The Kadadu National Park area of Gunlom will be closed to the public just as the peak tourism season kicks off after traditional owners agreed that Parks Australia had "a lack of respect" for their sacred sites.
According to ABC news, the chairperson of the Gunlom Land Trust said they agreed to close all public access until the ongoing court case involving Parks Australia is settled. PA stands accused of impacting a sacred site by upgrading a walking path without approval. In the latest court hearing, Parks Australia raised "constitutional issues" of Commonwealth immunity.
Gunlom Land Trust chairperson Mick Markham advised authorities on Monday morning that the decision was "a result of Parks breach of our lease agreement and lack of respect for our sacred sites".
Markham said 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.
Markham said nearby sites would all remain open.
"It's just the affected area for this court case," he said.
"The traditional owners apologise to the tourists but for us to get our point across, we feel this is the only way.
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.
AAPA alleges the track was illegally constructed close to a restricted sacred site without an Authority Certificate.
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 High Court may be asked to decide whether sacred site protections apply in Kakadu National Park.
Members of the Gunlom Land Trust met on Thursday last week and agreed to close all public access until the ongoing court case was settled.
Mr. Markham said they wanted Parks Australia to admit their guilt and pay the resulting fine so the site could reopen.
More details available here.