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Sheep farmer vows to keep fighting RAAF noise even if it bankrupts her

written by Adam Thorn | April 20, 2021

F-35As A35-015 and A35-016 after arriving at Williamtown on September 10. (Defence)
An F-35 Lightning II, A35-015, after arriving at Williamtown in 2019 (Defence)

The sheep farmer who lost a Supreme Court case against the RAAF for ignoring her “cease and desist” noise notice has vowed to appeal to the High Court.

“I might end up bankrupt trying but you have to try,” Julie Steepe said. “I don’t have a lot but what I have I ­protect. And it upsets me to see my sheep upset.”

Steepe last week argued in court that the RAAF owed her $15.3 million because aircraft flying over her farm at Bulahdelah, near RAAF Base Williamtown, were effectively trespassing on her land. She said it contravened her “lawful right to quiet enjoyment of my property” and issued the Air Force a notice to stop.

Speaking on The Australian on Tuesday, Steepe said aircraft – likely to include F-35s, Hawks and PC-9s – were scaring “the bejeezus” out of her sheep.

“They come out of nowhere, they dip down and locate my sheep, and try hard to fly directly over the top of them … You can‘t get away from them.”

Steepe told the newspaper she was able to represent herself in court using her own online research of obscure case law and a paper copy of the Constitution. She has vowed to appeal the ruling and said she will proceed to the High Court if she has to, arguing that she once counted more than 90 planes overhead in just a few hours.

She said it was as if the pilots had said, “Screw you lady, we’ll do whatever we like and you’re just a little sheep farmer from Bulahdelah and you can’t tell us what to do”.


Last week, Australian Aviation reported how Steepe in 2020 issued the RAAF a series of invoices after the organisation didn’t comply with her order to “cease and desist”. The final notice stated it had seven days to show what lawful authority it had to “trespass” on her land.

“A breach of the border … will incur a fee of $AUD167,000 plus a further $AUD167,000 for each subsequent breach,” it said.

“This being compensation for breaching my lawful right to quiet enjoyment of my property, as well as my lawful right to the alienation of my property from the Crown.

“The border of my property extends to the centre of the earth and to the expanse of the universe.”

Unhappy with the response, Steepe took RAAF to the NSW Supreme Court, arguing the invoices now totalled $15.3 million.

She also sought an order to prevent further RAAF aircraft flying over her property.

However, Justice David Davies said in his ruling, “A landowner does not have any right arising from ownership of the land to prevent aircraft flying over their property, provided that it is at a height above that which is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land and the structures upon it.

“The plaintiff submitted that she has a right to ‘quiet enjoyment of the land’, and that is interfered with by the noise of the aircraft. Any notion of quiet enjoyment is a matter between a landlord and a tenant, either as an implied or express condition of a lease.

“The word ‘quiet’ in those circumstances is not concerned with noise as such, but with a right to reside on the land without interruption, interference or disturbance by the landlord or grantor of the land. The only appropriate analogy for an owner of land in fee simple is that no other person has a right to trespass upon the land or, arguably, commit a nuisance on or onto the land.

“As will be seen below, matters of trespass and nuisance as far as aircraft are concerned, have been dealt with by statute. The plaintiff has no other ‘right’ of quiet enjoyment.”

Comments (21)

  • Laughter


    Funny how my parents never kicked up a stink when the RAAF F111 would fly low around the Kempsey/Bellbrook area. I did get a giggle when the said land owner claimed she owned the sky all the way up into the universe.
    Does this also infer the land owner is now going to pursue the airlines and satellite’s because they fly within the area she “owns”.

    Good luck with that one.

  • Ben


    She’s going to go bankrupt then. I’m sure the crown has much deeper pockets than she does. They are unlikely to cave to such a frivolous lawsuit.

    One can only hope that the Justice’s words can be used in other cases where people purchase property in close proximity to an airport and immediately complain about the noise. Most airports have been in their present location (or in the case of WSA planned in that location) for over 50 years. They haven’t exactly popped up overnight! As an example, the restrictions placed on Sydney Airport (KSI) are insane when you consider that it has been in its present location for longer than any of the residents under the flight paths have been alive.

    • Janine


      I have the opposite we have planes flying 19 kilometres from the airport and are flying overhead nearly all day as I think they also come from another on on the opposite side of our property. It has always happened and not a problem except these last 2 years have been hell it’s 7 days a week and there are thousands of acres with no homes surrounding us and now others in the area have had it too. I agree if I had moved near the airport I wouldn’t complain as it’s my fault but they are coming to us and cutting engines and starting back up right over our property I wouldn’t even mind if they gave us a every weekend off or at least 2 days a week and fly over another area.

  • Seeley


    She’s obviously got more money than brain…..

    I’m on a main N-S commercial airlines’ corridor, & thoroughly enjoy hearing, & seeing them flying overhead.
    They’ve never been a nuisance, & were missed during lockdowns’.

  • Alf Allen


    The RAAF has been making lots of noise in these parts since 1942. It would appear the plaintiff made the property purchase with her ‘ears wide blocked’.

    • Just Wow


      It looks like she has had the property since 2013, and it’s 50km as the crow flies from Williamtown.

  • Geoff Timms


    Would she also complain about rescue helicopters ?

    • Terrence


      Probably, unless she falls victim to her sheep stampeding!

    • Laughter



      Given the logic displayed thus far im shocked she hasn’t pursued them for alledged monies owed to her.

      Out of interest I wonder if a flat earth or sovereign citizen is one of the past times of the person ?

  • G.ski


    No laws were broken by the RAAF, I live by airport and frankly I got so use to the noise that when the aircraft switched engines I don’t hear them anymore but point is she’s got no case and is not wise wasting her money on a no win case..

  • Quit while you’re behind, Julie. The RAAF aircraft are NOT “trespassing on your land” – they’re flying over it / above it. There is a difference.

  • Gordon Smith


    Go for it lady, there is often an inherent arrogance in the military forces that needs to be challenged and won against from time to time

  • Shane


    This woman owns the land, not the sky above it. I think she needs to learn what constitutes her land.

  • George White


    I find it strange that Sydney airport still has a curfew in place especially as aircraft engines have become quieter. Think about it.

  • Daniel C Bray


    Its a perspective thing. I would love the RAAF to fly over my property everday. She is very Lucky

  • Lived on the perimiter fence of Amberly, when the F111s used after burner on take off it would virtually rattle the China on the table! Never heard one complaint…
    The kicker here is the sad fact the woman is tying up the legal system & abusing taxpayers dollars (RAAF defence).
    This ilk are never satisfied! Even if she wins she will soon find another axe to grind..
    I pity her sheep! I think they’d rather dance with the Dingos..

    • Matt


      The RAAF Base is situated at Amberley.

  • Dad


    She needs to raise the Baaa before she is fleeced.

  • Grant


    Caveat emptor…buyer beware..
    If you buy or live near an airport…..suck it up or move elsewhere!

  • Neil


    The Airforce Base was there first AH!!!!!

  • TailEndCharlie


    Thank goodness this numptie can no longer take her moronic complaint to the Privy Council!

    She’s obviously an extremely selfish person to waste Aussie taxpayer $, which pay for our RAAF, for this frivolous court case.

    She’ll lose in the High Court too, then probably set up a ‘go fund me’ page to raise funds’ to then live on!

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