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Media Release

Date: 7 October 2022

Hayes Enterprises NT has been convicted and fined 200 Penalty Units ($32,400) in the Local Court in Darwin today, after pleading guilty to working on a sacred site without an Authority Certificate, contrary to section 34 of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 (“the Act” NT).

Under the Act, work must not be carried out on a sacred site without an Authority Certificate issued by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA).

In considering an Authority Certificate application, AAPA consults with Aboriginal custodians to understand what conditions must apply to proposed works to ensure the protection of sacred sites.

On 10 September 2020 Mr William Hayes drove a front-end loader onto an Aboriginal Land Trust and knocked down 63 trees within a sacred site, as part of work widening an existing road.

While Hayes Enterprises held an agreement with the Northern Land Council to undertake buffalo mustering on the Land Trust, they did not have any approvals to enter or conduct works on the sacred site, or to widen any roads within the site.

The site is a highly sacred and significant Gunapipi ceremonial ground that brings together Aboriginal people from across Arnhem land. A number of important Dreamings converge within the site, and are manifested as trees within the sacred site.

Dr Sophie Creighton, A/CEO of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority said landholders are on notice, they can not just recklessly clear country.

“The immense suffering and harm done here could have been avoided. Pastoralists need to listen, and to work with custodians to protect these cultural places of national significance.”

Senior custodians Kenny Murray welcomed the conviction but said the damage is irreparable.

“The damage that has been done to our trees, it is like physical harm to our family because the spirits of our Elders are in those trees,” said Mr Murray “We are Jungkayi (Guardian) for that country and there is great shame felt about the damage because it is our responsibility to protect those trees.”

Media Contact: Kate Sieper – 0466 745 615

THE ABORIGINAL AREAS PROTECTION AUTHORITY (AAPA) IS AN INDEPENDENT STATUTORY ORGANISATION ESTABLISHED UNDER THE NORTHERN TERRITORY ABORIGINAL SACRED SITES ACT, AND IS RESPONSIBLE FOR OVERSEEING THE PROTECTION OF ABORIGINAL SACRED SITES ON LAND AND SEA ACROSS THE WHOLE OF AUSTRALIA’S NORTHERN TERRITORY.