Access to Aboriginal Land on the Cox Peninsula and Bynoe Harbour

The Northern Land Council welcomed the official gazettal on 22 March 2018 of the Kenbi Open Area Declaration over beaches and the intertidal zone of Aboriginal land in the Cox Peninsula vicinity.

Cox Peninsula and Bynoe Harbour Use and Access Map

Download high resolution map (A3 for home printing)

Section Map: Mandorah Access Map

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Section Map: North Beach Access Map

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Section Map: Charles Point Access Map

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On 21 June 2016, approximately 52,000 hectares of land on the Cox Peninsula, including a number of islands and reefs in Bynoe Harbour, were granted as Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. This was done to settle the long-running Kenbi land claim.

The gazettal clarifies the public’s ongoing access to the area following the settlement of the long-running Kenbi land claim, while also protecting sacred sites.

As part of the settlement of the Kenbi Land Claim, the NLC and the Northern Territory government negotiated a compensation package to allow for people to access beaches and to fish in the intertidal waters and reef areas of Cox Peninsula and Bynoe Harbour without a permit.

But, by agreement, permit-free access was restricted in some areas and prohibited in others. Sacred sites have always been protected in accordance with the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 and access to sacred sites has always been restricted in accordance with that Act. In June 2016, the NLC published a map which detailed those restrictions.

Since then, the Government has worked closely with the NLC and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA, an Authority of the NTG), to map in detail restrictions around sacred sites.

The 2016 map has now been refined following extensive consultations by AAPA and NLC with Traditional Owners and custodians. This final Declaration will give certainty to the public as to where they will be able to travel and fish at Cox Peninsula. 

Significantly, access is now prohibited to Quail Island, Djajalbit Islet and the northern beach of Indian Island, because they contain important sacred sites.

Access is also prohibited to Two Fella Creek and other areas in the northern Cox Peninsula to protect a number of important sacred sites. The northern Cox Peninsula area is not Aboriginal land, but it will be granted to the Kenbi Land Trust as Kenbi freehold title under the Kenbi Land Trust Act 2011(NT).  As such, it will be private land.

Beach access from the intertidal zone (where permitted) means that you can go ashore as far as the crest of the secondary sand dune, or if there is no secondary sand dune, you can go 50 metres beyond the inland boundary of the beach. The map also sets out the boundaries of the areas around sacred sites where access is prohibited. Penalties do apply. It is your responsibility to know the location of sacred sites.

You do not need a permit to use the following roads and tracks in this area:

  • Cox Peninsula Road
  • Wagait Tower Road
  • Charles Point Road
  • Harney’s Beach Track off Charles Point Road
  • Talc Head Road to Mica Beach off Cox Peninsula Road
  • Pioneer Beach track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road
  • Rankin Point track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road
  • Keswick Point track off  Bynoe Harbour Access Road
  • Tower Beach Road to Masson Point
  • Raft Point track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road

All other roads and tracks on Aboriginal land require a permit.

“This declaration will give much comfort to Traditional Owners and custodians and I welcome the Government’s commitment to protect sacred sites which are integral to the Northern Territory’s cultural heritage,” NLC CEO Joe Morrison said.

He reminded the public that Aboriginal land is private land and requested all to respect the Traditional Owners and custodians.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What areas can I access?

The Northern Land Council has published a map which clearly explains where the public can and cannot go. This map is available on the Northern Land Council’s website (www.nlc.org.au/visiting-aboriginal-land/kenbi).

2. Why do the 2016 and 2018 maps differ?

The Northern Land Council released an interim map in 2016. This map has been refined following extensive consultations by Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA, an Authority of the Northern Territory Government) and Northern Land Council with Traditional Owners and custodians.

3. What is a sacred site?

Sacred sites are places within the landscape that have a special meaning or significance under Aboriginal tradition. Hills, rocks, waterholes, trees, plains, lakes, billabongs and other natural features can be sacred sites. In coastal and sea areas, sacred sites may include features which lie both below and above the water. Sacred sites derive their status from their association with particular aspects of Aboriginal social and cultural tradition. This body of tradition is mainly concerned with the activities of ancestral beings, collectively known as ‘Dreamings’ whose travels across the land and sea created the physical and social world that people now inhabit. Aboriginal sacred sites are recognised and protected as an integral part of the Northern Territory’s and Australia’s cultural heritage, under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act) 1989.

4. How are sacred sites protected?

All sacred sites, whether or not they have been recorded or registered in the Northern Territory, are protected by the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act. The Act has a number of protections for sacred sites. These include protection from unauthorised entry and damage. The Act also gives the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority the power to prosecute people and organisations that damage sacred sites.

5. Why are sacred sites protected?

Sacred sites are important to the cultural fabric and heritage of the Northern Territory. They are important to all Australians. They are an intrinsic part of a continuing body of practices and beliefs emanating from Aboriginal laws and traditions. Sacred sites give meaning to the natural landscape. They anchor cultural values and spiritual and kin-based relationships in the land.

6. Why can’t I access Quail and Djajalbit Islet?

Quail Island and Djajalbit Islet are important sacred sites that are subject to traditional restrictions on access and other traditional sanctions that are observed by traditional owners. Quail Island contains an important traditional burial area, and both islands are focal sacred sites associated with important dreaming ancestors. Traditional owners and custodians ask people to respect these sacred sites by observing these restrictions.

7. Why can’t I access the northern beach of Indian Island?

This area is an important focal sacred site associated with one of the key dreaming ancestors in this area. Burials are also present in this area. Traditional owners and custodians ask people to respect this sacred site and burial area by observing these restrictions.

8. Why can’t I access the coastal creeks along the northern Cox Peninsula?

Access to coastal creeks are restricted to protect a number of important sacred sites that are subject to traditional sanctions and gender restrictions. Traditional Owners and custodians believe that any unauthorised activity or damage in these areas could have serious repercussions for them under their traditional law. Traditional Owners and custodians ask people to respect these sacred sites for their safety and also the safety of visitors to this area by observing these restrictions.

9. Why are there sacred sites on non-Aboriginal land?

Sacred sites predate European settlement. Therefore they can occur on any tenure type. All sacred sites in the Northern Territory are protected under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act. Although the northern coastline of Cox Peninsula is not Aboriginal land, it is land that will be held by the Kenbi Land Trust which will be established under the Kenbi Land Trust Act 2011 (NT). It is designed to work similarly to Aboriginal land granted under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) and it will be private land.

10. What do the changes mean for the community of Wagait Beach?

There has been, and will be, no change to the tenure of Wagait Beach. Wagait Beach is freehold land and remains outside of the future Kenbi Freehold Land.

PDF version of FAQs

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Related Resource

Sacred sites protected under final Kenbi Open Area Declaration

Mar 22, 2018

The Northern Land Council has welcomed the official gazettal this week of the Kenbi Open Area Declaration over beaches and the intertidal zone of Aboriginal land in the Cox Peninsula vicinity.

Read more


The two AAPA Authority Certificates are held by the Northern Territory Government and are available by clicking the links below:

Authority Certificate 1 – Kenbi Open Area

Authority Certificate 2 – Northern Cox Peninsula