Submission: Commencement of the Fisheries Management Amendment Act 2009

Update 8 November 2022: The findings from this inquiry examining the extensive 13 year delay of the NSW Government to commence legislation to protect Indigenous cultural fishing and the impact on the community of failing to do so has been handed down. The report is a damning indictment on the failure of the current government to act on its own policy. It calls on the NSW government commence section 21AA by June 30 next year. Read the report here.

Update 1 November 2022: The Fisheries Management Amendment (Enforcement Powers) Bill 2022, to be debated next week, will enable Fisheries Officers to search a person, arrest without warrant, enter premises, or require information relevant to potential charges, prior to charges or arrest. This ammendment was tabled last month and will be debated next week. NSWCCL opposes this ammendment in the strongest terms. Read more here.

Update 30 May 2022: The parliamentary inquiry has published submissions and will hold a community hearing on the south coast on July 28, with hearings in other locations scheduled in August.

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 [27] 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.

More information