Clashes over land use near Byron Bay have broken out between Jali Aboriginal Land Council and a group of women camping at the site.
Clashes over land use near Byron Bay have broken out between Jali Aboriginal Land Council and a group of women camping at the site. Claudia Jambor

'Illegal' campers claim victory, land council hits back

Update 5.15pm: JALI Local Aboriginal Land Council has planned to meet with Ballina Shire Council and NSW Police to devise a strategy "that doesn't breach the peace" to remove a group of women from Jali-owned land between Lennox Head and Byron Bay.

In its most recent Facebook post, the New Way Dreaming group celebrated today's protest against the removal of the Gugamai camp: "Wow! what a day! Everything turned over (sic). Jali Land Council gone and the gate is back up up".

Nyangbul woman and one of the heads of the camp, Lois Cook, said the land council were "not necessarily representative" of her tribe and claimed she held the right to be there.

"They are another tribe acting under foreign-based laws and powers to come in here and stop my people from practicing culture," she told The Northern Star on Friday.

She said she had spoken to land council chief executive Mik Smith on a number of occasions and claimed he told her the land council intended to dismantle the site since November last year.

Mr Smith said the land council owned the property freehold and claimed Ms Cook and a group of women, who were not associated with Jali, had resided on the property illegally for the past year.

He said safety was one of the main reasons the land council had to remove the group from the site. More importantly, Mr Smith said the land council would be viable if anybody were to be injured at the site.

"So even though the trespassers claim that they are teaching culture, a school can't go there, there is no toilets, it's on 100km/h zone, you can't turn there, it's double lines, there's no running water and there's no (appropriate) infrastructure," Mr Smith said.

"We are fighting for Aboriginal rights, we are fighting for human rights but we must do that in a way that is civil and in line with Australian law.

He said the housing structure and water tank established at the site were in breach of Ballina Shire Council's development codes.

 

Original story 12.30pm: CLASHES over land use near Byron Bay have broken out between Jali Aboriginal Land Council and a group of women camping at the site.

Police are on scene at Gugamai, off The Coast Rd between Lennox Head and Byron Bay, after the women refused to leave when ordered by the Jali Aboriginal Land Council.

Jali has reportedly been told to take down the campground by Ballina Shire Council.

Police have now been called to the scene.

Indigenous elder Lois Cook, who established the camp, said the council was "violating our women, swearing at us".

She claimed the council was "using a foreign-based power and law to dismantle stop us and to stop our practices of law and culture on our country".

Jali chief executive Mik Smith told The Northern Star that negotiations with the women who reside at Gugamai have gone on for a year and were unsuccessful.

He said land on another area of the property where the Gugamai currently exists was offered to the group.

"We offered to move them and establish their camp where there is access water and access sewerage and they refused," Mr Smith said.

"That was offered on three separate occasions in writing."

More to come.



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