Press Release - July 14, 2023

Traditional Custodians win temporary reprieve on land clearing at Lee Point

14 JULY 2023

In a significant victory, Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Custodians have won an extended temporary halt to land clearing at Lee Point – Binybara from Defence Housing Australia.

The commitment by Defence Housing Australia to not conduct land clearing on site until 11 August 2023 is a crucial milestone in the ongoing battle to protect and preserve the cultural and environmental heritage at Lee Point – Binybara.

Lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), acting on behalf of Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Custodian Tibby Quall, had written to the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek stating there was a ‘compelling’ case to extend the pause on land-clearing works by Defence Housing Australia past Monday 17 July 2023.

Mr Quall won the original reprieve on land clearing by making an emergency application on Thursday 6 July under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.

The application has temporarily stopped bulldozers from clearing approximately 110 hectares of savannah woodlands home to Aboriginal cultural heritage sites and endangered gouldian finches.

The submission to the Australian Government on behalf of 74-year-old Mr Quall states that the administration or use of Northern Territory laws to assess or protect Aboriginal cultural heritage at the site was “in essence, deeply flawed, deficient and largely tokenistic.”

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

Lawyers have submitted that Minister Plibersek should be satisfied that the development will injure and desecrate a significant Aboriginal area containing both tangible and intangible Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Custodian Tibby Quall said:

“We’ve been here for thousands of years. Without our land, we can’t survive. It makes us who we are.
The bulldozers will destroy our connection to the land.

They will destroy the Kenbi Dreaming track, which holds our Lores and Customs.

Dariba Nunggalinya – Old Man Rock, is like a creator. It’s from the beginning of the world. That’s how long Aboriginal people have been here.

You can never remove a sacred site. It’s not to be touched or damaged or things will happen. They live in another world. In our culture, we maintain things in life. We don’t destroy it because it’s part of our soul and spirit.”

Lorraine Williams, Larrakia Traditional Custodian, said:

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

I haven’t been given an opportunity – along with other Larrakia people – to be involved in a cultural heritage assessment. I requested the cultural heritage assessment report for the land that has been bulldozed but I have not yet seen it.

Please Minister Plibersek, come and speak to Larrakia people on the ground before any further works take place. We would like to talk to you about the importance of the area, the plants and the animals here, not just for Aboriginal people, but for all Territorians. No one wants to see this place destroyed.

Help us protect a site that was named after a Larrakia woman, an ancestor, that will have positive outcomes for future generations of Larrakia people.”

Specialist Senior Lawyer Bruce Lindsay said:

“There are significant problems with the 2017 Environmental Impact Assessment and underlying reports from 2010 and 2015.

Instead of sitting down with Traditional Owners these reports were based on quick desktop analysis and field surveys done in less than two days.

It’s deeply concerning that these surveys were done without involvement of Larrakia people and without properly visiting the site.

Recent planning documents suggest that Traditional Custodians can identify and retrieve archaeological items before the land clearing starts. That’s tokenistic and frankly, offensive.

Traditional Custodians should be respected and consulted through every step of the process.”

If you have a media enquiry, please call or email Jem Wilson on (03) 8341 3110 or [email protected]