A council has rejected an Aboriginal land claim over one of the wealthiest parts of Sydney.
The Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, a representative Indigenous body working solely on lands rights issues, began its claim in 2009 over a $100 million segment of Mosman on Sydney’s north shore encompassing a 2,500 square metre parkland called Lawry Plunkett Reserve opposite Balmoral Beach.
Although submitted 14 years ago, Mosman Council congregated last night to deliberate on the claim, unanimously voting to reject it.
The matter sprung up late because it had only just reached the assessment phase of the land claim process, after which councils normally have a month to either accept or deny a submission.
The Act allows government representatives and council members, on behalf of their constituents, to enter into agreements with Aboriginal Land Councils. The Act does, however, only allow for claims to be lodged on land that has already been made the subject of pre-existing Native Title interests.
Native Title is a legal construct devised to recognise Indigenous landholdings.
Mosman Councillor’s Opposition
Mosman Council’s former deputy mayor, Roy Bendall, weighed in on the matter, suggesting it is concerning the parkland could even be subject to a Native Title claim considering its frequent usage and maintenance.
“We have been maintaining it. We’ve had bushcare groups maintaining it, so we’re actually amazed that this is even subject to a claim.”
Mr. Bendall also said he was bemused as to why the government departments demanded the motion be kept confidential up until 30 minutes prior to the council meeting.
“We spent a week trying to find out what the legal basis was for the confidentiality but in the documents that we were originally given we had to agree not to put it in the media, not put it to the public, not even tell local residents that this was happening.”
Sydney’s Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) revealed on Sept. 6 that there are just under 3,000 land claims awaiting assessment within its jurisdiction, with 40,000 lodged by a number of organisations across New South Wales in total.
However, these are only the claims not subject to confidentiality mandates. The true number is yet to be determined and could be greater.
The move comes as Australians prepare to go to the polls on Oct. 14 to decide on whether to alter the preamble of the nation’s Constitution and to embed a near-permanent advisory body into Parliament to represent Indigenous interests.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned more land claims could be in the pipeline if The Voice succeeds.