Historic native title win over ocean

The claim involves 90 km of beach in NSW.

HISTORY has been made on the New South Wales north coast today with the granting of a native title claim over the ocean.

According to an article on the ABC website, the Yaegl people of the lower Clarence first started native title proceedings more than 20 years ago and two years ago the land was granted but now, for the first time in NSW, their rights to a stretch of sea have also been recognised.

The claim involves more than 90 kilometres of coastline between Woody Head and Wooli and extends 200 metres out to sea.

The decision means native title holders cannot be prohibited or restricted from carrying out fishing for personal, non-commercial needs.

It does not affect commercial fishing operations or public access to beaches.

Claimant spokesperson and Yaegl man Billy Walker said the granting of native title means freedom and independence for the Yaegl people.

“The Yaegl people can proudly say I’m going to go fishing, I’m going to go worming. I’m going to go and get pippies,” he said.

“I’m going to do what I can on the foreshores and out at sea without anybody looking over our shoulders telling us what to do and what we can’t do.

“It’s … a very historic day not only for the Yaegl people but also sets a precedent for other claim groups up and down the east coast of NSW.”

Mr Walker said the result gave protection to the Dirrangan reef, at the mouth of the Clarence, which “we’ve always wanted to protect from day one”.

Yaegl elder Carmel Charlton said she would now be able to enjoy fishing without constraint.

“I love my fishing. I can have fish nearly every day. I love them curried, fried, any which way you know,” she said.

“If the fish is on and they’re biting and the tide’s right I come every day.

“We’ll be able to do what we want to do without the boundaries.

“I don’t mind sitting beside the ocean of a night time looking up at the stars. It’s important. The dolphins come swimming in too. It’s good.”

NTS Corp, the native title provider in NSW, said the Yaegl people will continue to self-regulate their fishing to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries as they have for thousands of years.

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