Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Arakwal indigenous land use agreements


In 1995, the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay lodged a native title claim over areas of crown land, beaches and coastal waters between Belongil Creek at Byron Bay and Jews Point on the north coast of NSW. They lodged a further claim in 1997 over additional land in the Byron Shire.

In August 2001, an indigenous land use agreement (ILUA 1) between the Government and the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) settled part of the first claim and all of the second claim. ILUA 1 led to the establishment of Arakwal National Park.

In 2001, a third native title claim was lodged when it became apparent that evidence provided during the negotiations over the first two claims was applicable to additional areas outside the existing claims. This included lands up to Brunswick Heads to the north, Broken Head to the south, Mullumbimby and Bangalow to the west and approximately three nautical miles east of the mean high-water mark. Negotiations over the third claim and outstanding portions of the first claim led to the development of two further ILUAs (Byron Bay ILUA 2 and Ti Tree Lake ILUA 3), which were signed in December 2006.

Arakwal ILUA 1

Arakwal ILUA 1, registered on 28 August 2001, was the result of seven years of consultations between the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal), a range of community groups, the Byron Shire Council and the NSW Government, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The NPSW is now part of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

One outcome of Arakwal ILUA 1, the first agreement of its kind in Australia, was the creation of, and funding for, the Arakwal National Park, to be jointly managed by the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and the NPWS. The Arakwal National Park Management Committee, made up of three Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and representatives of the NPWS and the Byron Shire Council, was established to advise the NPWS on park management. The ILUA gave native title holders access to the park for:

  • protecting and conserving areas of cultural heritage
  • conducting ceremonies under traditional law and custom
  • gathering material for traditional medicines and ceremonies
  • fishing and hunting.

The Arakwal National Park Management Committee meets monthly to advise NPWS on park management relating to such matters as:

  • employment and training for Aboriginal people
  • access and visitor management
  • weed and pest management
  • development of fire, pest and communications for the park
  • employment of Arakwal people as rangers and trainee rangers.

What the Arakwal National Park Management Committee has been doing

Since the declaration of the Arakwal National Park in October 2001 and the first meeting of the Arakwal Management Committee in May 2002, work has been undertaken on projects such as:

Arakwal National Park Management Committee Members and the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment adopting the Arakwal national park Plan of Management at Byron Bay

  • preparing a plan of management for the Arakwal National Park, which was adopted in early 2007
  • developing a Byron Bay Arakwal people's logo which represents their connection to the land and sea - this logo is added to uniforms worn by NPWS staff associated with the park and is included on all park signs
  • carrying out an Aboriginal Heritage study to identify the Aboriginal heritage values of the park to help the management committee determine the potential cultural impacts of management proposals and provide information for cultural interpretive programs
  • preparing a wildlife protection recovery plan for the Byron Bay dwarf graminoid clay heath, an endangered ecological community in the north-western part of Arakwal National Park, to identify actions necessary to help this plant community recover (it is also habitat for an endangered orchid)
  • monitoring and controlling foxes, with assistance from the Tweed-Lismore Rural Lands Protection Board, to reduce fox numbers and their associated impacts on wildlife
  • controlling weeds and regenerating bushland in parts of the park to help native plant communities regenerate and reduce reinfestation 
  • developing a fire management plan for the park and adjoining lands
  • developing a memorandum of understanding to establish a mechanism for the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay's (Arakwal) involvement in the management of the Cape Byron Marine Park
  • carrying out an ethno-botanical study which documented culturally valued plants within the park.  

Arakwal National Park partnership receives prestigious award

In 2003 the ILUA 1 was recognised internationally as an effective model to resolve native title claims. The NSW Government and the Arakwal People were awarded the prestigious Fred M Packard award for distinguished achievements in wildlife preservation by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the 5th World Parks Congress held in South Africa in 2003.

The Chair of the Arakwal National Park Management Committee, Ms Yvonne Stewart, said they were honoured to be short-listed for the award in recognition of the achievement involved in creating and managing Arakwal National Park under an ILUA.

The award being accepted by Arakwal representatives Lorna Kelly and Yvonne Stewart at the IUCN Fifth World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa

Launch of ‘Places of Plenty’, a book of the ethno-botanical study.

'The creation of Arakwal National Park under an ILUA was the first of its kind in Australia,' Ms Stewart said.

'Being short-listed for this award is recognition of the hard work that has been put into building this partnership with the NPWS, both by the Arakwal people and the NPWS.'

'To be invited by the IUCN to attend the conference and to be considered for this award is very satisfying,' she said.

Two new ILUAs

In December 2006, two new ILUAs were signed by the NSW Government and the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal). These are the Byron Bay ILUA 2 and the Ti Tree Lake ILUA 3. It is symbolic that these ILUAs were signed on the birthday of the late Lorna Kelly, one of the Arakwal Elders who did so much to get her people back to Country, working on Country, protecting Country, connecting and learning about Country, and to be proud of their heritage and their future.

The two new ILUAs build on the first one signed in 2001 and on the ongoing successes of the Arakwal people through their partnership with OEH and the Byron Bay community. These include acquiring meaningful jobs and training for the descendants of the traditional owners of the area as well as involvement in looking after Country and showing people how to repair, respect and understand Country.

Elders Linda Vidler and Dulcie Nicholls with the Premier, Morris Iemma at the signing of the ILUAs.

Byron Bay ILUA 2

ILUA 2 provides the addition of 74 hectares to the national park estate including:

  • the addition to Arakwal National Park of the endangered clay heath community at Paterson Hill; home to two threatened plant species and the focus of community concern for a decade
  • the addition to Arakwal National Park of endangered swamp communities and habitat of the endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail west of Red Devil Recreation Grounds
  • the addition to Broken Head Nature Reserve of endangered littoral rainforest along the coastal strip
  • additions to Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve, effectively doubling the area of the existing reserve by including endangered swamp forests, and providing a wildlife corridor link along Belongil Creek.

The Bundjalung people of Byron Bay (Arakwal) have negotiated an outcome that honours the Byron Bay community’s struggles to protect these important areas. It also means that the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) will have a direct say in managing a larger area of land in their Country.

Funds have been provided through OEH to manage the new additions through weed, pest, fire and infrastructure programs, walking track and visitor facility maintenance, and cultural studies. A new office adjoining the works depot will service the area.

Ti Tree Lake ILUA 3

The Ti Tree Lake ILUA will create a new 50ha reserve, the Ti Tree Lake Aboriginal Area, which encompasses forests and a lake sacred to Bundjalung women.

This ILUA gives Bundjalung women a guiding role and a real say in the care, control and management of this area. A Bundjalung women’s committee will be established to prepare a plan of management for this significant area.

The Byron Bay Indigenous Land Use Agreement and the Ti Tree Lake ILUA build on the internationally recognised Arakwal Land Use Agreement of 2001, the first NSW land use agreement to create a national park, Arakwal National Park.

'The NSW Government acknowledges that the indigenous people are the original custodians of the lands and waters, animals and plants of NSW and our commitment to find positive ways to move forward together,' Mr Iemma said.

'The first ILUA paved the way and showed the positive outcomes of negotiating native title claims as a partnership, rather than through litigation.'

'These new additions to local reserves and the new Ti Tree Lake Aboriginal Area are worthy additions to one of the world’s great national park networks.'

'To have these lands gifted back in such a way is a sign of the great partnership and generosity of spirit of the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay.'

The first ILUA with the Arakwal people created jobs for Aboriginal people to manage national parks around Byron Bay. ILUA 2 will build on this by providing further employment and training for Aboriginal people.

The new lands will be jointly managed through management committees involving OEH, Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and the wider community.

Arakwal Indigenous Land Use Agreement (arakwalIluaScheduleG.pdf, 150kb)



Page last updated: 11 August 2014