Kakadu case could set law for sacred sites

·1-min read

A Kakadu case about a contested walking track could have wider implications for sacred sites and the law.

The Northern Territory Sites Authority is taking Parks Australia to court for desecration of a sacred site near Gunlom Falls within the Kakadu National Park caused by allegedly illegal works.

The relationship between local traditional owners and the federal parks authority has been difficult for years.

Parks Australia has claimed Crown immunity and also says the Territories Act is invalid in relation to federal laws on the protection of the environment and biodiversity.

"So that's become a constitutional matter," Labor's Patrick Dodson told a Senate estimates hearing on Friday.

He said attorneys-general across Australia had received letters about becoming a party to the case.

Northern Land Council chief executive Marion Scrymgour said the council had sought a copy of that notification and was taking legal advice on whether it may intervene and try to resolve the issue.

"In line with cultural protocol I can't talk too much in relation to Gunlom because it's a significant men's site," she said.

"We've turned around, 360 degrees, our relationship with Parks Australia, and trying to work with Jody Swirepik as the new director."

Ms Swirepik, seeking to avoid prosecution, issued an open letter last month acknowledging the Gunlom works had caused significant distress.

"We'll watch this space," Senator Dodson said.