Photos have emerged of illegal poaching in central Arnhem Land which has spurred Traditional Owners and the Northern Land Council (NLC) to call for anyone illegally trespassing on Aboriginal land without a permit to leave immediately.
The photos, which came from video footage provided by Mimal Rangers from the Weemol/Bulman area, show the killing of trophy buffalo by poachers at Mount Catt.
Mimal Land Management represents landowners in central Arnhem Land; the organisation said there has been a group of four poachers that travel through Mount Catt outstation to hunt.
Currently, visitors are not able to legally travel on Aboriginal land without permission from Traditional Owners and a permit from NLC. The approval of recreational permits has been paused due to COVID-19.
Traditional Custodian Robert Redford came across the hunters near his family’s outstation.
“I told them I’d take them back to show them the right place,” he said.
“I’m worried they might go onto sacred site area … there’s a lot of sacred site here.”
Mount Catt is home to many important ceremonial grounds, burial grounds and sacred sites. Redford was concerned for the safety of these places when coming across the hunters.
The following day these concerns were confirmed as he found tyre tracks at sacred sites.
“People coming with no permission, you know they make me a little bit upset, like I’m really upset now.”
The incident has been reported to the Aboriginal Protection Authority. The illegal hunters, if found, could face up to a year in prison for unauthorised entry of a sacred site.
Mimal Feral Animal Management Coordinator, Will Green, said the group may face other consequences having killed at least nine buffalo and other animals.
“These guys blatantly ignored that fella [Robert Redford] and they’ve driven straight past him and out onto his Country where they have proceeded to then blast away a lot of our animals in that area,” he said.
“They’ve taken just trophy heads … They have left the rest of the body just out there in the bush to rot away.”
Mimal subcontracts buffalo mustering and game hunting in the area, which provides economic value to the community.
“The poachers potentially have probably a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of animals on board their truck that should have been money coming back to the community,” Green said.
This is not the first case of illegal visitors to the area, according to Mimal Land Management CEO Dominic Nicholls.
“It’s happening all across Arnhem Land and it’s happening more and more often,” he said.
“This is no longer going to be tolerated—unless the laws they’re breaking are enforced people will keep illegally trespassing, hunting, stealing and disrespecting the land.”
The illegal visitors have been also reported to the NLC and Northern Territory Police who are currently investigating the trespassing.
“Enough is enough. This shameless disregard for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal law has got to stop and stop right now,” said NLC Chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi.
“The NLC put everyone on notice earlier this year when we restricted access to remote communities and suspended the issue of recreational permits to enter Aboriginal land during the COVID-19 crisis.”
NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour said NLC has developed a compliance unit which will investigate illegal activity on Aboriginal land.
“We’ve increased our support for prosecutions by the NT Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and we are working with the other NT Land Councils to get increased penalties and an expanded range of offences under the Land Rights Act,” Scrymgour said.
“Again, we put people on notice—if you are on Aboriginal land without a valid permit or a section 19 lease or licence issued by the NLC you should leave, and leave now.”
By Rachael Knowles