Kakadu’s Gunlom Falls to close as dispute escalates

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Kakadu's Gunlom Falls to close
The Gunlom Falls site is a popular swimming spot in the dry season. PIC: ABC Open Contributor Heath Whiley

One of Kakadu’s most well-known tourist sites is to be closed to the public this Dry Season as the dispute between a powerful land council and Parks Australia escalates dramatically.

The Gunlom Falls area in the iconic NT national park is the location affected, with traditional owners claiming Parks Australia has shown ‘a lack of respect’ for their sacred sites.

Gunlom Land Trust chairperson Mick Markham told the ABC that he expected the gate at the South Alligator River would be locked within the week.

“We have to protect the sites, it’s our religion … that site has been there for over 10,000 years, when the salt water was eroding the cliff face,” he said. “The traditional owners apologise to the tourists but, for us to get our point across, we feel this is the only way.”

Mr Markham said nearby sites would all remain open.

The ABC reports that the closure comes in the midst of a court battle between the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) and the federally-run Parks Australia over alleged sacred site offences and unauthorised construction of a walking track near the popular Gunlom Falls infinity pool.

The court has heard the site in question is a men’s site which under Aboriginal law and custom was not allowed to be viewed by women and children. In court, Parks Australia has raised ‘constitutional issues’ of Commonwealth immunity in relation to the Sacred Sites Act in Kakadu National Park.

The ABC reports that the High Court may be asked to decide whether sacred site protections apply in Kakadu National Park.

Mr Markham said traditional owners wanted Parks Australia to admit their guilt and pay the resulting fine so the site could reopen. And he warned that, if the situation continued to be handled poorly, it would be the beginning of more closures in Kakadu.

“What we are doing by closing this is showing that we have got a bit of strength and we do care about the land and our sacred sites,” he told the ABC. “And we want to continue, our culture is not going to go away.”

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8 Responses to Kakadu’s Gunlom Falls to close as dispute escalates

  1. Very disappointing. We have been 3 times, last time found all looking tired and neglected.. run down visitors centre and camp areas neglected and not at all maintained. Probably never go back. Someone needs to take charge and stop with the infighting. Not good

  2. So if they pay the fine it’s OK to reopen. If that isn’t a money grab I don’t know what is .

    • So it appears that it’s not all about sacred sites.
      If the government pays the costs then it will be OK for Gunlom Falls to be reopened.
      Hmm, makes one wonder doesn’t it.

  3. I understand the need for the Aboriginal people to protect and preserve their land and culture. THAT IS A MUST. But if the area of concern is managed by National Park I would adsume there would be a proprtion of Indiginous manpower /representative/advisers. Why was this construction allowed to begin.
    Please settle this dispute aimicably and keep this beautiful land open for all to appreciate/educate/enjoy and protect together.

  4. Kakadont

  5. Hmm…is it a money grab?? The comment to pay the fine makes one think.

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