Traditional owners in South Australia have signed an ‘historic’ fishing deal with the state government formally granting them unrestricted access to fish in waters off the Yorke Peninsula.

The deal was signed with the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation (NNAC) this week and will allow Narungga people to continue their customs and practise of fishing as they have followed for thousands of years.

State Premier Steven Marshall said the agreement also represented the “formal inclusion of Aboriginal knowledge, and the inclusion of Elders” in the way fisheries are managed in South Australia.

“The knowledge of the land and sea collected by Narungga people over the thousands of years they’ve lived here, is invaluable and can help ensure appropriate cultural considerations are made in the management of our fisheries,” he said.

The agreement is a part of the 2018 Buthera Agreement, which aims to provide capacity-building support for the NNAC to drive economic enterprise and development.

Narungga man Klynton Wanganeen is the CEO of NNAC and says fishing is “integral” to Narungga identity.

“First and foremost it means we get the opportunity to carry on our long tradition of fishing in our waters without worrying about breaching the fisheries act at all, so we can practise without any fears of breaking the law.”

Mr Wanganeen was a part of the first meeting of the Narungga Nation held on Bookayana on February 10, 1996, and was a co-author of the Narungga Declaration which asserted the inherent rights and sovereignty of the Narungga people.

The new agreement was signed almost 25 years to the day since the declaration and has been a long time coming, says Mr Wanganeen.

“It’s better late than never. Everytime we got on the road to doing it we always came up against some reason or rationale why we couldn’t achieve what we were trying to.”

Mr Wanganeen hopes other Aboriginal nations around the country will be able to form similar agreements.

“The main thing is it provides an opportunity and a mechanism for other Aboriginal cultural nations to progress down the same road. We aren’t the only nation that has a strong fishing culture and as an Aboriginal person I would love to see others get that opportunity and participate.”

For Mr Wanganeen and the NNAC, the long-term goal is to see more Aboriginal people working in the peninsula’s fishing industry and to take a stronger role in managing it’s land and waters appropriately.

Full interview with Klynton Wanganeen below.