Australia Sacred sites watchdog AAPA rejects Parks Australia's bid to drop Gunlom Falls court case
Kakadu managers call for Commonwealth help
The Kakadu National Park will ask the federal government to intervene in a court case after it allegedly disturbed an Aboriginal sacred site.Parks Australia - which is part of the federal government's environment department - is accused of building a walking track in the World Heritage-listed park at Gunlom, a cascading waterfall that appeared in the movie Crocodile Dundee.
Indigenous custodians of Kakadu National Park have accused Parks Australia of using "dirty tactics" in asking for court action relating to alleged sacred site offences to be dropped.
Parks Australia, which jointly manages the park with traditional owners,related to the allegedly unauthorised construction of a walking track near the popular Gunlom Falls infinity pool.
The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) is bringing the prosecution, and will claim the track was constructed close to a key feature of a restricted sacred site.
Push to close Kakadu's Gunlom Falls site as Parks Australia court action is delayed
A powerful land council is urged to call a special meeting to discuss the closure of one of Kakadu's most well-known tourist sites amid a court battle over a sacred site. Parks Australia is facing charges for carrying out work on a sacred site near the Gunlom Falls infinity pool, but court proceedings were on Monday delayed again in court.Mick Markham, a Bolmo elder who chairs the Gunlom Land Trust, has now written to the Northern Land Council asking them to call a meeting to propose the closure of the entire Gunlom region.
In a letter dated April 1, Parks Australia's acting director Jody Swirepik wrote to AAPA's Benedict Scambary inviting him to reconsider the prosecution, citing "certain constitutional issues" due to the "generally understood principles of Crown immunity."
Ms Swirepik said "rather than engage in court proceedings around these issues, I strongly believe it would be preferable to work together with all stakeholders to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of Kakadu National Park into the future."
"I therefore invite you to consider whether pursuing this prosecution is the best way to meet our mutual objectives of working together to protect sacred sites."
In the letter, Ms Swirepik also wrote that she is "strongly resolved" to improving matters in the park.
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Mr Scambary welcomed Parks Australia's commitment to restoring relationships with traditional custodians but confirmed AAPA would continue its prosecution.
"The NT has the strongest protection for sacred sites in the country," he wrote in a statement.
"While the DNP [Director of National Parks] is yet to advise the Authority on the exact nature of the constitutional issue they intend to use as a defence to this prosecution, the Authority welcomes them being aired in court."
Mick Markham, the chairman of the Gunlom Aboriginal Land Trust, said the letter was "dirty tactics" and accused Parks Australia of making the sort of promises that have been broken in the past.
"If they want to prove that [they have legal immunity], go ahead," Mr Markham said.
"That's why we've got courts to determine who's right and who's wrong. We'll accept the court's decision on this prosecution.
Kakadu wants sacred site case dropped
The Northern Territory government has been asked to drop court action over an allegedly illegally disturbed Aboriginal sacred site in Kakadu National Park.Parks Australia - which is part of the federal government's environment department - says it's immune from prosecution and wants to restore ties with traditional owners so it can work with them to protect the World Heritage-listed park.
"So put the gloves on – we're ready."
Parks Australia has been contacted for comment.
The relationship between Parks Australia and traditional custodians has continued to deteriorate in recent months,.
In the letter, Ms Swirepik also vowed to improve the relationship by making a public apology for "shortcomings in the process adopted for the Gunlom works" and providing an assurance they will not be repeated.
"I acknowledge that there were concerns surrounding the process that was followed in relation to the Gunlom site and I am sorry for any distress caused," she wrote.
She said Parks Australia staff had also been instructed to tighten regulations around works potentially impacting sacred sites in the park.
Parts of Gunlom — one of Kakadu's biggest tourism drawcards —.
Parks Australia has since been authorised by AAPA to carry out remediation work.
The ABC understands traditional custodians will meet in coming weeks to discuss.
The matter next returns to court on 30 April.
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