Biamanga and Gulaga national parks return to Aboriginal ownership
Biamanga and Gulaga national parks on the Far South Coast are important places to the Yuin people. Mumbulla Mountain within Biamanga National Park and Gulaga Mountain within Gulaga National Park are sacred to the Yuin people.
On 6 May 2006 a celebration was held to mark the return of Biamanga and Gulaga national parks to their Aboriginal owners, the Yuin people, by the Minister for Environment Mr Bob Debus. These parks were the third and fourth parks to be returned to Aboriginal ownership in NSW and the first on the eastern seaboard.
The parks are leased back to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) under a rental agreement. The parks will be jointly managed by the Aboriginal owners and NPWS through two boards of management. The boards have a majority of Aboriginal owners along with community and Department of Environment and Conservation representation.
"They'll still be run as national parks," said Preston Cope, Area Manager NPWS. "The rent money that's paid must be spent on the land and for the management of the parks but NPWS won't be calling the shots. It'll be the majority Aboriginal management board that will actually be making the decisions and the policies etc for the parks."
The leases recognise the cultural significance of the lands and the cultural connection between the two mountains. The two boards of management will jointly manage the parks and will work together to make sure those connections are maintained. The preamble to the leases sum up the importance of these mountains to the Aboriginal owners with the following words: "Future generations should be proud to stand where their ancestors stood, to drink from where their ancestors drank, and to take in the views, just as their ancestors did. Through cooperation we can achieve anything as these mountains are our heart and soul."
The leases also talk about employment and training of Aboriginal people and other economic opportunities associated with management of the lands. "I believe that it's going to make a big difference to employment and training," said Aboriginal owner and project officer with NPWS, Trisha Ellis. "A lot more Aboriginal people will have the opportunity to be involved in the management of these parks through the management board. In a sense 28 Aboriginal people will have input into the management of the park and the projects that happen in the park ... the spin-off will be that more Aboriginal people will be trained and more Aboriginal people will be employed."
"It's what you would call practical reconciliation," said NSW Environment Minister Bob Debus at the handback ceremony. "Gulaga is an especially sacred place for Aboriginal people that is extraordinarily significant in spiritual terms. What we are able to do today is to balance the books, to restore some sense of justice following the dispossession of the last 240 years."
A majority of the members of the board of management must be chosen from the Register of Aboriginal Owners. This register is established and kept by the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act pursuant to Part 9 of the ALR Act.
Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW)
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Page last updated: 27 February 2011