Letter to Minister Eva Lawler – Larrakia Nadine Lee

URGENT – STOP the Defence Housing Australia development at Lee Point

Dear Minister Eva Lawler,

My name is Nadine Biriimilunngga Lee. I am a sovereign tribal member of the Gulumerrijin (Larrakia), Wardaman, Karajarri and am writing to you to stop the Defense Housing Development proposed for Lee Point. There are many reasons why this area should not be developed:

Larrakia peoples spiritual, cultural and physical resources are under significant threat under this proposed development. There are obvious signs of our sacred law in this area that many people can see, like Daruba Nungalinya (Old Man Rock), but our law and his story continues under the ground, not obvious to anyone. We are concerned about disturbance to the sacred law under the surface. We are concerned about what that will trigger, and residents on our country should be concerned about further impact on Larrakia culture and society. This is also a place enjoyed by Larrakia for its coastal and forest resources – The reserve at the the point is not enough to support Larrakia and public needs in the region.

Impact on natural resources and biodiversity is a concern for many. Shore birds, the black footed tree rat and the naturally diverse and healthy system that provides for them are under threat with this proposed development. These and other flora, fauna and habitat features are well understood but not properly considered when we think about how few natural and particular habitats are left around Darwin.

Significant public enjoyment of the area will simply be taken from us all. We’re losing our natural capital at a great rate, and with it our social, cultural, aesthetic and quality of life values. This is a well used area and needs to be given priority of protection, particularly as there are other areas already cleared or more acceptable to Larrakia and the public for housing and other development.

Impact on water quality and runoff into Sandy Creek and the sea. The forest and vegetated dune system filters runoff. Sandy creek is a very special environment enjoyed by many. The public has invested its tax money in this area but there is no assessment to our knowledge of the impact of wholesale clearing of forest all around it. Where is the detailed study on environmental and social impact, not just for the creek, the dunes and the sea, but for the rest of the unique areas that would be affected by the proposed development?

Reducing our emissions is a practical and critical concern to us all. It is another stated responsibility of governments. It is high time that releasing stored carbon stocks by clearing forests for development is taken seriously and assessed honestly. Larrakia, like Indigenous peoples worldwide, have a fundamental interest in preserving and enhancing environments and reducing emissions. We must be minimising greenhouse gas emissions and the expansion of hotspots in developed landscapes. Larrakia and the broader public expect this to be part of our planning. It is not!

There are some fundamental Indigenous and democratic rights that are under threat with this development. Larrakia never ceded our rights in customary law to this land. This is a fundamental cultural and legal issue that impacts on our responsibilities and ability to care for our country, our people and others who live on it. Under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Larrakia people, like others around the world, have the right to practice our social and cultural traditions and have our important sites protected. Larrakia people, particularly those whose clan lands host Darwin city, are forever losing the last remaining patches of forest and other landscapes to development. This is often unnecessary as there are areas of already cleared land that we feel strongly should be considered for development first. I believe this is the case with land for defense housing as well.

Access to our country is disappearing rapidly and our rights to use that land for hunting, social healing, cultural practice and aesthetic enjoyment are being ignored and squashed by developers – government and private. These rights are not token rights to us, they are critical to our health and the healing of our increasingly troubled families. These aspects of Larrakia ownership of country are not taken seriously. This proposed development is another example of this hurtful token attitude towards Larrakia and our lands, but it is also an opportunity to show practical respect for us and our country by preserving this area in perpetuity. Allow us to use and enjoy it and allow us to fulfill our cultural responsibility to others on our land by continuing to offer it to the public for their use and enjoyment also.

 Larrakia (nor the rest of the public for that matter) have not had anything like proper consultation or opportunity to explain our rights and interests in this area of development. It is not good enough to consult with one or two people over such an important area. Our moral rights and internationally accepted principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent are also being ignored here. It is the stated responsibility of the government to uphold these rights and principles. I am ashamed to say that our elected representatives do not consider the sovereign owners of this land according to these rights and principles.

Please take this information into consideration.

Yours sincerely

Nadine Lee

Gulumerrijin(Larrakia)/Wardaman/Karajarri peoples

Gulumerrijin (Larrakia) people are the Traditional Owners of the Darwin region I acknowledge I pay my respects to all Gulumerrijin (Larrakia) Peoples, elders past, present. And pay my respect to all Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.