A court has ruled that the Commonwealth is not subject to criminal prosecution for illegally obstructing a sacred Aboriginal site, a former film set in Kakadu National Park.
The Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Area Conservation Authority has filed criminal charges against the Parks Australia director for conducting unauthorized work at Gunlom, the waterfall featured in the 2020 film Crocodile Dundee.
Parks claims in 2019 that it built a boardwalk to Gunlom’s top pool without permission from the Indigenous Administrator.
Parks agreed to remove the problematic section of track and apologized to the previous owners for the pain the construction had caused, but pleaded not guilty.
The company was told in March by the NT Supreme Court that it could not be prosecuted for carrying out unauthorized work because it was a business entity and the criminal offenses and penalties under Section 34 of the NT Aboriginal Holy Land Act did not apply. I said I can’t.
On Friday, the court agreed, saying Parks directors have “the same legal status as the federal executive branch with respect to the imposition of criminal liability” and are generally not subject to prosecution.
This lawsuit was never about walking tracks, but to see if park managers could be prosecuted under the NT Act.
National Park Service Director Jody Swiapik called them “constitutional issues”, stating that “this incident did not affect the specific facts of the Gunlom boardwalk issue.”
“Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, we will continue to work with all parties to ensure a strong framework to protect the sacred sites,” she said in a statement.
The AAPA previously said that tracks would be built near restricted ceremonial features, against the wishes of the traditional owners of the World Heritage-listed park, without an official certificate issued after consultation. claimed to have been
Parkes then obtained a certificate and negotiated a truck rearrangement with the traditional owner.
Swirepik said two indigenous cultural advisers representing the Gunlom Land Trust were overseeing the work on site and the restoration work is progressing well.
“Some of the track has been removed and work has started on a new segment of the track this week,” she said.
“I take the concerns raised by traditional owners about the gunlom issue very seriously and Parks Australia has taken steps to ensure that they are properly consulted for infrastructure work at Kakadu. I have.”
Swirepik previously said Parks was ordered by the federal attorney general to plead not guilty so that the constitutional issue could be addressed.
The maximum penalty under the NT Act for working on sacred sites without a certificate is $314,000.
AAPA has been contacted for comment.