Parks Australia

Friday 30 July 2021

Background

The Director of National Parks (the Director) today indicated a plea of ‘not guilty’ would be made in a legal matter involving the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) and its prosecution of the Director in relation to the Gunlom walking track in Kakadu National Park.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General, who has intervened in the matter, directed the Director not to take any procedural step in the prosecution which would be inconsistent with the Commonwealth’s position on constitutional issues raised by these proceedings, including pleading guilty to the offence charged. The result of that direction is that the Director has pleaded not guilty so arguments can be heard by the court on significant constitutional issues, which do not turn on the particular facts of the Gunlom walking track matter.

Statement from Director of National Parks, Jody Swirepik

“I am committed to rebuilding the relationship with Kakadu’s traditional owners and addressing their concerns with the Gunlom walking track.

“The matters before the court are now outside of my control while the applicability of the relevant offence to Commonwealth bodies is being determined by the court. Today’s plea was necessary and in fact the result of directions from the Attorney-General to allow the constitutional law issues to be addressed. It does not diminish my commitment to working with Kakadu’s traditional owners to protect sacred sites and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Kakadu National Park now and into the future.

“I have expressed to traditional owners my wish to continue consultation to plan a suitable realignment of the Gunlom walking track. We have agreed to meet next month to progress these critical planning discussions and importantly an Authority Certificate has already been obtained from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority for this work.

“I acknowledge that the Gunlom walking track works caused significant distress to the traditional owners of the Gunlom region and other members of the community and express regret for the distress caused”.