The Yuin nation held probably its largest gathering since colonisation in Narooma on the weekend, voting to lodge a new South Coast native title bid.
The meeting on Sunday was attended by 550 people from 52 family groups, from La Perouse to the Victorian border, and was also a chance to review native title law and processes specific to the area.
It was organised and managed by Native Title Services Corporation (NTSCORP), the native title service provider for NSW.
Twelve people were chosen from 36 speakers for the title application. Among them was Wally Stewart, of Narooma.
“Native Title gives us a voice and allows us to have a say in our country again,” Mr Stewart said.
“It’s not about taking away people’s property rights or extending our claim into people’s backyards.
“We want to live in harmony on equal base with all people.”
Mr Stewart said his experience lobbying for indigenous fishing rights, affordable Aboriginal funerals and being involved in other native claims around Australia gave people confidence to vote for him.
He said the evidence of the Yuin people’s continuous connection to the land was strong and it would be easy to prove relationship to traditional lands and water.
He said it was also the strongest claim in Australia over the waters, with proof of continuous use by the Yuin people of the ocean, estuaries and rivers. There had been more than 550 interactions between Fisheries officials and Yuin people since 2009.
A native title claim that extended three nautical miles out to sea was something new and had never been accomplished before, Mr Stewart said.
The applicants and the corporation would now gather evidence of occupation, and that could even extend north of La Perouse, west to Braidwood and south of the Victorian border.
Mr Stewart said the meeting was truly momentous and boosted the spirits of the whole Yuin nation.