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2 April 2024

Gumbaynggirr elders Uncle Micklo Jarrett and Uncle Bud Marshall initiated legal action in the NSW Land and Environment Court last year to stop logging in the state forest.

The action was launched over concerns the logging threatened the safety of endangered animals and important Aboriginal cultural sites.

However, after a NSW court late last year ruled against a similar application in another case, the two elders recently discontinued the Newry case.

NSW Forestry had previously given an undertaking to temporarily halt logging in Newry, but this expired on 20 February 2024, and the traditional owners are concerned about the return of logging to the native forest.

Uncle Micklo and Uncle Bud were represented by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

Quotes attributable to Uncle Micklo:

“The forest is home to our sacred men’s place ‘Nunguu Miirlarl’, ceremonial initiations and stories, our dreaming trees, and our totem animals including koalas and possum gliders.

‘We never gave consent for NSW Forestry Corporation to destroy the cultural heritage and stories that live in this forest.

‘When we visited the forest after they started logging, it was heartbreaking to see such devastation on my homeland, where my ancestors have lived for thousands of years.

“It made me so angry to see that people think have the right to demolish that homeland, without consent from my people. Inside the anger is also a deep sadness.

“They never consulted with Gumbaynggirr elders and custodians about how to protect our land and our culture. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

“Although we’ve sadly had to end our legal case, the fight to end industrial logging of our land is not over.

“We call on the NSW Government to intervene and put a halt to native forest logging and ensure that industrial logging is not allowed to destroy our culture and our country.

“Now is the time for the Government to look at sustainable logging practices and make plans to protect our forests and native wildlife.

“We also urge the Government to step up planning for the end of native forest logging and bring forward the establishment of the Great Koala National Park to protect endangered species before it’s too late.”

Quotes attributable to Karl Shami, associate, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

“We are disappointed that in this case, the law has not been able to help us bring about justice for Uncle Micklo, Uncle Bud and the Gumbaynggirr people.

“However, we remain deeply concerned about the process used by NSW Forestry to approve logging operations in the Newry State Forest.

“NSW Forestry should be consulting with traditional owners and custodians when working on their land. Aboriginal voices should be heard and properly considered.

“We call on the Government to ensure that rigorous protocols are put in place so that the views of traditional elders and custodians cannot be ignored when considering logging operations in Newry and elsewhere.”

Background to the legal case

The case sought a judicial review of NSW Forestry Corporation’s approval of plans to log in the Newry State Forest.

Uncle Micklo and Uncle Bud argued the logging approvals were invalid as they did not address the fact that the plans should be carried out in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable forest management.

They also argued that Forestry should not be able to start logging without having consulted with the Environment Protection Authority about whether any site-specific conditions needed to be applied.

However, in November 2023, the Land and Environment Court handed down a decision dismissing a similar application involving the Braemar and Myrtle State Forests

That case sought almost the exact same grounds of review to the logging operations as the case about the Newry State Forest.

The Court decided that the principles of ecologically sustainable forest management could be reviewed and that the site-specific condition process did not apply to these types of plan approvals.

Given the court decision in the Braemar/Myrtle case, and with no appeals lodged, Uncle Micklo and Uncle Bud have recently discontinued their case.

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