Lee Point

Traditional Owner seeks Discovery of documents

A Traditional Owner has applied to the Federal Court for the discovery of documents related to the recent decision to refuse his application seeking cultural heritage protection for Lee Point in Darwin.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek sparked dismay and outrage when she refused an
application by Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Owner Tibby Quall to protect cultural heritage
at Lee Point from the controversial development by Defence Housing Australia.

Mr Quall maintains that the development by Defence Housing Australia will desecrate a
significant Aboriginal area, containing tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Mr Quall is now seeking a court order for the discovery of all documents that were
considered by the Minister when making the decision to refuse his application, which have
been withheld from him despite repeat requests.

“We're the underdogs. We've got to fight back through their systems by going to court, but we don't make the laws, they do.”

Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Owner Tibby Quall

His lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia say they need to see the documents to
properly assess whether the Ministers decision was lawful.

Minister Plibersek promised she would reform Australia's weak cultural heritage laws after
the Albanese Government tabled its response to destruction of Juukan Gorge in November
2022 in a report titled 'Never Again’.

The Federal Government has since refused to be pressed on a reform timeline and has
greenlit the destruction of Lee Point.

The news comes as a United Nations committee accused Australia of breaching
international racial discrimination conventions over failed changes to Western Australia's
Aboriginal heritage laws.

Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Owners say the government should respect traditional governance systems.

“Aboriginal people are not even in the constitution, but we have to live with it.

We are the First People. We own the land and everything that is on it. But white people came along, said we are uncivilised, and made their own laws.

Now they say we're equal, but the law doesn't to treat us that way. We were here first, and we will always have our own laws and customs. They can never take that away from us.

We've still got hope because this land is our Culture and Lore. It's how we survived for thousands of years.”

Larrakia Danggalaba Traditional Owner Tibby Quall

At a glance

July 2023

Traditional Owners win long term pause on works risking Aboriginal cultural heritage at Binybara/Lee Point.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is asked to complete a due diligence assessment, and determine whether Aboriginal cultural heritage is present.

August 2023

DHA decides to voluntarily stop work at Lee Point until 31 March 2024.

March 2024

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek refuses to declare that Binybara/Lee Point is a significant Aboriginal area, allowing DHA’s development to proceed.

“The refusal of the cultural heritage application raises serious questions that need to be answered.

Our client wants to know why Minister Plibersek seems to have ignored the voices of our client and other Larrakia people about the significance of Lee Point.

This is a place that has been cared for by Aboriginal people for thousands of years, so our client is devastated that Defence Housing Australia could destroy it all within days.

Our pursuit of document discovery is about understanding how the government concluded that Traditional Owners are wrong about the significance of their Country.

Mr Quall is hopeful the court will recognize the importance of transparency and accountability in this matter.”

EJA Special Counsel Danya Jacobs