Gomeroi Nation votes 'No' to Santos on Pilliga coal seam gas

March 25, 2022
The Gomeroi are taking a stand against fracking for the next generation. Photo: Pip Hinman

The Gomeroi Nation voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal from Santos at a historic Native Title meeting in Tamworth on March 24.

Gomeroi campaigners who attended the meeting are calling for solidarity from non-Indigenous people, to ensure this vote is respected and Santos abandons its coal-seam gas plans in the region.

Santos is seeking an agreement with Gomeroi to establish the Pilliga (Narrabri) coal seam gas project which will involve 850 coal seam gas wells.

The lands targeted by Santos are subject to a registered Native Title claim by Gomeroi people. This means Santos either needs an agreement with Gomeroi to progress its project, or sanction from the Native Title Tribunal to override Gomeroi rights.

Gomeroi are calling on Santos to immediately withdraw its application currently before the Tribunal, which seeks permission to proceed with the project despite the vote.

Gomeroi people who participated in the meeting made the following statements. These are just some of many Gomeroi voices who have loudly said NO and must be heard.

Suellyn Tighe said: “We have said clearly as a Nation, hell no, Santos, get out of our Country! The Pillaga is so important to us culturally and spiritually. We refuse to allow Santos and the Morrison government to sacrifice the Gomeroi Nation and our sites for the financial benefit of a global conglomerate.

“Gomeroi have stood up and united in defence of our culture and special places. Now we need support from non-Indigenous people too; it will be a long hard battle to defeat this company. We will march the streets, we will camp outside Parliament. I am calling all people across Australia to action — fight to ensure our vote is respected.”

Raymond “Bubbly” Weatherall said: “This strong NO vote today is a continuation of our long struggle against Santos and the state and federal governments who are trying to desecrate our lands. Santos must respect our decision and immediately withdraw the ‘Future Acts Determination Application’ in the Native Title Tribunal. This is seeking permission to strip us of our rights and usurp our Country regardless of our decision.

“Santos is arguing in the Tribunal that over-riding our rights is in the ‘public interest’. But Gomeroi are fighting for everyone’s future. At COP26, we saw Santos pushing for the 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. We are sovereign people and we calling on all people to get behind us and stop Santos”.

Ian Brown said: “Santos threatens a place with deep cultural significance for our people and threatens the waters of the Great Artesian Basin. We have spoken with a clear voice today with an overwhelming ‘No’ vote.

“We need to stop the gas push happening right across Australia. Santos and other gas companies are driving drastic climate changes, which is having a dramatic effect on our people. The climate crisis is getting to a point of no return and this is a critical time. Our non-Indigenous allies need to get behind us and make sure Santos and the government respect our no vote”.

Vanessa Hickey said: “We have just had a big vote of NO against Santos. Santos threatens our precious water and river systems. We are very scared about whether our communities will be able to survive without this water. No means No; this project must be stopped here now.”

Dolly Talbott said: “Gomeroi say NO to gas companies and mining companies, like Santos, that keep coming desecrating our Country, desecrating our sites. By saying no to Santos, we are fulfilling our obligation to not only ourselves as Gomeroi people but to all other people who live along our river systems to look after them and look after what sustains life”.

Pete Skuthorpe-Spearim said: “We voted NO to Santos because of the destructive intergenerational impact that resource companies are having on our Country and our families. I remember camping on a mountaintop with my father in 2014-15 and that mountain is no longer there because of mining. Now I have come to this meeting with my daughter beside me to continue to protect this Country and we have taken a strong step forward in this struggle today with a huge no vote.”

Boe Spearim said: “It’s going to be a big fight for us to make sure Santos and the government respect our no vote today. But one thing I know is we have many Gomeroi people both in our Country, and in other cities and towns off Country, who have been fighting and we have a very strong legacy of being known as the mighty Gomeroi. We bring that legacy everywhere we go, including in this meeting room today. We have the power to defeat Santos”.

[Come to a protest to demand Santos withdraw its application to override Native Title rights outside the Federal Court in Sydney on April 8. It will also call on all levels of government to withdraw support for Santos and respect Gomeroi rights.]

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