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Elders say teepee man can stay


Stephanie Anderson

An Aboriginal elder says it is okay for Canberra's teepee man, William Woodbridge to stay wherever he likes "in Ngambri Country".

ACT government officials have given Woodbridge, 21, his eviction orders after the University of Canberra student spent six weeks camping in his makeshift home.

His teepee is perched on a homemade raft which has been a local talking point during its stay on Lake Ginninderra.

UC Student William Woodbridge has built a teepee and is living on Lake Ginninderra

UC Student William Woodbridge has built a teepee and is living on Lake Ginninderra Photo: Elesa Lee

Government media officers are yet to confirm whether the uni student will be fined for his stay on the lake - initially to protest high rental prices after receiving a fine at his on-campus accommodation.

Officials have, however, confirmed he is in violation of the ACT Lake Act 1976. He has been given until the end of the month to leave.

But the plot thickened this morning. It now seems Woodbridge has support from traditional owners of the lake, in the form of an "Authorisation Certificate" from Ngambri elder Shane Mortimer.

"Mr William Woodbridge is hereby authorised to occupy Lake Ginninderra or any other lake estuary or wetland he may so choose upon to reside as suits his needs in Ngambri Country," it reads.


The certificate was issued by Mortimer on behalf of his “Ngambri Ancestors Elders past and present”.

The law prohibits the use of a boat as a houseboat or place of living in a lake area.

The Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate has been contacted for comment regarding fines listed under the Act.

A directorate spokeswoman previously stated that the ACT Government was helping Woodridge find alternative accommodation.

twitter This reporter is on Twitter: @stephanieando

12 comments so far

  • Can there really be 'traditional owners' of a lake constructed in 1974 to collect stormwater?

    I understand the concept of kinship with the land and agree with the legality of traditional ownership but I don't think it applies to structures in the built environment. Surely the Ngunnawal people aren't the traditional owners of the Manuka Serviced Apartments or the Cadigal people the traditional owners of Marrickville Railway Station.

    Saying that, I also support the young bloke living in a teepee on the lake.

    Stir the pot
    Date and time
    March 21, 2012, 1:13PM
    • I want to set up a tent on City Hill Park, I might even get some chooks and let them roam there to. Or perhaps we can let every caravan owner set up in car parks around the city and the Back Packers can camp next to the War Memorial. If this kid drowns or get hurt who is he going sue, The Gubba Man, we will pay up because we let him stay there.

      Date and time
      March 21, 2012, 1:35PM
      • Totally agree with this and the first point above... I won't enter the debate about ownership rights, but whether such ownership exists or not - they fortunately do not represent the law... He's got his point across, enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame - time to rejoin the rest of responsible society now. I am a (high) rent-payer too by the way.

        Date and time
        March 21, 2012, 2:04PM
    • He can't just stay there! This is Canberra, there has to be a rule, and a fine. It's what makes Canberra Canberra, and Australia Australia for that matter. If it's not compulsory, it's banned. The lucky country.

      Date and time
      March 21, 2012, 1:35PM
      • Doesnt really matter what the Ngambri Country thinks, the lake is man made and belongs to the ACT Government.

        Date and time
        March 21, 2012, 2:11PM
        • What a joke.
          I hope he stays past the end of the month and gets a massive fine.
          Otherwise we'll see more of this.

          Shane Mortimer,
          Can i have an Authorisation Certificate to occupy an area of Mt Ainslie with a view of the lake?
          Thanks champ. You're the best.

          Date and time
          March 21, 2012, 2:19PM
          • Given that mainland Aboriginal culture generally did not have a concept of land ownership, the term "traditional owners" is a self contained contradiction anyway.

            Date and time
            March 21, 2012, 3:01PM
            • Actually, whats wrong with some houseboats on the lakes in canberra?It would help to alleviate the high rental costs. Italy, France, England etc all have people living on the waterways, in fact there are houseboats on the murray, clyde, nepean, hawksbury and sydnety harbour..

              Date and time
              March 21, 2012, 4:11PM
              • "ngwalker" I believe that camping is not illegal in open space areas or parks withinin ACT (it is in NSW) - there is an elderly gentleman who camps in Telopea park and has done for years. A lake area is a different item though.

                Date and time
                March 21, 2012, 4:25PM
                • That is brilliant news!

                  Thank you to the Aboriginal Elders who brought some common sense into the situation.

                  This is what happens when there is a lack of housing created by this Labor fiasco government. Why isn't there affordable housing in the ACT?

                  Date and time
                  March 21, 2012, 4:55PM

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