• The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) has filed a charge against Parks Australia for allegedly constructing a walking track on a sacred site. (AAP)Source: AAP
Parks Australia will be prosecuted for allegedly building a walking track on a sacred site near Gunlom Falls in Kakadu National Park.
Shahni Wellington

16 Sep 2020 - 10:56 AM  UPDATED 17 Sep 2020 - 9:19 AM

The independent authority overseeing the protection of Aboriginal sacred sites in the Northern Territory has filed charges against Parks Australia.

The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) has alleged works were carried out illegally on a sacred site in the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

The sacred site sits near Gunlom Falls, a popular tourist spot more than 300 kilometres south-east from Darwin.

According to the AAPA, Parks Australia has allegedly built a walking track through the sacred site without following the proper process and acquiring permits from traditional owners.

The charges allege the works were carried out without a required Authority Certificate, under the Sacred Sites Act.

The walking track, usually open for public use, is also located close to a restricted feature used for Aboriginal traditional ceremonies.

On the Kakadu National Parks website, it lists the the 'Gunlom walking track' to the lookout and pools above the falls as "closed until further notice at the request of the Traditional Owners."

In a statement, chairman of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, Mr Bobby Nunggumarjbarr said there needs to be a thorough investigation.

"These things have happened in the past but we really need to work together to make sure things happen in the way that the traditional owners want them to," Mr Nunggumarjbarr said.

"In the future in Kakadu I want to see the Park and traditional owners and AAPA working closer together so that this kind of thing can’t happen again,"

"I want to make sure all the sacred sites are protected in the future for the benefits of the traditional owners and the custodians and all the visitors."

As the matter is now before the court, AAPA would not comment further.

The Northern Land Council also declined to comment. 

Parks Australia stoush with TO's

There have been on-going tensions between Kakadu traditional owners and the body overseeing Commonwealth national parks.

Last month, the director of Parks Australia, James Findlay, resigned, after calls from Kakadu Aboriginal traditional owners for him to be sacked.

The Kakadu traditional owners board pushed forward a unanimous no-confidence vote against the park's federal government managers, and described the relationship with park managers as "irretrievable".

If found guilty of carrying out the works on the sacred site without an Authority Certificate, Parks Australia could be fined more than $300,000.