First Nations communities benefit from return of Country in 2023

21 Dec 2023

Country represents life, culture, and a way of working.

The return of Country supports First Nations peoples in their journeys towards self-determination, where they can realise the social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits that owning Country brings.

This is the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation’s (ILSC) vision and mission.

Throughout 2023, the ILSC has worked closely in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, to facilitate the return of Country to its rightful owners.

This calendar year alone, 14 properties were granted to First Nations corporations by the ILSC, with 13 new acquisition projects receiving the tick of approval.

Funding for these projects ranged from $15,000 to over $3 million, helping set up new headquarters for Indigenous businesses and services, supporting community programs, and building heritage bases.

ILSC Group Chief Executive Officer, Joe Morrison, reflected on 2023 as significant year for the organisation.

“Everything the ILSC does is about Country and the continent’s first peoples. We honour the long and deep connection First Nations peoples have with Country – this is the reason for the ILSC’s existence,” said Mr Morrison.

“I am particularly proud of our Indigenous partners’ accomplishments over this past year. It is their determination and resilience which has allowed them to prosper and continue to realise their vision for self-determination.

“In 2023, the ILSC also released its National Indigenous Land and Sea Strategy. This strategy will guide the ILSC over the course of the coming 5 years with a focus on the returning and managing Country.

“The ILSC looks forward to seeing what is possible for Indigenous communities in 2024, and importantly, how we can continue to support their aspirations and goals.”

As one of many highlights, a divestment we celebrated in 2023, was the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance (SWFW), on Gumbaynggirr land in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.

After a major funding boost of over $2 million from the ILSC, SWFW moved into their permanent base, where they continued their work as a leading contemporary Aboriginal art and cultural organisation.

SWFW Arts Alliance General Manager, Rick Gonsalves, said the divestment allowed SWFW to create the next chapter in the organisation’s journey and sustain their future into the years ahead.

“With spacious light-filled and comfortable office space to nurture the creativity of our growing team and the most amazing gallery, workshop, and retail space, this acquisition is truly a game changer, benefitting artists from the Worimi, Biripi, Dunghutti and Gumbaynggirr nations in our region,” said Mr Gonsalves.

“We have recently appointed our Gallery Manager, and have our first art exhibition slated for January 2024, and are beginning to plan a full slate of activities for 2024.”

The ILSC will continue to work closely with First Nations communities in the new year – with a strengthened focus on the return of Country.

Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance General Manager Rick Gonsalves with ILSC Chairperson Ian Hamm

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