Wonnarua People demand Glencore be stopped from destroying Country

September 21, 2022
Standing with the Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People on September 21
Standing with the Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People on September 21. Photo: Pip Hinman

First Nations cultural heritage is under threat from multinational mining company Glencore’s coal mine expansion at the site of one of the Frontier Wars at Glendell, near Singleton in New South Wales.

Robert Lester, representing the Plains Clan of the Wonnarua (PCW), spoke passionately outside NSW Parliament on September 21 about why the area needed to be protected.

He said if there was any truth to government claims to want to right past wrongs, they needed to stop such destruction.

The PCW lodged an application under the Commonwealth Aboriginal Heritage Act to protect the area last year.

Glencore wants to shift the Ravensworth Estate homestead, even though the Heritage Council of NSW has noted the “exceptional importance of the site, its shared history and the intrinsic connection” between massacre sites, First Nations cultural heritage and the colonial homestead.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission will make a decision on Glencore’s Glendell coal mine expansion in October.

Speakers, including NSW Greens Senator David Shoebridge, Greens MLC Sue Higginson and Independent MLC Justin Field, emphasised the need to listen to the PCW.

They said a place of truth-telling and reconciliation in the Hunter Valley, already under threat from open-cut mining, needs to be protected.

Lock the Gate’s Nick Clyde said Singleton artist Doug Heslop has been prevented from displaying his work depicting the Frontier Wars because the Singleton Council has decided it was too controversial.

Shoebridge said there is no doubt that Glencore has an influence on the Singleton Council given the millions of dollars that flow to council as part of mine planning agreements.

One of the paintings, Wonnarua Massacre 1826, depicts a massacre the Wonnarua People say took place at the site of Ravensworth homestead. Glencore disputes this.

Heslop, a descendent of Ben Singleton, organised an exhibition titled “One Man Soweth and Another Reapeth” on Singleton’s history. It was scheduled to open this week.

Protesters wanted to drop a sign-on letter to the IPC, but it would not take it. They instead delivered it to federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek’s office.

Glencore runs 17 coal mines, making it Australia’s largest coal producer and biggest contributor to emissions from coal mining. The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) said it had not found evidence the company has a decarbonisation plan in place.

EDO spokesperson Kirsty Ruddock said on September 8 it had “growing concerns over the environmental and social harm Glencore causing”.


A map of the tribal boundary of the Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People. Photo: Pip Hinman

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