On 27 July 2011, the Land and Environment Court of NSW ordered that the former Hamilton Police Station be transferred to the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council (‘Awabakal LALC’), upholding its claim for the land which was made over 10 years earlier.
From at least the mid 80’s the station had been a local station for Hamilton and surrounds. Over time, the staff and operating times at the station were significantly reduced. By the late 90s it had become a ‘shop front’ Police Station. Then in April 1999, the station was hit by a severe storm which caused major damage to the building and its contents. As a consequence, the station was closed and never reopened. The station was ultimately left in such a state of disrepair that squatters later took up residence and used it as a drug ‘shooting gallery.’ The property was one which the police regarded as surplus, and was eventually scheduled to be auctioned in 2005.
Awabakal LALC lodged its claim over the land on 1 January 2001 (‘date of claim’) pursuant to section 36(6) of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW). Its claim was refused by the Minister on 23 December 2009, on the basis that at the date of claim the land was lawfully used and occupied for policing purposes. Before the trial the Minister also added an assertion that at the date of claim the land had been needed or likely to be needed for the essential public purpose of policing, however this was ultimately abandoned before the hearing.
At the trial the representatives for the Minister indicated that he no longer relied upon the lawful use and occupation ground, and after a brief adjournment the matter was properly settled.
The case is the first occasion on which there has been a successful claim over a former police station.