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Media Release

Date: 8 October 2021

Earlier today the Northern Territory Local Court held a directions hearing in relation to the prosecution of an alleged breach of section 34 of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 (NT) by Parks Australia in the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

The prosecution relates to the construction of a walkway to the top pools of Gunlom, a significant sacred site to Jawoyn people in the southern part of the World Heritage listed, and jointly managed, Kakadu National Park.

The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) alleges that the walkway impacts features of the sacred site against the wishes of custodians, and that its construction was in breach of section 34 the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 (NT). It is not disputed that the walkway was constructed on a sacred site of significance to the Jawoyn people.

Earlier this year the Director of National Parks raised a constitutional matter, asserting that the Director of National Parks has the benefit of Crown immunity and cannot be prosecuted for offences under section 34 of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 (NT).

Today, the Director of National Parks entered a plea of not guilty.

Local Court Judge Morris today indicated she will be referring the “Special Case” to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory for determination as part of a negotiated pathway to resolve the constitutional matter raised by the Director of National Parks.

While the Authority views the referral of the constitutional matters to the Supreme Court as a step forward, the occasion is marred by the recent passing of senior Gunlom custodian and Jawoyn traditional owner, Mr Markham, who was buried today at Pine Creek.

AAPA Chairman, Mr Bobby Nunggumarjbarr said Mr Markham has been a strong voice on the impact of the track realignment at the Gunlom sacred site, and he leaves a powerful legacy of protecting the Park and caring for country.

“While it’s good that the Supreme Court is going to consider this matter now, it’s very sad that Mr Markham is not going to see justice for his people’s sacred site,” said Mr Nunggumarjbarr.

It is anticipated that the Special Case will be heard in the Supreme Court early in the New Year.

Media Contact: Kate Sieper: 0466 745 615

Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority: (08) 8999 4365

THE ABORIGINAL AREAS PROTECTION AUTHORITY (AAPA) IS AN INDEPENDENT STATUTORY ORGANISATION ESTABLISHED UNDER THE NORTHERN TERRITORY ABORIGINAL SACRED SITES ACT, AND IS RESPONSIBLE FOR OVERSEEING THE PROTECTION OF ABORIGINAL SACRED SITES ON LAND AND SEA ACROSS THE WHOLE OF AUSTRALIA’S NORTHERN TERRITORY.