Aboriginal elder Sheryl Davis Fulcher says the day the structures at the Sandon Point tent embassy comes down will be “a great day for my elders who have passed on”.
But the Wodi Wodi Elders Group representative also expressed her frustration over “years of inaction” from Wollongong City Council, which she believes has led to the current breakdown at the sacred site.
“We’ve been fighting for many years trying to have those tents pulled down, but Wollongong council has never listened to our concerns… and that’s allowing for people to desecrate an Aboriginal site,” Ms Davis Fulcher said. “If our concerns about the appalling behaviour happening at that site were taken on board years ago, we wouldn’t be having to do this today.”
She said the Wodi Wodi Elders Group – one of five indigenous groups involved in managing the site – did not believe the occupants of the tent embassy had been upholding the values of the site for a long time but had no power to take action.
She also said she was “disgusted” to see the present state of the site.
“Look at the debris, it’s a shame that our ancestral site which is so significant, is being used as a garbage tip,” she said.
“To us, this represents the desecration of our culture, our land, and our burial sites and heritage and that’s so upsetting.”
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he understood Ms Davis Fulcher’s frustrations, but believed the council had been right to wait for a majority vote from the five Aboriginal groups before taking action on the illegal structures at the Sandon Point site.
Councillors will debate the issue on Monday.
“There are a lot of politics surrounding the Aboriginal tent embassy, and we have been trying to allow time for people to come to the realisation themselves that these structures were non-compliant,” Cr Bradbery said.
“It has been a very delicate situation in trying to respect the heritage an the Aboriginal community’s choices.
“It is not my place to dictate the destiny of Aboriginal people, so it is either collaboratively or with their guidance that we will do things.”