The Gumbaynggirr Native Title claims

Tuesday, 3 June 2014
Sylvie Ellsmore
Gary Williams

The Gumbaynggirr Native Title claims: Using Native Title and NSW Land Rights together for the return and protection of Country

Gumbaynggirr People have two long‑running native title claims – the Gumma–Warrell Creek claim at Nambucca Heads and the Boney-Witt claim at Urunga, both on the NSW mid-north coast. At the same time Gumbaynggirr People have worked through their Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) to make land claims through the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), as part of a joint strategy to use available laws to protect and return highly significant areas. The joint strategy has had some major successes but also posed many challenges.

Successes include:

  • A test case about the ability of LALCs to claim land of high environmental significance.
  • Return of areas under native title land as freehold to the LALCs.
  • ​Establishment of a jointly managed park and IPA.
  • Protections for cultural and intellectual property
  • The first native title on Country connection evidence hearing in NSW.

Challenges have included:

  • The complex and uncertain legal interaction between land rights and native title law
  • The ability of native title to deliver community expectations
  • The slow resolution and large resources required to settle native title claims.
  • Varied and overlapping representation of communities through different groups
  • Institutional resistance from the state to Aboriginal control of land and waters.