Gumbaynggirr Custodians were forced off their land by Forestry Corporation NSW which closed public access to the Newry State Forest on July 31. On the same day, Fire and Rescue NSW officers extinguished a sacred fire, lit by Gumbaynggirr Senior Elders, and physically forced them off their ceremonial grounds.
Gumbaynggirr elders said no consent had been given to Forestry to log 2500 hectares in Newry State Forest, west of Valla between Urunga and Macksville.
The Gumbaynggirr have set up a protest camp and are standing strong: they view Newry as precious, priceless and irreplaceable.
Forestry is installing large metal gates and deploying private security. Giant harvesters, bulldozers and skidders have begun to destroy the forests.
Uncle Micklo Jarrett, Gumbaynggirr Elder, Custodian and spokesperson said: “Our land is being destroyed at this time by logging. The Newry State Forest holds our Nunguu Miirlarl, our sacred men’s place and home to many endangered animals, particularly our Koalas and possum gliders.
“We need to protect our totems. We need to protect Gumbaynggirr Culture. The NSW government promised a Great Koala National Park yet they (NSW Forestry Corporation) continue to log huge areas of Koala Habitat ... We need to take a strong stand and say no. This logging must stop.
“We never consented to NSW Forestry Corporation to destroy our cultural heritage, our dreaming trees and our koala habitats. There has never been any consultation. Gumbaynggirr Custodians have been completely disregarded in any decision-making about our land. We have internationally recognised sovereign rights to protect our lands.”
Alison Buchanan, one of the Gumbaynggirr elders, said she was taking a stand because “each time they take down a tree they take away our breath. This is our culture they are destroying. The very essence of who we are us Gumbaynggirr people”.
Sandy Greenwood, Gumbaynggirr Custodian said the logging of intact and mature forests must stop. “Newry is an unburnt refuge, escaping fires in Black Spring and Black Summer ... any logging of unburnt country must not happen because this destroys our wildlife.”
She called on the Chris Minns Labor government to immediately intervene to stop the destruction.
The forest supports nationally significant colonies of endangered koalas and greater gliders: both species are heading toward extinction because of industrial logging, land clearing and fire.
Newry State Forest is a critical part of the proposed NSW Great Koala National Park: it is essential to the survival of koalas across the coast and hinterland of the Bellinger and Nambucca Valleys.
[For more information and to show support visit Bellingen Activist Network.]