Kakadu says lawsuit over illegally disturbed Aboriginal holy site of Gunlom should be dropped

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Kakadu says lawsuit over illegally built hiking trails at Aboriginal sacred site seen in Crocodile Dundee should be dropped

  • Kakadu National Park management asked the NT government to end the lawsuit
  • Says it is immune from prosecution, would prefer to work with traditional owners
  • Parks Australia is accused of building a hiking trail in Kakadu near Gunlom
  • Track reportedly built without permission from native keepers

Kakadu National Park management has asked the Northern Territory government to withdraw the lawsuit over an allegedly illegally disturbed Aboriginal sacred site.

Parks Australia – which is part of the environmental division of the federal government – says it is immune from prosecution and would prefer to work with traditional owners and the NT government to protect the World Heritage Park.

It is accused of building a hiking trail in Kakadu near Gunlom – a waterfall that appeared in the movie Crocodile Dundee – without the consent of the native custodians.

Akadu National Park management has asked Northern Territory government to withdraw lawsuit over allegedly illegally disturbed Aboriginal sacred site

Akadu National Park management has asked Northern Territory government to withdraw lawsuit over allegedly illegally disturbed Aboriginal sacred site

The Northern Territory Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority filed suit against Parks Australia in September under the NT Sacred Sites Act 1998 for carrying out the uncertified work.

It says the course was built near a limited ceremonial function without an Authority Certificate, which will be issued after traditional owners have been consulted.

Parks Australia has since written an open letter to AAPA CEO Ben Scambary inviting him to consider whether persecution was the best way to protect sacred sites.

“ Rather than taking legal action on these issues, I strongly believe it is preferable to work with all stakeholders, ” said Acting Director of National Parks Jody Swirepik in the letter posted on the website of Parks Australia was published.

Lawyers for Parks Australia last month asked the NT Local Court to stay the case, saying that “there are constitutional problems with this prosecution and as such the defendant must make notifications to the Commonwealth, State and Territory Attorneys General.”

Ms Swirepik said that constitutional issues are likely to arise in any matter in which a state or territory brings criminal proceedings against the Commonwealth “because of the generally accepted principles of crown immunity.”

Parks Australia is accused of building a hiking trail in Kakadu near Gunlom - a waterfall that appeared in the movie Crocodile Dundee - without the permission of the native keepers

Parks Australia is accused of building a hiking trail in Kakadu near Gunlom - a waterfall that appeared in the movie Crocodile Dundee - without the permission of the native keepers

Parks Australia is accused of building a hiking trail in Kakadu near Gunlom – a waterfall that appeared in the movie Crocodile Dundee – without the permission of the native keepers

In the letter published Wednesday, Ms. Swirepik also acknowledged the great suffering the Gunlom works had caused to traditional owners and other members of the community.

“I’m really sorry,” she said.

She said Parks Australia was willing to repent and make a public apology or statement of regret over the importance of sacred sites and shortcomings in the process passed for the Gunlom works.

Parks Australia’s staff are directed to ensure that impact assessments are carried out before starting work at Kakadu, she said.

Any future work that may affect a sacred site will be referred to the Kakadu Cultural Engagement Manager and certificates of authority will be requested.

Ms Swirepik said the offending section of the Gunlom trail would be relocated and an Authority Certificate had been requested and obtained from the AAPA.

If the lawsuit continues, approximately 18 witnesses are expected to be called and the hearing is expected to last approximately eight days.

Before issuing a certificate of authority, AAPA consults traditional owners about the sites to understand how to protect the sacred site and what restrictions and conditions should be applied to the proposed works.

The maximum penalty under NT law for performing work in a sacred place without a certificate is $ 314,000.

The case will be returned to court on April 30 for directions.

AAPA has been contacted for comment.

Parks Australia - which is part of the federal government's environmental agency - says it is immune from prosecution and would rather work with traditional owners and the NT government to protect the World Heritage Park

Parks Australia - which is part of the federal government's environmental agency - says it is immune from prosecution and would rather work with traditional owners and the NT government to protect the World Heritage Park

Parks Australia – which is part of the environmental division of the federal government – says it is immune from prosecution and would prefer to work with traditional owners and the NT government to protect the World Heritage-listed park

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