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Aboriginal stewardship being restored to historic Sydney Harbour island

For the first time since the First Fleet, Me-Mel will be in Aboriginal hands. Photo: Sydney City Council
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A Sydney Harbour island is returning to Aboriginal hands, with the New South Wales government committing $43 million to its clean-up and repair.

The transfer of Me-Mel, or Goat Island, to its traditional owners is a “personal priority”, Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Sunday.

“A big part of my commitment is ensuring the island is remediated before it’s transferred to the Aboriginal community,” he said in a statement.

The funding will help repair seawalls and buildings, improve wharf access, upgrade services and remove contaminants like asbestos over the next four years.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is calling for expressions of interest to join a committee making recommendations about the transfer of Me-Mel to Aboriginal ownership.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Franklin said the Me-Mel Transfer Committee includes Aboriginal people and representatives of NSW government agencies.

“Me-Mel holds great significance to Aboriginal people, including in the creation story Boora Birra, where the Great Eel Spirit created the water courses known today as Sydney Harbour,” he said.

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council deputy chair Yvonne Weldon said the island is a place for people to be within their culture, pass stories to the next generation and share with others.

“Me-Mel is an opportunity for truth telling, and it’s about recognising the past and unlocking the future,’ she said.

The island is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register and has a range of important Aboriginal, historical and natural values, including more than 30 buildings and other structures from the 1830s to 1960s.

The NPWS will continue to manage Me-Mel until the transfer is finalised and maintain public access to the island.

-AAP