More than 60 Aboriginal community members from across the Northern Territory gathered on Larrakia Country in Darwin over November 18–19 to discuss how to stop fracking from destroying the Territory.
They came from Alice Springs, Borroloola, Mataranka, Minyerri, Maningrida, Marlinja, Tennant Creek, Yuendumu, Jilkminggan and Katherine to demand a permanent fracking ban, saying they fear for the future of their land and culture if the moratorium ends.
The weekend began when several hundred community members, farmers, health workers, tourism operators and artists held a rally outside Parliament House on November 18 demanding Michael Gunner’s Labor government resist pressure from the federal government to lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
Labor has refused to end its ban pending the findings of an independent inquiry. But in October subcontracted consultants were accused of pushing residents from a remote indigenous community to exploit shale gas, saying the industry was not going away.
As a result, a new social impact assessment will need to be undertaken and the findings of the task force, which were originally due in December, now will not be released until March.
On November 19, the largest gathering of Aboriginal community members on the issue of fracking came together for the Aboriginal Fracking Forum. The forum issued a statement urging the government to ban fracking and protect country, which was read in parliament.
The statement said: “We speak from Aboriginal communities right across the Territory.
“We have come together to take a stand against fracking. We say no to fracking on our land, on our country.
“We are concerned about the damage to our water, our country, our dreaming and our songlines. This damage would be irreversible.
“We don’t want to see our rivers and waters poisoned. We want to be able to fish and hunt, gather bush tucker and bush medicines now and for all generations of people to come.
“We have been told lies by gas companies, telling us there will be no impacts. That there will be one or two frack wells, not a gas field with hundreds or even thousands of wells.
“Other states in Australia have banned fracking and so have many nations around the world because it’s so risky. We refuse to be lied to anymore.
"We know that fracking will bring chemicals that will contaminate our water and damage our health. Drilling in one area has a bigger impact than just that place. It will damage neighbouring language groups on country and the entire water system.
“We want our water to be clean and healthy. For all of us. People and country are one and the same, any damage to our country impacts us, our identity and who we are.
“We will stand strong and stand together. We will do what it takes to see a permanent ban on fracking, there will be no sacrifice zones.
“We represent a growing movement of Aboriginal people coming together to stop fracking and protect country. We call on this government to hear us and to take action.
“We stand together, and we will do what we must to protect our country for future generations. Because without water and without clean country none of us can survive.
“We are here and we are not going away until you hear us.”
[You can stand with Aboriginal communities and Territorians demanding a permanent ban on fracking in the NT by signing a petition here.]