Gomeroi people and supporters rallied outside the Federal Court on February 7 to protest attempts by gas giant Santos, together with federal and state governments, to take away their Native Title rights for the Narrabri coal seam gas project. A similar protest was held in Brisbane.
Gomeroi Native Title interests are the only legal barrier standing in the way of Santos’ plan for 850 coal seam gas wells in the Pilliga State Forest and surrounds.
Santos lodged an application with the Native Title Tribunal last May seeking approval to extinguish Gomeroi rights. The matter was before the tribunal that day.
The protest, co-organised by Workers for Climate Action, highlighted how destructive the federal government’s “gas-fired recovery” policy is on First Nations rights.
Gomeroi representative Raymond “Bubbly” 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 is 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 ecosystem 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“We are calling for this application to be withdrawn immediately and for the [Scott] Morrison and [Dominic] Perrottet government to withdraw their support for the Narrabri project. We have never ceded sovereignty and that must be respected.”
Gomeroi man Ian Brown, who travelled from Moree to speak at the Sydney protest, said: “Our old people have fought for Country for generations [and] 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.”