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Sydney Harbour’s historical Me-Mel Island will be returned to the Aboriginal community for future management and conservation of the land.

The official transfer process of the Island to the Cadigal people began today after the NSW government announced $43 million to regenerate and restore Me-Mel.

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Deputy Chair Yvonne Weldon said the move will help healing and progress inside Sydney’s Aboriginal community.

NSW state government will be handing back Me-Mel Island to local First Nations people.
NSW state government will be handing back Me-Mel Island to local First Nations people. (9News)

“Me-Mel is a place where we can go to be within our culture, pass culture on to our younger generations and share with other people,” Weldon said.

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

Also known as Goat Island, it’s the largest island in Sydney Harbour and marks the start of an Eora songline – Boora Birra – where the eel spirit created the water courses known today as Sydney Harbour.

The island is located near Darling Harbour, about 600 metres north-west of Balmain East public wharf.

It is about 300 metres wide and 180 metres long in size.

Local Aboriginal children place thier hand prints next to Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Deputy Chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Council Yvonne Weldon and NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley.
Local Aboriginal children place their hand prints next to Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Deputy Chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Council Yvonne Weldon and NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley. (Fairfax Media)

Me-Mel was once inhabited by Wangal man Bennelong and his wife Barangaroo.

Bennelong’s father born on the island.

The heritage listed island has a rich array of Aboriginal, historical and natural heritage values, including more than 30 buildings and other structures dating from the 1830s to the 1960s.

In 2015, Labor leaders announced a plan to return Me-Mel to the Aboriginal community if they were to elected into government.

The island however remained NSW government property.

A historical cottage sits on Me-Mel Island.
A historical cottage sits on Me-Mel Island. (9News)
A proposed plan to return Me-Mel Island to the aboriginal people bean in 2015 as a Labor initiative.
A proposed plan to return Me-Mel Island to the aboriginal people bean in 2015 as a Labor initiative. (Fairfax Media)

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Franklin said a committee will make recommendations to help determine how the island is used.

“The Me-Mel Transfer Committee includes Aboriginal people and NSW Government agency representatives, and importantly, its establishment is supported by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council,” said Frankiln.

The $42.9 million funding boost over a four year period will contribute to upgrade works such as repairing seawalls and buildings and improving wharf access.

Me-Mel is currently managed by the National Parks Wildlife Service, who are calling on people to join the Me-Mel Transfer Committee through an Expression of Interest (EOI) process.

EOI nominations are open until June 27.

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