Press Release - July 6, 2023

Traditional Owners take emergency action to protect Lee Point

Traditional Owners have made an emergency application to Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, to immediately halt to the desecration of Aboriginal cultural heritage at Lee Point in Darwin.

Lee Point – also known as Binybara – is a significant site for the Danggalaba clan. It is imminently at risk of being levelled by bulldozers to make way for a project by Defence Housing Australia.

Binybara contains trees dating back to 1759 and 1770 – that’s older than Australia itself – and all the history and culture attached to this place could be lost in just a few days.

The application for an emergency halt to the land clearing, under Section 9 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, was lodged today by Environmental Justice Australia on behalf of Traditional Owners from the Batcho family.

The emergency provisions of the Act can be applied when the Environment Minister is satisfied a significant Aboriginal area is under threat of injury or desecration.

Last month, Minister Plibersek acknowledged the development will have a ‘significant’ impact on endangered gouldian finch habitat at Lee Point, but said she is satisfied the development can proceed with variations to its approval conditions.

Papers lodged today ask the Minister 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.

Larrakia Danggalaba elder Tibby Quall said:

“Our people have been living off this land since time immemorial.

We are the First People – Aboriginal People. It’s our home. It’s our library. It’s our science. It’s our food source. It’s part of us and we’re part of the land.

I’m 74 and I’ve been living here and taking family to Binburra my whole life. It’s a sacred place.

It’s all part of the Dreaming and our culture and heritage connects us to the land.

But they don’t understand or respect Aboriginal culture.

Why are they building in a place where thousands of people enjoy fishing, hunting and exercising every day of the week?“

Environmental Lawyer, Semisi Tapueluelu said:

“Our client believes the destruction of ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge should be at the forefront of the Minister’s mind when she considers this development at Lee Point.

There’s still time for the Minister to pause, consider the cultural significance of this place, and listen to the Traditional Owners.“

Kirsty Howey, Executive Director, Environment Centre Northern Territory said:

“Australian people, and the international community, would be outraged know the government is destroying sacred Aboriginal sites. The fact that this destruction is happening during NAIDOC week just adds insult to injury.

It’s been heartbreaking to see the bulldozers roll into Lee Point, but this legal action gives us hope that the Minister will do the right thing and begin genuine consultation with Traditional Owners.“