Larrakia Traditional Owners want the Commonwealth Government to return sacred land along the shores of Darwin before the world witnesses another Juukan Gorge.

Defence Housing Australia (DHA) have agreed not to clear any land at Binybara or Lee Point, until at least August 11 – while the Federal Environment Minister determines if cultural heritage is present at the site.

The proposed development will clear 132.5 hectares of high-quality tropical savanna habitat containing ancient trees and threatened species like the Gouldian Finch, black-footed tree-rat, and northern brush-tailed possum.

The adjoining beaches and mudflats are important habitat for migratory shorebirds that travel to Australia from as far as Siberia, including 5 endangered species which would also be impacted by the development.

The peak representative body of Darwin’s Larrakia people has withdrawn a 2021 letter of support to DHA, casting further doubt over the development, after prominent elders” raised “legitimate” concerns about the development’s impact on areas of cultural significance.

In a statement, the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation said, “Aunty Lorraine Williams, Uncle Tibby Quall, and Uncle Eric Fejo raised concern regarding the project, identifying significant areas of cultural heritage on the site.”

“We are also aware that full and appropriate consultation was not completed on the project as purported by the authorities.”

“We reserve right to withdraw support for any project on our lands, should our members and families raise legitimate claims.”

Chairperson of the Larrakia Nation, Jerome Cubillo, says its fundamental as Aboriginal people to listen to and support our people and elders of our Nation.

“Once we sat down and heard the information and the stories there was no other conclusion than for us to come out and support the voices of our elders.”

“If we’re serious about having a voice in this country and backing Aboriginal people to have a voice and a mechanism for advocacy, here we are trying to be that voice and we just hope the Commonwealth government is serious about this and will listen to us.”

Larrakia Elder, Uncle Eric Fejo, has been fighting for decades to protect the ceremony sites at Binybara, and told NIRS News, he’s glad the Board of the Larrakia Nation finally listened to their old people.

“We put pressure on the Larrakia Nation, and they withdrew their support for the Australian Defence Housing to develop on Larrakia country and they’re gonna support their elders, people like me.”

“The Chair and the CEO of Larrakia Nation are heading down south to go and talk these elected members, who are supposed to represent us, and our interests, and they’re going to see the Minister for Environment.”

The Larrakia Nation are travelling to Canberra next week as part of a ‘Facing North’ delegation showcasing the Northern Territory.

While at Federal Parliament, the Larrakia Nation Board meet with Federal Ministers, Territory politicians, and corporate and industry influencers.

Mr Cubillo has told NIRS News, they’re also seeking face-to-face meetings with DHA and the Federal Environment Minister to discuss building the 800-house development elsewhere.

“Our Larrakia leaders and elders are asking us to take that position, and we came out quite clearly in our media statement with that stance, but we’re also willing to work with Defence Housing Australia, with the Commonwealth government, and the Territory government.

“To sit-down and have the cultural authority at the table to say here’s sites that we do not want developed because of culturally significant reasons, but here are sites that we would be happy to develop and for development to take place on Larrakia Country.

“Work with us and let us be a part of that.”