The NSW Aboriginal Land Council has again called for an immediate moratorium on prosecuting Aboriginal people for cultural fishing, following the withdrawal of charges against a Yuin Elder.
76-year-old Kevin Mason was chased into the sea in 2018 by Fisheries Officers at Narooma on the NSW South Coast because of a small bag of abalone he had caught.
It’s the third time charges against Mr Mason have been dropped at the last minute by prosecutors, NSWALC Chairperson Councillor Danny Chapman says.
Mr Chapman says the prosecution of Mr Mason has gone “beyond harassment.”
“Our community members face financially debilitating fines of tens of thousands of dollars, are prohibited from even going near the water, and the impact on them and their families is horrific. This is not in line with the Government’s Closing the Gap commitments in any way,” he said.
An amendment to the NSW Fisheries Act authorising Aboriginal people to practice cultural fishing rights was passed 13 years ago but was never commenced.
An inquiry into why that hasn’t happened has now wrapped and a report is being prepared for the government.
Councillor Chapman says the government hasn’t shown interest in fixing the issue.
“We have consistently called for the immediate commencement of section 21AA and for the prosecution of Aboriginal cultural fishers to immediately stop.
The NSW Government has had more than a decade to work with us to get this right, but hasn’t.
And our people who are trying to feed their families and communities, as is their cultural right, are targeted and harassed, as we’ve seen with the traumatic experiences endured by Uncle Kevin Mason. How is that Closing the Gap?”