About 100 Aboriginal people and their supporters gathered at Hyde Park fountain in Sydney on November 1 to protest against the continued desecration of Aboriginal sites across NSW by coal and coal seam gas mining companies Boggabri Coal, Whitehaven Coal and Santos.
The rally was organised by Gomeroi people from Gunnedah in north-west New South Wales. People of all ages were present, from young children to elders.
Steve Talbott spoke to the crowd informing them of the cooperation between the state government and mining companies.
He said: “The Office of Environmental Heritage (OEH) are issuing archeological reports to mining companies which assist in mining approvals. In Gunnedah, 18 out of 19 Aboriginal groups did not support an archeologists report but approval for the mine still went through.
“It doesn’t make sense that mines are being approved before cultural heritage assessments and biodiversity assessments have been done. What will be left to assess? It’s all rush, rush. It’s all about money. I want an enquiry to happen into how Whitehaven got their licence.”
Talbott spoke about government changes that further erode the right of Aboriginal people to have a say in planning.
“In the Department of Planning in NSW, there is no place for Aboriginal culture and heritage anymore. Before, there was a person who questioned archeological reports but now nobody has that position.”
He went on to give an example of the lack of consultation about this with Aboriginal people: “There have recently been 10 workshops across NSW put on by the OEH. It used to be called National Parks and Wildlife Service. These workshops were about the changes in the NSW Aboriginal Culture and Heritage act. More non-Aboriginal people came to the meetings than Aboriginal people. The non-Aboriginal people were developers and from mining.
“The message needs to get out more, to Aboriginal people, so they know about these meetings and go to them. Aboriginal people are the ones who should be making decisions about Aboriginal heritage, not the miners and developers. It’s our heritage, not theirs. “
He also spoke about the NSW Aboriginal Land Council: “The state land council is supposed to be a peak body for all of the smaller land councils in the state but they do not represent them. For example, in the North Coast, the NSW ALC has CSG leases and the local area land council is against this.”
Talbott called for the grassroots Aboriginal movement to be the ones to make decisions about Aboriginal heritage instead of the state government and the NSW ALC, as this would mean culture and biodiversity would be properly looked after.
After the speech, the group marched to NSW Parliament House and hung colourful banners on the fence to show both the public walking by and the parliamentarians inside that Aboriginal people have had enough of being treated with disrespect by both the state government and the mining industry.
Talbott called for unity of the grassroots Indigenous movement across the country, saying: “Mining is happening everywhere across Australia and Aboriginal people are suffering because of it. All us Aboriginal people need to get together and support each other. It’s not just happening in the north-west of NSW”.
After more speeches including one from Dolly Talbott, a Gomeroi woman from Gunnedah, the protesters left parliament house and travelled to the Supreme Court to show solidarity with Jonathan Moylan, who has been fighting Whitehaven Coal in Gomeroi country in the north-west of NSW.
[To find out more and help with future action please call Steve Talbott on 0401 324 031.]