Together with Oxfam Afterglow has been working with the Yuin indigenous community on a campaign to regain their traditional fishing rights. Since commercial fishing licenses and bag limits for non-professionals were introduced in the ’70s, Aboriginal communities on the NSW South Coast have been unable to feed their mob and make a living from fishing.
The unusually high rates of illness, joblessness and substance abuse is often attributed by indigenous locals to their being locked out of the industry. There is also an unusually high degree of harassment by local authorities and many community members have been charged and sentenced for exceeding bag limits. In some cases, indigenous elders aged 70 and over have been imprisoned for months at a time for exceeding their bag limit just so they can feed their families.
It’s compelling listening to their stories and over a number of visits to the Moruya/Narooma area we’ve gathered filmed testimonials of many of these cases and edited a number of short profile videos as well as stories about innovations like the first ever native title fishing card which community members can show to Fisheries and police officers to prove they’re legally entitled to catch fish. The South Coast Aboriginal Fishing Group has used the videos as part of their appeal to politicians, bureaucracy, the general community and the media to overturn laws, regulations and practices that are unmistakably discriminatory.
The videos and the campaign have been having an effect with arrests down and no recent gaol charges handed out for fishing offences. With that success the community is now moving ahead with a range of enterprises like abalone farming and cultural water cruises for tourists which will provide training and meaningful work for local indigenous people.
And that, dear readers, is probably one of the sweetest successes we at Afterglow have experienced.