Bega Indigenous elders met recently with a couple of leading anthropologists as part of ongoing investigations into a South Coast Native Title claim.
Djiringanj and Ngarigo elders John Dixon and Ellen Mundy toured a number of sites in the district with the anthropologists, as proponents of the native title claim look to confirm "continuous connection to country, bloodline connections, and knowledge of local law and customs".
The area covered by the claim stretches from south of Sydney to Eden and was lodged with the federal court in 2018. The intention is not to take away property from those who now own it, but to allow the granting of cultural fishing rights and potential on-country employment opportunities for traditional owners for example.
While the anthropologists couldn't speak to ACM given their reports will likely be part of the native title court proceedings, Mr Dixon and Ms Mundy said they were going to show them several sites of significance to their people.
"We visited a ceremonial site for initiations, a spear fighting ground, a corroboree site, a massacre site, a murder site and a Aboriginal camp site which was gazetted in the 1800s but was eventually revoked and sold off. We spoke with the anthropologists about each site at length," Mr Dixon said.
We need a strong agreement in place for our kidsDjiringanj elder John Dixon
Among the sites visited was Coen's Lake, also known as Blackfellows Lake, at Kalaru.
"Coen's Lake is a very special place," Mr Dixon said.
"Our people were there cultivating the land, hunting, there was a commercial fishing operation there.
"There were also market gardens selling vegetables and the money was used to look after the up to 40 or 50 people living there," he said.
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Mr Dixon said proving continuous connection to country "could come in a lot of different ways" and the native title claim required "credible evidence, cultural evidence".
"Growing up I remember the stories and visiting the sites - in our minds we still own them," Ms Mundy said.
"We never ceded our rights - we're still here."
"We were learning the stories at home while our parents were going through power struggles and dealing with racism," Mr Dixon added.
"We're still on country, this is still part of clan lands. The land was part of our family.
"I'd like to see a determination that is strong for the future, rather than a land use agreement.
"We need a strong agreement in place for our kids."