A NSW parliamentary inquiry will examine why a legal amendment to allow for Aboriginal cultural fishing has not commenced more than eleven years after it was passed into law.
The NSW Parliament in 2009 amended the Fisheries Management Act to recognise cultural fishing in the state but it has not been allowed to commence.
The inquiry will also examine what the impact has had on First Nations communities.
While First Nations people make up four per cent of people living on the South Coast, they account for 80 per cent of jail terms for fisheries offences since 2009.
Danny Chapman is the chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and a councillor for the South Coast region.
“The way that the government is approaching cultural fishing has really affected our community. We’ve practised our cultural fishing for many, many, many years and that culture has been handed down from generation to generation and now I’m passing it on to my children and their children.
It has allowed us to survive as a people and as a nation. We’re not prepared to let this one slip. The government over many years has stripped back our culture and heritage. We’re just not prepared to step back and let them strip what little is left of our culture. We just can’t allow that to happen.”
Mr Chapman believes the inquiry will have a positive result.
“The inquiry is designed to get to the bottom of why the government hasn’t enacted Section 21AA.”
Calls to overturn fines and prosecutions
Last month Labor MLC Mick Veitch introduced a motion calling on the NSW government to not only take urgent action to rectify the out-of-date laws but to also hold a review of all fines and prosecutions.
Mr Veitch said the process of recognising cultural fishing has gone for “way too long”.
“I’d be keen to see what is the result of that review process. I’d encourage anyone who in the last twelve years has in some way received a fine or a breach notice under the Fisheries Management Act in NSW for what they would deem to be genuine cultural fishing they should engage with the department about having that reviewed.”