Lee Point

A legal intervention to stop Defence Housing Australia from bulldozing Aboriginal cultural heritage

On behalf of Traditional Custodians from the Batcho family, Environmental Justice Australia lawyers lodged an application to stop the landclearing at Lee Point in Darwin, under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.

Protecting Lee Point

Larrakia Danggalaba leaders won a long-term pause on works that risk destroying Aboriginal cultural heritage at Lee Point – Binybara in Darwin.

The Minister has been asked to complete a due diligence assessment to determine whether Aboriginal cultural heritage is present in the 132-hectare site and the risk of it being damaged by the development.

Correspondence accompanying the application calls on Defence Housing Australia to cease and desist with land clearing and works while the Minister assesses the application.

Defence Housing Australia has announced it has made the decision to voluntarily stop work at Lee Point until 31 March 2024.

Aboriginal cultural heritage

Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Custodians Tibby Quall believes the development will desecrate a significant Aboriginal area containing both tangible and intangible Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Mr Quall argues the relevant Northern Territory laws do not provide effective protection of the Aboriginal cultural heritage at Lee Point.

Risks to cultural heritage

Traditional Custodians are concerned the development will disturb and desecrate the Kenbi Dreaming track, which holds Lores and Customs, as well as Dariba Nunggalinya – Old Man Rock.

Lee Point – Binbyara also contains trees older than the nation of Australia itself and it’s a popular walking and fishing spot for locals and visitors.

“Larrakia People haven’t been consulted with. We are the custodians of the Country, and our voices need to be heard.”

Larrakia woman and Traditional Owner Lorraine Williams

The campaign

The long-running campaign from the Environment Centre Northern Territory and Traditional Custodians escalated recently when Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek approved a project proposed by Defence Housing Australia, despite acknowledging the project would impact the endangered Gouldian finch.

A blockade quickly formed at the site, with concerned locals locking on to equipment to stop the destruction of some of the last old-growth trees left in Darwin

Whether online or in person, the community rallied to stop the bulldozers destroying a place that has been cared for by Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Custodians for thousands of years.

"The lesson here? Meaningful consultation needs to be a priority, not an afterthought. The government needs to sit down with Traditional Owners and make it a priority to respect and protect sites of cultural significance."

Ellen Maybery, EJA Senior Lawyer

Let's use the law to create a radically better world.