PHOTOS: Emotions spill over as fight for native title ends
EIGHTEEN years in the making, emotions were high for the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay who feel they "can be who they really are" following a positive native title consent determination.
The Bundjalung people of Byron Bay have been officially recognised as the traditional land owners of a parcel of densely populated land at an emotional Federal Court hearing.
Justice Robertson gave the positive determination of native title to the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay at a sitting of the Federal Court at Brunswick Heads yesterday, which was followed by an explosion of whistles, cheers and applause that filled the tent from the hundreds of people in attendance.
Land in and around Byron Bay, Broken Head, Brunswick Heads, Bangalow and Mullumbimby, and a portion of Sea Country to the east of those lands is now recognised under native title. It is only the second over Sea Country in NSW, after the Yaegl people were handed offshore rights off the Clarence Coast in 2017.
The determination also concludes the current longest running native title claim in NSW after 18 years of litigation.
Justice Robertson said the matter had been one of "great complexity" but said the court made orders by consent the native title claimants "have and always have had native title rights and interests in land and waters within the area subject to the application".
Native title claimant Judith Davies, who continued the claim initiated by elders including her father Teddy Kay, said she had "mixed feelings" over the announcement.
"My dad wasn't here, a lot of the men weren't here that started (the claim), but now it's over and done with and we can be who we really are," Mrs Davies said.
Claimant Norman Graham said the claim had involved "much compromise".
"This native title claim has involved compromise in regards to the rights - compromise to be recognised and compromise in relation to the extent of the area," Mr Graham said.
"It is our belief that our sea country extends as far as the eye can see, but our cultural rights and obligations extends further than our claim now takes in."
During speeches to the court another claimant said native title rights were "essential to (their) identity and wellbeing".
"Bundjalung people of Byron Bay, we are salt water people and always have been.
"We hope this determination is followed by many more."