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Arakwal National Park: a space of harmony with nature and culture

Secluded and teeming with nature, Arakwal National Park is the beautiful symbol of an agreement between the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

A natural paradise in Byron Bay 

Only a stone’s throw from the Byron Bay Lighthouse, Arakwal National Park is an out-of-this-world, pristine beachside haven. 3km of sweeping sandy beach lines the park, and world-class waves crash at the shoreline. What with the Pacific on one side, and a space bursting with greenery and natural life on the other, this place is a s close to paradise as you can get. Arakwal National Park is home to a great deal of migratory birds and is positively teeming with animals. Walking through this coastal landscape, it’s not hard to imagine yourself as the first person setting foot here. However, you’d be very wrong in thinking so. 

Credit: John Spencer/DPIE

The story of Arakwal Country

Arakwal National Park is set upon the Country of the Arakwal Bumberlin people of Byron Bay. Living on the coastal landscape of this beautiful part of New South Wales for around 22,000 years, these people make up one – of the over 500 – Aboriginal tribes which co-habited Australia before European settlement. 

With non-Aboriginal people moving into the area, the Arakwal people were put under great pressure at this time of colonisation. Oral histories report a number of conflicts with Europeans within the very area, whilst massacres against Aboriginal people have also more recently been recorded, by a team of Australian researchers, both north and south of Arakwal National Park. 

Credit: John Yurasek/DPIE

Moving forward a number of years, 1995 brought about a defining moment for the Arakwal community, when native title was achieved for the land upon which Arakwal National Park sits. At this point, community groups as well as local businesses came together to set up a corporation known as the Bundjalung of Byron Bay, which works for the betterment of the people, land and waters in the area. Following this, a treaty which involved three Indigenous Land Use Agreements was signed in 2001, resulting in the establishment of Arakwal National Park. Australia’s very first national park formed with an ILUA.

Earning the “distinguished achievements in wildlife preservation” award, at the World Parks Congress in South Africa in 2003, and becoming a ‘best-practice model’ now applied across Australia shows the real success of the community arrangement here in Byron Bay. Today, native title holders in Arakwal National Park continue their traditions, involving fishing and hunting, conservation, gathering of materials and traditional ceremonies. 

Nature conservation 

On top of its role as a symbol of Aboriginal heritage and importance, the joint partnership between the Arakwal people and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) helps to conserve the stunning nature of Byron Bay. Meeting once per month, the committee formulates plans to protect cultural sites, monitor wildlife and carry put botanical studies within the park. The extensive knowledge of the Byron Bay Arakwal people, integrated with research from the NPWS ensures a thorough practice for the conservation of native plants and animals. One example of this kind of collaborative work involves identifying pests and weeds which pose a threat to the biodiversity and native flora and fauna of the flourishing park.

Credit: John Spencer/DPIE

During a trip to Byron Bay, don’t pass up the chance to visit Arakwal National Park, where you can swim, surf, hike and simply experience the natural beauty of the region. Birds flying overhead and whales drifting up the coast in the winter months make for wonderful spectacles. You’ll get more than fresh air here.

Where?

Website: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

Jessica Beaumont
Noticing the footprints left behind by travellers in the countries she has lived in and loved, Jessica found her calling in the sustainable travel niche. Aside from writing, Jessica is found exploring the Adelaide Hills for good views and delectable wines, dancing, taking leisurely walks on the beach and trying to make friends with dogs.