Land councils support AAPA Board

Posted: Sun, December 15, 2013

THE Executive members of the Northern and Central Land Councils reiterated their full support of the independent board of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) at an historic joint meeting in Alice Springs last week.

The joint Executive Councils strongly endorse the current processes, structures and functions of the AAPA Board, in particular the independence of the board and the nomination of members by the Land Councils.

The Executives’ vote of confidence in the AAPA Board comes after the Northern Territory Government indicated it was considering reforms to the Sacred Sites Act.

The combined Executive Councils stated that the intellectual and cultural property of Traditional Owners can only be protected by strong and independent Aboriginal-controlled agencies.

Northern Land Council Chair, Samuel Bush-Blanasi, said an independent and strong AAPA is the key to maintaining integrity and transparency in the protection of sacred sites across the Northern Territory.

“Songlines and dreamings criss-cross the NT and connect our people from north to south and vice versa. We share a responsibility to ensure our sites are protected and our young people are learning about their obligations for sites protection,” Mr Bush-Blanasi said.

The group called on the Northern Territory Government to abandon any plans to dismantle the AAPA Board and commit to maintaining processes that ensure independent Aboriginal agencies control sacred site protection processes.

Chair of the Central Land Council, Maurie Ryan, said the processes and structure of AAPA must be maintained so that cultural integrity continues to remain strong.

“From waterholes, hills, rocks and rivers, and saltwater, sacred sites are the heart of our law and culture. Only senior Aboriginal people can properly discuss and determine issues relating to sacred sites, and this process must be maintained,” Mr Ryan said.

Article 12:1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights Indigenous Peoples says, in part: “Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access to their religious and cultural sites.”

The Executive Councils also encourages all members of the Legislative Assembly to support the institution that protects our sacred sites.