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Parks Australia commits to work with traditional owners following move to close Kakadu’s Gunlom Falls

Parks Australia commits to work with traditional owners following move to close Kakadu’s Gunlom Falls
May 6, 2021

Traditional owners ongoing dissatisfaction with the management of Kakadu National Park has seen members of an Aboriginal land trust resolve to close the popular Gunlom Falls until a court case involving Parks Australia is resolved.

Gunlom Land Trust Chairperson Mick Markham said custodians resolved to close Gunlom Falls at a meeting late last week, blaming Parks Australia's "breach of our lease agreement and lack of respect for our sacred sites".

Markham said authorities were advised of the decision on Monday morning and he expected the gate at the South Alligator River would be locked within the week.

Parks Australia is currently being prosecuted by sacred sites watchdog the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) over alleged sacred site offences related to the unauthorised construction of a walking track near the popular Gunlom Falls infinity pool.

Markham said he wanted Gunlom Falls to remain closed to the public until the legal action was resolved.

Some parts of Gunlom are already closed indefinitely at the request of traditional owners, but others had been due to re-open once crocodile trapping and surveys were finalised in early May.

Markham told the ABC “we have to protect the sites - it's our religion.

"That site has been there for over 10,000 years, when the saltwater was eroding the cliff face.

"The traditional owners apologise to the tourists but for us to get our point across, we feel this is the only way."

Marion Scrymgour from the Northern Land Council, a powerful representative body for traditional owners, said it supported the calls of Jawoyn traditional owners to protect the Gunlom region.

Scrymgour explained “we are continuing discussions with Jawoyn traditional owners on taking appropriate measures, including site closure and other legal options.”

"The NLC supports the call from Jawoyn traditional owners for Parks Australia to accept responsibility and make good the damage that has been caused."

Parks Australia told the ABC it had yet to receive a formal request from the NLC to close the Gunlom area.

In a statement, Parks Australia Director Jody Swirepik said Parks Australia was making significant progress to protect and preserve local cultural heritage.

The statement advised "the director of National Parks acknowledges the importance of sacred sites and the shortcomings in the process adopted for the Gunlom works and has provided an assurance to traditional owners that the shortcomings will not be repeated in future."

Swirepik last month apologised for the Gunlom works and said staff had been instructed to follow stricter regulations for works that may impact sacred sites.

Image: Gunlom Falls in Kakadu National Park.

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15th September 2020 - Parks Australia charged with damage to sacred site in Kakadu national park

28th August 2020 - Parks Australia Director James Findlay resigns after Kakadu traditional owners call for sacking

6th July 2020 - Traditional owners in Kakadu National Park call for resignation of Parks Australia executives

18th June 2020 - Uluru and Kakadu National Park set to reopen

5th April 2020 - Uluru resort stands down hundreds of workers due to Coronavirus restrictions and downturn

4th April 2020 - Kakadu Tourism closes facilities in response to COVID-19

13th February 2020 - Attraction upgrades set to deliver a new era for Kakadu tourism

5th November 2019 - Parks Australia proposes rise in entry fees to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

26th October 2019 - Uluru climb closes as hundreds scale sacred site on final day

14th August 2019 - Federal and Northern Territory Governments agree Kakadu National Park and Jabiru initiatives

21st June 2019 - Parks Australia’s management of Federal protected areas slammed in National Audit Office report

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13th January 2019 - Major parties make funding commitments to revive Kakadu’s tourism industry

25th February 2018 - Kakadu to build on Australian Tourism Awards’ success with upgraded infrastructure and major events


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