A delegation of unionists travelled to Coonabarabran from November 4–6 to stand in solidarity with the Gomeroi people, who have been resisting Santos’ Narrabri coal seam gas mining operation in the Pilliga forest, northern New South Wales.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) reported on November 7 that the unionists demanded Santos immediately withdraw the four “Future Acts Determination Applications” lodged with the Native Title Tribunal.
“Gomeroi have never ceded sovereignty and given no consent to coal seam gas,” the MUA said. “They have cared for these lands and waters since time immemorial, fought to maintain connection despite violent, racist policies of exclusion and stood on the frontline of protests against destructive fossil fuel projects for generations.
“The union movement has come out in support of the Gomeroi people identifying that the struggles of First Nations people are the struggles of the union movement.”
The delegation was supported by Unions NSW, MUA, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF), Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Independent Education Union, National Tertiary Education Union, United Workers’ Union, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union.
Aunty Suellyn Tighe, a Gomeroi representative, said it was a “pleasant surprise” to see such a union delegation. “First Nations people are used to promises,” she said. “What we aren’t used to is follow through.”
Unions NSW assistant secretary Vanessa Seagrove said: “We are proud as unions to stand alongside the Gomeroi People in their fight to protect the Pilliga Forest.”
Seagrove reported that Unions NSW affiliates voted on November 3 to support the Gomeroi people and their campaign against Santos, including demanding federal and state governments withdraw support for the gas company's 850 coal seam gas wells.
MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul Keating said: “Our union is committed to the ongoing struggle in support of the Gomeroi people against this project … we will continue to mobilise to overturn and reject this environmentally destructive project.”
Damien Davis Frank, NSWNMA St Vincent’s Public Hospital branch secretary, said his union is proud to stand beside the Gomeroi people.
“Health of country equals health of people,” he said. “As a nurse, it is our duty to advocate for the health of our planet so that future generations have clean water and clean air.”
NSWTF organiser Katie Sullivan explained the threat to homes, schools and livelihoods if the project goes ahead. “Instead of gas-fired dispossession, we urgently need to be strengthening First Nations rights and investing heavily in a just transition away from fossil fuels.
“This project cannot be allowed to proceed. If the Native Title Tribunal will not defend Gomeroi rights, we pledge to support a fight that will stop Santos on the ground.”
[Sign the petition against Santos’ gas field.]