Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Githabul Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Determination of Native Title


In February 2007 an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was signed by the Githabul People, the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the NSW Government - signaling a successful ending to a negotiation process that began 12 years earlier. A ceremony was held in Woodenbong in northern NSW to mark the occasion. The ILUA was officially registered with the National Native Title Tribunal on 15 August 2007, making it a legally binding agreement.

The first step towards developing the agreement was taken in September 1995, when Mr Trevor Close lodged a native title claim, on behalf of the Githabul People, covering public lands in the Kyogle, Woodenbong and Tenterfield areas of north-east NSW and lands south of Rathdowney in Queensland. In late 2003, the NSW Government and the Githabul People agreed to negotiate the ILUA as a means of resolving the NSW portion of the claim. In April 2007, the Githabul People withdrew that part of the native title claim that covered areas in Queensland.

Following the registering of the ILUA, the Government and the Githabul People asked the Federal Court to make a consent determination recognising the claimants' rights over public lands in the claim area. The determination was made on 29 November 2007, which means that the Githabul People now have legally enforceable native title rights.

The Githabul Nation encompasses some of Australia's most scenic country and extends across a number of national parks and state forest reserves in north-eastern NSW, including some world heritage-listed areas. The consent determination and the ILUA cover over 112,000 hectares of national parks and state forests in the Kyogle, Woodenbong and Tenterfield areas of NSW and include:

  • Koreelah National Park, Mount Clunie National Park, Captains Creek Nature Reserve, Tooloom National Park, North Obelisk Nature Reserve, Mount Nothofagus National Park, Yabbra National Park, Toonumbar National Park, Border Ranges National Park and Richmond Range National Park
  • Koreelah State Forest, Beaury State Forest, Bald Knob State Forest, Woodenbong State Forest, Donaldson State Forest, Mount Lindesay State Forest, Yabbra State Forest, Edinburgh Castle State Forest, Unumgar State Forest, Toonumbar State Forest, South Toonumbar State Forest, Richmond Range State Forest and Bookookoorara State Forest
  • Dairy Flat Travelling Stock Reserve by agreement with the Casino Rural Lands Protection Board
  • the Tooloom Falls Aboriginal Place (previously a Crown reserve managed by Tenterfield Shire Council) will be transferred to the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) and reserved as an Aboriginal Area under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 in recognition of its cultural significance to the Githabul People.

What is a consent determination and what will it do?

Native title determinations are made by the Federal Court, that is, the Court decides whether native title exists over an area of land or water. If the parties involved in a native title claim reach agreement and the Federal Court endorses that agreement, this is known as a consent determination. The consent determination made on 29 November 2007 will recognise the rights of the Githabul People to practise their traditional laws and customs, including the rights to:

  • access and camp in the areas
  • fish, hunt and gather animal and plant resources for personal use
  • take and use water for personal use
  • access the area for spiritual purposes and access sites of spiritual significance in the area
  • protect places of importance to the Githabul People from physical harm.

The rights outlined in the consent determination are non-exclusive which means that the wider community will still be able to access and enjoy these public lands.

Comments from the Githabul People

It [the determination] gives the United Githabul Tribal Nation recognition, not only by the Federal Court, but by the NSW Government. This is one thing that the old people always dreamt of - to be recognised by this State Government. The reason why we lodged the claim was to give hope and inspiration to other tribal groups across the Commonwealth. Even though it took 15 years, it was worth it - we have given hope to other tribes.
Trevor Close, Githabul Native Title Claimant

This native title settlement addresses both federal and state government lawful obligation to the Githabul People. The successful outcome of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) demonstrates that by working together through trust and open dialogue that all past grievances can be put to rest and together we can build a promising future for the Githabul People.
Doug Williams, Chair of the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation

It [the determination] acknowledges that we are the traditional owners of that land. It brings credibility of who we are and that we were the first people there. It’s a proud moment and the children are really proud to be acknowledged too.
Christine Charles, Member of the Githabul People

The Githabul ILUA

The ILUA establishes a joint management arrangement for the eleven parks in the claim area (including the Tooloom Falls Aboriginal Area once it is created). A Githabul National Parks Management Committee, whose role is to advise DECC on the care, control and management of the eleven parks, was appointed by the Minister assisting the Minister for Climate Change, Environment & Water in November 2007.

The Management Committee is made up of 7 Githabul people and 2 DECC staff. The Committee provides advice to DECC on:

  • plans of management for parks
  • cultural heritage management
  • education and interpretation of the parks
  • employment, training and community capacity building for Githabul people on the parks.

Githabul people are to be employed in the parks and one of the first jobs of the Committee is to look into the recruitment of 4 permanent DECC positions.

The ILUA establishes principles for the cultural heritage management of all lands within the ILUA area, acknowledging the Githabul People as the primary people to be consulted on cultural heritage matters.

One of the main outcomes sought by the Githabul People through the ILUA negotiations was the protection of places of spiritual importance. Under the ILUA, the Government will consult with the Githabul People on development and planning processes and DECC will work with the Githabul People to investigate Aboriginal places across the claim area.

Through the ILUA, the Githabul People and DECC have agreed how the native title rights will be exercised on parks.

The ILUA imposes some legally binding restrictions on the native title rights of the Githabul People, such as the exclusion of hunting with guns in parks. Protection of hunting rights was a key concern of the Githabul People during the negotiations and it is a demonstration of their goodwill that they were prepared to forego this in the interests of reaching a workable agreement.

Githabul Indigenous Land Use Agreement (GithabulILUA.pdf, 225KB)

Note: this is not the full version of the ILUA and includes only those sections relevant to DECC.  Schedules A, B, G, H, I, P, Q and S are included.

Page last updated: 27 February 2011