• Lismore Council says it will consult with Elders over the handback of Banyam Baigham (Sleeping Lizard) (Darren Coyne)Source: Darren Coyne
Banyam Baigham, or Sleeping Lizard Hill in Northern New South Wales is set to return to Traditional Owners after a unanimous vote by Lismore City Council.
Douglas Smith

14 Jul 2021 - 11:08 PM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2021 - 8:12 AM

A Northern New South Wales Local Council has passed a motion to hand back 37 hectares of sacred Country to Traditional owners.

Lismore City council voted to return Banyam Baigham 'Sleeping Lizard Hill' on the North Lismore Plateau to the Widjabul Wiabal people.

Bundjalung elder, Uncle Mickey Ryan has been fighting to stop housing development at Sleeping Lizard Hill for years and said the land has a deep connection to his people.

“There is no question the land to be handed back has been identified as containing some of the most significant and sacred sites within the Bundjalung nation," he said.

“This is a very big step by our community for justice and reconciliation. For all of us, Aboriginal and non-Indigenous alike."

Speaking after Tuesday's vote, Lismore Mayor Vanessa Ekins emphasised the importance of the result.

“We now know how important Sleeping Lizard Hill is to the Widjabul Wia-bal people and handing the land back is a small but significant act delivering just outcomes to Traditional Custodians by returning country to their care and control,” she said.

"This is a pretty important decision that we’re making to heal Country.

"We’ve been talking about the North Lismore Plateau and development on it for 20 years. We’ve spent many years in consultation with the Aboriginal community about the significance of that land and we know that the site is really significant to the Aboriginal community. It’s Sleeping Lizard Hill, it’s well documented and known to us."

As part of the motion, council staff prepared a briefing for councillors to examine how the land would be returned, including which organisation it will be returned to, possible timeframes and the impact on the council’s budget.

The land is adjacent to the two proposed housing developments at the lower reaches of the North Lismore Plateau and includes an area of Environmental Conservation and the old quarry site.

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