Remove Sandon Pt tent embassy: neighbours

The Sandon Point tent embassy in March. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

The Sandon Point tent embassy in March. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

A cultural centre or low-key viewing area is a more appropriate structure for teaching about Aboriginal heritage at Sandon Point, and the tent embassy should be removed, according to a group of residents who live nearby.

As Wollongong City Council considers the final shape for a plan of management for the site, the Sandon Point and McCauleys Beach Residents Group (SPMBRG) has made its views clear in a submission to the council.

The submission, which states it was approved by 133 residents, says a "low-key viewing point" for the burial site there should be considered.

Views on tent embassy divided

"It would be great if there was some signage, artworks, and boardwalks to express and explain the Aboriginal history," it says.

"This site has the potential to become a cultural asset for the city, something to be really proud of ... however, the current site of the tent embassy is not the right place for such a cultural centre, or for the current embassy for that matter."

While the residents did not strongly support a cultural centre, they said such a facility would be more suitable near the car park than the embassy's location.

The present location had not been properly assessed for development, it attracted too many vehicles along the bike path, and did not have regular water or sanitation connected.

The area is a designated Aboriginal place because of its traditional role as a ceremonial and burial site, and meeting place.

WCC has proposed that if agreement is reached between the five Aboriginal groups involved in the recent court case over development on the site, then the council should enter a co-management agreement with them.

As the Mercury reported on Friday, there is not consensus among the Aboriginal groups as to the future of the tent embassy.

The Kerowal Elouera Jerrungarugh Traditional Elders Corporation (KEJ) submission says that as traditional custodians of the land, they do not believe the burial site is an appropriate site for people to live, and the tent embassy should go.

At Monday's WCC meeting KEJ elder Reuben Brown spoke, saying the site should be renamed Ngurrungulli, which he said was a more appropriate local word for the site than the name "Kuradji", which has often been used.

The position of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, however, is that the embassy should stay, supported by the council to improve the site if necessary, with a co-management agreement drafted between the ILALC and WCC.

The land council argues that owing to the significance of the site, the Aboriginal groups involved should not have to go through the usual development application process for the site.

"Aboriginal people should not need permission to work on country," its submission said.

The tent embassy's most prominent spokesman, Roy "Dootch" Kennedy, has been charged with several child sex offences that allegedly relate to incidents in the 1990s. He is yet to plead and his case is due back in court in July.

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