The Shire's Aboriginal Culture and Heritage

Bundjalung people

It is well understood that prior to European settlement of the Ballina Shire area the Bundjalung people were its custodians, having cared for and lived off the land for thousands of years. The many natural features and landforms that make up the Ballina Shire landscape were understood by the Bundjalung people to be the creation of their Dreamtime ancestors.

Bundjalung people tell of how, before the coming of white man, they lived in harmony with the natural environment. Like other Indigenous culture, the Bundjalung people suggest they belong to the land and the land to them. The land provided a wide variety of foods including fish, crustaceans, mammals, birds, reptiles vegetables and fruits. Shelters were made of timber, bark, branches and palms. Fire was used to cook food and timber, rock and fibres used to make tools and utensils with which to hunt, gather and prepare food. Individuals were part of a complex kin and tribal grouping that frequently moved across different parts of the land in search of food and in response to seasonal change and for ceremony. Bundjalung peoples' culture and traditions evolved over many thousands of years with the passing down of knowledge from previous generations and adapting to environmental change.

Aboriginal cultural heritage sites in the ballina shire

Management of Aboriginal Heritage matters in the shire is overseen by JALI Local Aboriginal Land Council and is supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) and the NSW Heritage Act (1977) which provide legal protection for Aboriginal sites and relics in NSW, including sites yet to be recorded.

Ballina Shire is rich in Aboriginal cultural heritage sites and history – with the archaeological record indicating Bundjalung occupation of the region for at least 6000 years. Aboriginal cultural heritage sites are important to the local Aboriginal community for cultural, historic and spiritual reasons. The poor environmental management of these sites in the past has led to a significant loss of Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, in the past century especially, and thus eroded Aboriginal peoples’ wellbeing and the potential knowledge sites can contain.

The careful management of Aboriginal cultural heritage sites in the shire is important to Aboriginal people, culture and identity today, as well as understanding the past for the benefit of all community members.

Aboriginal cultural heritage sites in NSW are managed in accordance with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) and the NSW Heritage Act. The management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in the case of development in all local government areas throughout NSW is also guided by various Office of Environment and Heritage guidelines and conservation principles, including consulting with Aboriginal communities/stakeholders and exercising Due Diligence in the case of proposed development that has the potential to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. This information can be accessed through the NSW Government Environment & Heritage website.

Enquiries regarding Aboriginal sites and places in the Ballina Shire can also be directed to JALI Local Aboriginal Land Council on telephone 02 6686 7055.


Last reviewed July 2013

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