Traditional owners threaten closure of key Kakadu tourism sites over “mismanagement” by Parks Australia

Traditional owners threaten closure of key Kakadu tourism sites over “mismanagement” by Parks Australia

Traditional owners of Kakadu National Park have warned they will close parts of the tourism hotspot after claims it has fallen into “disrepair”.

An investigation carried out by the ABC’s Four Corners has revealed several Indigenous traditional owners of key tourism spots at the World Heritage site have called out Parks Australia for “mismanagement”.

Jonathan Nadji, a traditional owner and member of the board that oversees Kakadu, said he is prepared to close access to one of the park’s biggest drawcards: the lookout and rock art of Ubirr.

“It’s about time we started making an impact by basically shutting down the park. And I will shut down Ubirr,” he said, according to Four Corners.

“We should start looking ahead, start sorting this place out, but we will close it to make our point.”

Tourists exploring the Ubirr rock observation point at Kakadu National Park (image source: iStock/EAGiven)

According to the investigation, the national park has been in a state of decline for years, after a sharp drop off in international visitation due to tourism sites being closed with little warning.

Mick Markham, a senior traditional owner for Gunlom Falls, told Four Corners he is also willing to close down the site.

“We’ve had a gutful. The only way we can show some strength is to close something at the peak of the tourist season,” he said.

The national park is jointly managed by Parks Australia and about 19 Aboriginal clans that share custodianship, but the relationship between the two has also been in a state of decline for some time.

“We’re understaffed here and that’s what we really need, we need more staffing,” Nadji said.

“Management is making their own decisions without talking to traditional owners.”

Parks Australia told ABC News that Environment Minister Sussan Ley was “listening to traditional owners and significant changes were underway, including shifting a key position to Darwin, hiring a training officer, and investing in programs that aim to help local Indigenous people find work and advance their careers”.

Travel Weekly has contacted Parks Australia for further comment.

Featured image source: Parks Australia 

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