THE entrance to Newcastle Harbour will fall under the control of the local Aboriginal community if a land claim for the area succeeds.
Aboriginal communities would also share in millions of dollars in royalties from coal sourced from traditional lands and exported through the port.
‘‘So much of our land is covered in coalmining titles and is exported through the port, yet none of that money comes back to Aboriginal communities,’’ Awabakal Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Steven Slee said.
‘‘It’s about time some of that wealth came back to the Aboriginal communities to create educational, employment and social welfare opportunities.’’
The Islington-based land council does not receive government funding.
Its claim, which has been formally registered under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, is among the most ambitious bids by any indigenous community for control of an area of natural or built environment anywhere in Australia.
One hundred and fifty four million tonnes of coal worth $13.6billion was exported through the port last financial year.
Should the land claim succeed, it would have major implications for the operation of the port, which the government recently leased for 98 years.
‘‘This is not a land grab; we are simply using the Land Rights legislation to claim back land and water that was taken from us when white settlement occurred,’’ Mr Slee said.
‘‘Our goal is not to stop progress or growth, but we deserve to be consulted about what happens there.’’
The bid to control the harbour entrance was one of 10 claims lodged last week across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. They include the Newcastle-to-Wickham rail corridor, the former Newcastle Bowling Club site at King Edward Park and James Fletcher Park.
Claims have also been lodged on land adjoining Braye Park at Waratah, bushland adjoining Charlestown Golf Course, vacant land on The Esplanade at Warners Bay and Lambton scout hall. The Land Rights Act registrar has registered each of the claims on behalf of the council in recent days.
The land council successfully claimed the former Newcastle Post Office last year partly on the basis that it was not being used or occupied for a public purpose.
Its claim for the rail line is based on a similar argument.
While the argument does not apply to the harbour entrance, Mr Slee said the Awabakal application was based on the waterway’s cultural significance to the area’s Aboriginal people.
‘‘There are many sacred sites around and even in the harbour,’’ he said.
Mr Slee said the land council had discussed its claims with Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp.