• Six protestors were arrested after police interrupted a ceremony by Kabi Kabi Traditional Owners at Djaki Kundu. (Terry Royan)Source: Terry Royan
Kabi Kabi Traditional Owners have lodged two fresh applications under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act after police removed them from Djaki Kundu last week.
Mikele Syron, Jodan Perry

20 Oct 2021 - 9:59 AM  UPDATED 20 Oct 2021 - 9:59 AM

Kabi Kabi Traditional Owners in Queensland have continued to fight to protect their sacred site that is slated for a $1 billion highway upgrade in Gympie.

The Sovereign Native Tribes of the Kabi First Nation State have lodged new section 9 and 10 applications under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, prompting a reassessment of Djaki Kundu (Gympie Pyramid/Rocky Ridge).

The move follows clashes with police and Queensland Department of Main Roads officials at their camp at Djaki Kundu last week which saw six people arrested and charged.

The group has been camping since January in protest against the Gympie bypass upgrade. They are demanding the highway be built around Djaki Kundu, not through it.

Earlier this year federal environment minister rejected section 9 and 10 applications by the group, saying she was not satisfied the area was significant.

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But the Kabi Kabi group said they've undertaken independent studies which showed evidence the site was sacred.

"We've asked for another section 9 and 10 determination," said spokesperson Diane Djaki Widjung.

"They intend to start work in a space where we have found a lot of artifacts and yet it is illegal to destroy sacred Aboriginal property.

"They diverted the roadmap around an old Christian church but they won't divert it around the Kabi site which is an act of racism."

The Queensland government has received the applications. If approved, they would halt the highway development for some time.

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In a statement, the Department of Main Roads told NITV News that claims the interchange project will destroy the Rocky Ridge site are false, and that they will honour a commitment to the Kabi Kabi First Nation Traditional Owner group to preserve any cultural heritage that is identified on the site.

"There has been no evidence found by our investigations and by the Federal Environment Minister's independent First Nations specialist that the site is a significant Aboriginal area," they said.

"We considered the community interest and the majority of Rocky Ridge will be preserved during works, including the rock terracing that is known as the Gympie Pyramid."

Ceremony interrupted

The group was undertaking a ceremony on Friday morning when they were disrupted by police and main road officials who ordered them to move on, labelling them an "ongoing unauthorised camp".

The clash resulted in the arrest of six people, including four for trespass. The area was placed under police guard shortly after the group was broken up and moved on.

"How can someone who is entitled to use their own sacred site be accused of trespass?" said Ms Djaki Widjung. 

"The site was surrounded by 50 or 60 police officers... and they just marched up and carted us to Gympie watch house and told us if we return within 200 meters of the Kabi sacred site... we will be rearrested and incarcerated."

Protestor Marcus Fahey live-streamed the dispute on Facebook, showing several officers closing in around him as he stood near a 'sacred fire'.

A Queensland Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said they helped remove the camp as they deemed it was 'unlawful' and needed to commence clearing work in preparation for the interchange.

A Queensland Police spokesperson told NITV News they had undertaken negotiations with all involved at the site prior to the arrests and that the investigations remain ongoing.

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