In a small win for Traditional Owners of Darwin, a pause on the clearing of sacred land at Binybara, or Lee Point, has been extended until August 11.

The Danggalaba Kulumbirigin peoples of the Larrakia nation put in an emergency application under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, stopping works until July 17, while the Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek determines whether Aboriginal cultural heritage is present in the 132-hectare site.

On Thursday, Defence Housing Australia (DHA) agreed to extended the pause on construction at Binybara for another 30 days while the Environment Minister’s assessment is underway.

The project by DHA would see 800 new homes for defence families and the broader Darwin community, but Traditional Owners say there more accessible options for community, closer to public transport, and closer to the military barracks.

Danggalaba Kulumbirigin Tiwi woman Mililma May has been camping at the site for over two weeks and says there wasn’t appropriate heritage assessment before bulldozers first started clearing land in the middle of NAIDOC Week.

The CEO of Uprising of the People wants minister Plibersek to visit Binybara and speak to Larrakia people on the ground before any further works take place. 

“Binybara is connected to a sacred men’s site, Dariba Nunggalinya – Old Man Rock, that’s out on the water, and this land that we’re now defending is the wife of that Old Man.

“It’s a women’s place, and we have to protect her because she looks after the birds, and the animals, and the savannah that’s in that area.”

In June, minister Plibersek approved habitat clearing of the area, which sits on Commonwealth land, after DHA agreed to redesign its construction environmental management plan to incorporate a 50-metre buffer around a waterhole where the endangered Gouldian Finch had been spotted.

Mililma says the development will also destroy 400-year-old trees that are home to the finches.

“We cannot contain animals in a 50-metre square. They need to be able to be free and roam in their lands, on their country, and to nestle in the hollows of the ancient trees, which at the moment, Plibersek is allowing those trees to be destroyed, which therefore destroys the whole biodiversity of that place.”

Milima told NIRS, that to date, minister Plibersek has not reached out to her people and is urging all Australians to support their fight to save Binybara/Lee Point by joining them on the ground, signing a petition, and writing to the environment minister.