ms Stewart said it was sad that three of the four elders would not see the housing completed, but getting it finished would hon-our their memory. Conservation of land and living back on country was their aspiration, she said.

"To see Aunty Dulcie cut the ribbon and put the key in the door of her new house will be an emotional and proud completion of the work the elders began," Ms Stewart said.



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