Protest against “gas-fired dispossession”

A small staunch group of Gomeroi and allies rallied outside the Federal court on the 7th of February, where Santos are attacking Gomeroi native title rights over the Pilliga forest. Even rain couldn’t stop Nadeen Dixon from doing a welcome to country and Raymond Weatherall and other Gomeroi from speaking passionately about the need to stand up for country.

Jumbunna Researcher Padraic Gibson assisted with the following media release issued on February 7, promoting the protest.

Media release Monday February 7

Protest against “gas-fired dispossession” as Santos takes Gomeroi people to Native Title Tribunal

Yarri Lake at Pillaga

Gomeroi people and supporters will rally outside the Federal Court in Sydney today at 12:30pm. This protest is challenging attempts by Santos and the Morrison and Perrottet governments to dispossess Gomeroi of Native Title rights to make way for the Narrabri coal-seam gas project. A protest will also be held in Brisbane.

Gomeroi Native Title interests are the only legal barrier that currently stands in the way of the Narrabri project, which would see 850 coal-seam gas wells established in the Pillaga forest and surrounds.

In May 2021, Santos lodged a “Future Acts Determination Application” with the Native Title Tribunal, seeking approval to destroy Gomeroi rights. The matter is back before the Tribunal today.

This protest has been co-organised by Workers for Climate Action, highlighting the destructive impacts of the Morrison government’s “gas-fired recovery” policy on both First Nations rights and the unfolding climate crisis.

Representatives from trade unions including the Maritime Union of Australia and the Electrical Trades Union will address the demonstration, calling for public investment in a transition to renewable energy that respects First Nations rights to control development on their lands.

Gomeroi man Raymond “Bubbly” Weatherall has played a leading role in organising the rally. Mr Weatherall said:

“Gomeroi people have never stopped fighting attempts by Santos and the state and federal governments to desecrate our lands with the Narrabri gas project.

We are furious seeing this application in the Native Title Tribunal to strip us of our rights to establish the massive coal seam gas mining operation. Native Title offers us virtually no protection, it is part of the system to usurp our Country and access the minerals beneath it and Santos are shamefully exploiting this.

Not just these affected areas, but the whole of the Billaga was a meeting place of different tribes for ceremony and our law. Every tree, every bird, every animal is part of that beautiful eco-system that is so special to us.

This is not just a Gomeroi issue – it’s a fight for everyone’s future. At COP26 we saw Santos pushing for continued extraction of fossil fuels across the world in the middle of a climate emergency. This project would also pollute the waters of the Great Artesian Basin which is crucial for sustaining life.

We are calling for this application to be withdrawn immediately and for the Morrison and Perrottet government to withdraw their support for the Narrabri project. We have never ceded sovereignty and that must be respected,” concluded Mr Weatherall.

Ian Brown is a young Gomeroi man who has travelled from Moree to speak at the Sydney rally. Mr Brown said:

“Our old people have fought for Country for generations, Gomeroi youth will also be stepping up to bring our people together and fight this criminal Santos Narrabri project. Native Title has never met our needs on the East Coast, we have virtually no power and many First Nations people are totally opposed to the system. We need to fight to ensure all Gomeroi have our voices heard through this Tribunal process and show Santos and the government we will defend our lands no matter what the Tribunal decides. We grew up relying on the waters of the Great Artesian Basin and our future depends on keeping those waters clean and protecting a safe climate for everyone.”