The Broome Community No Gas Campaign released this statement on January 15.
Traditional custodians have responded to revelations that state minister Peter Collier has authorised Woodside to destroy sacred sites on the Kimberley coast, north of Broome, as part of its exploration and assessment work at the controversial James Price Point gas hub site.
Spokesperson and Goolarabooloo law boss Phillip Roe says he and senior law boss Joseph Roe had not been given prior notice of the decision and had learnt about it via the media.
“This shows an outrageous disregard for the profound impacts of such a decision on our proven and substantial culture and heritage,” Roe said from his home on the Kimberley coast at Walmadan near the James Price Point gas hub site.
“The decision is an insulting joke.”
Roe accused the WA government of attempting to deliberately rewrite Indigenous history at the site in its attempt to secure land tenure for the gas hub proponents, Woodside.
And he called on the West’s “alternative premier” to declare his commitment to better protect Indigenous heritage and culture and request his federal Labor colleague, environment minister Tony Burke, to intervene.
“Why do we have to hear on the radio that Woodside has been given permission to destroy our country, law and culture? It’s not right,” said Roe.
“The evidence from our old people and from us about this country is clear and has just been ignored. So has the decision in 1991 about the exact same area of land by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee with the help of the Kimberley Land Council to stop this kind of disturbance.
“All that has changed since 1991 is that the government is now hell bent on putting the gas hub here. They are trying to rewrite the history of this country and the government’s own decisions.”
“My grandfather opened up this special area for all people, everyone as an important part of reconciliation and to preserve our culture and living heritage. How can anyone agree to the destruction of another person’s culture?” said Roe.
“Furthermore, the people likely to be entrusted with the job of overseeing these works by Woodside are traditional owners but they are not cultural custodians deeply versed in the stories and sites of the country.
“Myself, Joseph Roe and Richard Hunter — none of us have been asked to assist but we are the senior law men for the site.”
Roe said the WA government “is incapable of protecting our oldest living heritage”.
He called on Burke to exercise his responsibilities under federal Aboriginal heritage law.
In this election year, the Goolarabooloo people call on the opposition leader Mark McGowan, the alternate premier of Western Australia, to state his position on the preservation of Aboriginal heritage and country in the state.
“We also call on him to consult with his federal colleague Mr Burke to use his federal powers and intervene in this outrageous action by Premier Colin Barnett.”