In a NSW first the Tweed Byron Aboriginal Land Council (TBALC) has been handed the management of the culturally significant land at Fingal Head, the 2.3-hectare Fingal Head reserve.
In a ceremony on Friday 10 December the local families gathered with community members and representatives to acknowledge the importance of this event.
‘Thank you to the Land Council for inviting us to be here for this historic occasion of being handed over management of the headland,’ said Nicole Rotumah-Weir, Chairperson of the Tweed Aboriginal Co-Operative.
‘It is a massive achievement for our land council. This decision could be the start of something really big for our community and part of historic sites being asked to be handed back for management by our Aboriginal people.’
Following a ceremonial dance Leweena Williams, CEO of the Tweed Byron Aboriginal Land Council recognised the long fight that has been fought for recognition.
‘That was pretty emotional,’ she said when the dance completed.
‘When we think about all our old fellas that have fought for this place, our old fellas that are here today. It is an honour to be able to do this work for you, and teach our kids to do this once we’ve left this earth. So its people who we watched as kids and they were part of this fight. The boys showed their emotions through their dance.’
‘This is another battle that’s been won at Fingal,’ said Uncle Franc Krasna.
‘From securing housing in the 1960s to Ocean Blue and now the government has recognised us today.’
‘It is a historic day to be given the headland back,’ said Aunty Ruth Green.
Ms Williams recognised the work of Silas Southerland from Crown lands and local MP Geoff Provest.
‘Silas Southerland he was the guy who orchestrated this along with the land council. He’s not just another bureaucrat making decision on our behalf that affects us. He actually came up and had a look at the projects, sat down and had a yarn at the Sheoak Shack here on country and really got to understand what we do here, not just to do with the headland but the entire peninsular,’ she explained.
‘We gave him a bit of a historical journey, a bit of a time line of what’s happened here. He’s carried that with him and he’s told the minister it makes sense for the Aboriginal community to get management of this place, they are already doing it and they are doing it in collaboration with other partners.’
Chairperson of the TBALC Des Williams emphasised the importance of working with the Fingal community, Coastcare and Dunecare to ensure the effective management of the Fingal Headland reserve.
Mr Williams welcomed the appointment and reserve to protect Fingal Headland, known as ‘Booninybah’ or Place of the big Echidna because of its basalt rock that looks like echidna spines. Booninybah is Culturally significant to Aboriginal people of Fingal and the Tweed.
The former caves, the coloured sands, the burials, an increase site for booniny, a place of ceremony and connection to other ceremonial places in the shire including Joongurra Ngarian (Cook Island), the food, medicine and tool resources are some of the things that make this place significant to our community.
‘We can’t do it on our own. These are very important works. There has been a big improvement. I am glad that the land council and the people of Fingal are part of it. It is important piece of land, to the visitors but mainly the Aboriginal people,’ he said.
Kay Bolton from the Fingal Head Coastcare (FHC) explained ‘This community has worked for decades and decades to protect what we think is really special. The reason we have been successful is because we have worked together.’
‘The most relevant project is our headland project. It was being destroyed. It was being loved to death.’
As part of managing the Fingal Headland reserve, Ms Bolton said they have re-establsihed the critically nationally endangered ecological community of Themeda Grasslands on Sea Cliffs and Coastal Headland as well as formalising pathways to protect the grassland.
Member for Tweed Geoff Provest said a new Crown land reserve would be created at Fingal Head dedicated to ‘Preservation of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage’.
‘The appointment of Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council to manage the new Fingal Head reserve is the first time a land council has been appointed a Crown Land Manager in NSW,’ Mr Provest said.
‘Fingal Head is an absolute gem of a place, but the things that attract people to it can also inadvertently impact it through continuous pedestrian access and unauthorised clearing of the grassland, trees and rocky areas,’ Ms Williams said.
‘We have worked side by side with Fingal Head Coastcare, Fingal Community Association, Fingal Public School and Tweed Shire Council for at least 20+years to protect the Headland and we will continue this work to preserve and rehabilitate the area’s biodiversity, including by bush regeneration, protecting native species and wildlife, and cultural assets and stories.
‘Education of the Cultural and Environmental qualities and sensitivities will be crucial, as there are a lot of people moving to the peninsula as well as tourists visiting it who are unaware. We can learn from other groups and they can learn from us about what land and water management practices will work best.’