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The NSW Government has taken a "significant new step" in handing over the ownership of Me-Mel (Goat Island) in Sydney Harbour to the local Indigenous Community.

On Friday, 30 June, NSW Premier Chris Minns signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Me-Mel Transfer Committee to continue a process that started in 2015.

The State Government has committed to spending $43 million to restore the island in the next four years and pave the way for the transfer.

“I am proud to be taking another step towards transferring this island to the Aboriginal community”, Minns said.

“We are listening to the Aboriginal community through this process; this is what the signing of this agreement is all about”.

Minns also thanked the previous government for their commitment to the project over many years.

For the next step, the Me-Mel Transfer Committee will present recommendations for the site’s cultural, tourism and public uses.

The Committee will also develop and propose a business strategy for the site to the NSW Government.

The Committee’s 14 members include key Aboriginal representatives and representatives from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, NSW Aboriginal Land Council, and the NSW Government.

Located in the Sydney Harbour, Me-Mel is a heritage-listed island. The birthplace of Bennelong, the Eora elder who served as an intermediary between English settlers and the Indigenous population, the island would later become a quarry, gunpowder storage site, and an arsenal during its post-colonial history. In reports from the late 1700s, the importance of the island to Bennelong, who used to visit it often with his wife, Barangaroo, was noted.

NSWALC Sydney/Newcastle Councillor, and member of the Me-Mel Transfer Committee, Abie Wright said the MOU was a great outcome for the Indigenous community in NSW, especially for Metropolitan LALC members who have campaigned for many years for the transfer.

“It is particularly relevant this year as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA) in NSW. This handover recognises the central role of the ALRA in returning culturally significant and economically viable land to Aboriginal people,’” Wright said.

Abie Wright Abie Wright

“This handover recognises the central role of the ALRA in returning culturally significant and economically viable land to Aboriginal people”

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty David Harris said during the signing, “this diverse committee plays a crucial role in advising the government on how the transfer of Me-Mel to the Aboriginal community could work.”

“We will look to the results of this important research project and to the Aboriginal people for what happens next.”

Aboriginal communities and the broader public will be consulted on the plans for future ownership and management of the land.

The Committee also supports a research project to identify the Aboriginal owners of Me-Mel.

National Parks and Wildlife Service, the current managers of the island, will preserve some of the structures on the land, some dating back to the 1830s.