Territory Stories

Annual Report 2010-2011 Northern Territory of Australia Aboriginal Areas



Annual Report 2010-2011 Northern Territory of Australia Aboriginal Areas

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Tabled paper 1659


Tabled papers for 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT




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Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory under Standing Order 240. Where copyright subsists with a third party it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.




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GOVERNANCE - ABORIGINAL AREAS PROTECTION AUTHORITY - 30 information and delivery of services for the next decade. The Authority has commenced implementing some of the recommendations from this review. This improved system will provide a strong base for ongoing improvement in the Authoritys services to custodians, applicants and the public. LEGISLATION AND POLICY ABORIGINAL SACRED SITE PROTECTION IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY ABORIGINAL SACRED SITES Sacred sites are places within the landscape that have a special significance under Aboriginal tradition. Hills, rocks, waterholes, trees, plains and other natural features may be sacred sites. In coastal and sea areas, sacred sites may include features which lie both above and below the water. Sacred sites are significant because of their association with key events and stories of Aboriginal spiritual ancestors credited with creating the landscape. Aboriginal people know that sacred sites are powerful places. They are concerned to protect all people, including non-Aboriginals, from the consequences that inappropriate contact with such places may entail. Some activities, such as lopping a sacred tree or digging into sacred ground, may disturb the spirit ancestors, with grave consequences both for the person causing the disturbance and for the Aboriginal people who are custodians of that place. According to Aboriginal law, each sacred site is the responsibility of recognised custodians. They must ensure that sacred sites are kept safe and that they are used properly. Aboriginal law dictates that if custodians of sacred sites allow a site to be damaged, other Aboriginal people will hold them responsible. This can lead to retribution or sanctions within Aboriginal society. It can also lead to recriminations against non-Aboriginal people who damage such places. This is why Aboriginal sacred sites are recognised and protected as an integral part of Northern Territory and Australian cultural heritage under both The Commonwealths Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Land Rights Act) and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989. Both of these Acts define a sacred site as: a site that is sacred to Aboriginals or is otherwise of significance according to Aboriginal tradition COMMONWEALTH AND NORTHERN TERRITORY LAWS The establishment of the Sacred Sites Act by the Northern Territory Government was enabled by Section 73 of the Land Rights Act which gives the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly power to enact laws for: the protection of, and the prevention of the desecration of, sacred sites in the Northern Territory The Sacred Sites Act was passed under this power to establish procedures for the protection and registration of sacred sites and the avoidance of sacred sites in the development and use of land. The protection of sacred sites in the Territory is furthermore aided by Section 69 of the Land Rights Act which broadly prohibits entry and remaining on any land in the Northern Territory that is a sacred site, unless a law of the Northern Territory specifies otherwise. LANDOWNERS AND DEVELOPERS The Authority strives to achieve practical outcomes in its operations by respecting the interests of site custodians, landowners and developers. Often custodians, landowners and developers have diverging interests in land. However there is usually substantial overlap between these interests. In most cases, the Authoritys challenge is to accommodate new uses of land with the need to protect sacred sites, thus preserving and

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