Sydney Harbor’s largest island will be returned to Aboriginal owners in a $43million move that is a “personal priority” for the Prime Minister.
The New South Wales government is returning a historic landmark nestled in Sydney Harbor to the Aboriginal community, with the formal transfer process beginning for Me-Mel Island.
The initiative comes with a nearly $43 million overhaul as part of the 2022-23 state budget to help revitalize Me-Mel, also known as Goat Island.
The transfer is a “personal priority” for Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet.
“Returning Me-Mel to the Indigenous community is the right thing to do, and it helps me deliver on my commitment to improving Indigenous outcomes and opportunities in all areas of government,” he said. .
“A big part of my commitment is to ensure that the island is restored before it is handed over to the indigenous community.
This will be done through a $42.9 million package over four years, with the money earmarked for work such as repairing levees and buildings, improving water and sewer services, and removing contaminants like asbestos.
The state heritage site is the largest island in Sydney Harbor and is located northwest of the CBD.
Me-Mel is known for its rich Aboriginal heritage and value with over 30 buildings and other structures from the 1830s to the 1960s.
It was once inhabited by the man Wangal Bennelong and the woman Cammeraigal Barangaroo.
Bennelong said the island was his inheritance after his father left it to him, with colonial records showing his father was born on Me-Mel.
His transfer was a 2015 election promise from the NSW Labor Party, with the process officially beginning under the state’s Liberal government more than seven years later.
The move was welcomed by Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Vice President Yvonne Weldon, who said the transfer will help heal and advance Aboriginal issues.
“Me-Mel is a place where we can go into our culture, pass the culture on to our younger generations and share with other people,” she said.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), which will continue to manage the island until transfer, is inviting expressions of interest for people to join the Me-Mel Transfer Committee.
A variety of expert legal, heritage, planning and governance advice will be offered to the group, with Indigenous Affairs Minister Ben Franklin saying the committee will develop a plan and business case for the future ownership and management of the island.
“The Me-Mel Transfer Committee includes representatives from Aboriginal peoples and NSW government agencies, and importantly, its establishment is supported by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council,” he said.
Nominations for this committee are due before the close of business on June 27.