Aboriginal people should be able to exercise their traditional rights to fish free from the burden of fearing criminal charges.
In our submission into this inquiry, we outlined how the non-commencement of the Fisheries Management Amendment Act 2009 impacts the fundamental human rights of Aboriginal people living on the South coast of NSW.
We proposed that the Government’s response should incorporate substantial initiatives to enable Aboriginal fishers to obtain a reasonable share of commercial quotas so that they can carry out their traditional activities in a meaningful and sustainable manner.
We encouraged the NSW Parliament to seek the Minister’s commitment to:
- commence item  of Schedule 1 to the Fisheries Management Amendment Act 2009 without further delay;
- review all fines and prosecutions under the FMA and withdraw all fines and prosecutions under the FMA of Native Title Holders fishing within the South Coast Claim Area;
- appropriately training authorised officers in native title rights and interests, Aboriginal culture, and the internationally recognised human rights of Aboriginal people;
- engaging Aboriginal people in all decision-making bodies that deal with fisheries management, including the resource assessment committees; and
- committing to the equitable participation of Aboriginal People in the commercial fisheries sector.
Members of the Aboriginal community who have a right to fish under the Native Title Act 1993 are being prosecuted under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW) contrary to those rights. Mounting a native title defence is both time consuming and expensive, meaning that a number of Aboriginal men have been incarcerated as they have been unable to defend themselves. A legislative amendment that would resolve this situation was passed in 2009, but hasn't yet commenced.
Following revelations that Aboriginal people make up 4 per cent of people living on the South Coast, but account for 80 per cent of jail terms for fisheries offences since 2009, the NSW Legislative Council passed a resolution supporting Aboriginal cultural fishing and called for a review of all fines and prosecutions. Meanwhile, this inquiry - looking into why the amendment was not allowed to commence and the impact on the community of failing to do so - commenced.
Our full submission will be published here once it is uploaded on the Inquiry website.
- Joint media release : NSW Government must recognise Aboriginal cultural fishing in line with parliamentary support 02 Dec '21
(Released by NSWCCL with the Nature Conservation Council and Oxfam Australia)
- Joint media release: NSW Government must suspend prosecutions of Aboriginal cultural fishers 20 Oct '21
- Local NSW fishermen are being prosecuted under State law contrary to their Native Title rights 15 Sept '21