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Cultural Heritage Protection

Australian Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest and longest surviving cultures dating back at least 50,000 years.  In Australia there are hundreds of different groups, each having their own distinctive beliefs and cultures.  Aboriginal heritage consists of those places and objects that contribute to the story and lives of Aboriginal people.  Aboriginal people moved around land now known as Byron Shire and passed on stories, information and knowledge by going to these special places.

Aboriginal heritage includes places and items that are important to the local Aboriginal community or to Aboriginal people of NSW.  These are places or objects that people have a connection to, both physically and spiritually.  Aboriginal heritage can include natural features such as creeks or mountains, ceremonial or story places or areas of more contemporary cultural significance such as Aboriginal missions or post contact sites.  Aboriginal places and objects are an important part of the rich heritage of Byron Shire, providing links to culture, environment and knowledge for local Aboriginal communities.

Ceremonial and religious life was an important component of Aboriginal existence and the presence of bora grounds, stone arrangements and natural mythological sites remain as testimony to these activities.  In addition to local activities, the people of the north coast used to travel great distances to engage in regional ceremonial activities.  This included travelling to the ranges north of Brisbane for the Bunya festival.

Byron Shire Council recognises the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal people as Traditional Owners and custodians for parts of the Byron Shire.  Protection and preservation of cultural heritage and the broader environment is very important to the Bundjalung Arakwal people and to people of the wider Bundjalung nation.  Byron Shire Council (in its role as land manager) is committed to working with Aboriginal custodians within the Shire to protect places of cultural significance.

The Indigenous Land Use Agreements and other negotiated agreements provide for the protection and management of Aboriginal cultural and heritage areas by the Bundjalung Arakwal people, eg Arakwal National Park.  The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that Council will work in partnership with the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal People to ensure preservation of cultural practices, traditional sites, significant places and expressions of cultural identity.  The Traditional Owners conduct cultural, eco-tourism and educational programs thus providing an important cross-cultural exchange between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people.

A number of significant places are described on the Bundjalung of Byron Bay (Arakwal) website:

In NSW the principle laws which deal with Aboriginal heritage are:

  • National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
  • Heritage Act 1977
  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • Aboriginal Lands Right Act 1983

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage administers some of the legislation which ensures the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage: