No place sacred as Woodside prepares to destroy burial sites and ancient culture for gas in the Kimberley – Operation Kimberley Miinimbi Update

As Sea Shepherd's fleet awaits the whale poachers in the Southern Ocean, Woodside prepares to attack our planet’s oldest culture and its largest humpback whales nursery.

Jeff Hansen, Bob Brown and Lorna CoxJeff Hansen, Bob Brown and Lorna Cox The Liberal Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, has given Woodside Petroleum the go-ahead to drill and otherwise disturb the sand dune area immediately south of Walmadan (James Price Point) some 60 kilometres north of Broome on the Kimberley Coast. Premier Barnett is actively blocking the sensible alternative of an off-shore site for Woodside's huge proposed gas factory. Spokesperson and Goolarabooloo Law Boss Phillip Roe says he and senior law boss Joseph Roe had not been given prior notice of the decision but had learnt about it via the media. “Why do we have to hear on the radio that Woodside has been given permission to destroy our Country, Law and Culture. It’s not right. The evidence from our old people and from us about this Country is clear and has just been ignored," Roe said.

Operation Zero Tolerance and Kimberley Miinimbi Leader Bob Brown stated, "I have been to the sand dunes in question a number of times with members of the Goolarabooloo Aboriginal community who not only oppose the on-shore option but who are committed to physically oppose works there. They are justified in their opposition. This coast is not only alive with their Songlines (oral history and ongoing connection with country), but it is replete with Aboriginal sites such as middens, tool-making and burial sites. Some will be disturbed by the proposed exploratory works and face obliteration if the factory and attendant port with breakwater are constructed."

In 2011, Woodside wrote to the WA government asking it to withdraw written advice about the possible existence of significant Aboriginal sites in areas disturbed by its proposed gas hub. Any damage to the sites integral to an important Aboriginal song cycle could leave the resources giant and its directors liable for criminal prosecution under the state's Aboriginal Heritage Act. A government spokesman confirmed that the Barnett government succumbed to Woodside's wishes and withdrew the letters.

The WA Supreme Court has overturned the state government's second attempt at compulsory acquisition of the site and there is a challenge to the $1.5 billion compensation deal negotiated with the Kimberley Land Council.

The action alleged that the government facilitated an abuse of the federal court process in its dealings over James Price Point in that it failed to notify the native title tribunal. Work has been going on at the site without the proper approvals! If you jump in your car without a licence and get pulled over, you get stopped and fined: you can’t go and get a licence after the fact. So why is Woodside about to continue its destructive work when there is doubt about the future of the project?

"The same humpback whales that were to be targeted by the Japanese Whaling fleet this year, face a new threat, in the form of a massive gas hub off a place called James Price Point just north of Broome in Western Australia. Woodside petroleum and the Western Australian Barnett Government are leading the push to build the world’s largest gas hub placed right through the middle of the world’s largest humpback whale nursery. If we don’t protect the nursery, the whales will have no place to come back home to, no place to give birth, no place to care for their young", said Jeff Hansen, Australian Director, Sea Shepherd.

Besides the Western Australian Humpback population that dates back millions of years is a living indigenous culture that goes back over 40,000 years.

"If someone wanted to come in and bulldoze your parents grave, your grand parents grave, you would do everything in yourThe so called unremarkable Kimberly CoastThe so called unremarkable Kimberly Coast power to stop it! It clearly shows that Woodside holds no place sacred and will justify any destruction of culture to keep their share holders happy", says John Butler, Musician.

There is a win here for the whales, for the Goolarabooloo and for the share holders, but in order for this to happen, the WA Government needs to stop blocking the alternative of an off shore site.

Shell has the floating LNG technology, and it’s Shell that can be the hero in all of this. The only one standing in the way of a win for everyone is WA premier Colin Barnett.

Its time for the Premier of Western Australia to do what is right for the people of the Kimberley, for the people of Broome, for the people of Australia, for the great whales and for our children and allow the most sensible, sustainable and economically sound solution to proceed.

Esteemed Businessman Geoffrey Cousins stated, while onboard the Steve Irwin last year, “Well I love wilderness areas, I think there are very few left in the world and I think that these are the resources that are disappearing all over the world. The oil, the gas, it might last 40 or 50 years and the value is gone from it. Whereas the wilderness areas become more and more and more valuable as there are fewer of them and for governments not to see that is incredible short sighted. 

“I would say this to Michael Chaney and the board of Woodside, get yourselves out of this hole before it’s too late. This project is just getting more and more and more opposition. The intervention of the Sea Shepherd is just one more powerful example of that. Come out of the bunker, take the blinkers off, open your eyes up and look at the alternatives, you can take the initiative, you don’t have to wait for the government, it is your responsibility not to destroy this wonderful place.”

From onboard the SSS Steve Irwin, Captain Paul Watson stated, “Thousands of years ago when the First Peoples of Australia stood on the beach they listened to the song of the Humpback whales. They listened and they understood the natural ecological laws of diversity and interdependence. Colin Barnett needs to understand that the true treasures of Country are to be found in her people, her whales, her wildlife, her streams, forests and her deserts.” 

“How would the Catholics react if a bulldozer stood before the doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica? How would the Muslims react if the black stone were about to be tossed into a stone crusher? How would the Jews react if the Wailing Wall were scheduled for facing demolishment? They would react the same way that the First Australians are reacting now, with anger and indignation.  This is a sacred site and should not be touched for any reason just as we would not drill for oil under Mecca, dump nuclear waste on the grounds of the Vatican or break up the Wailing Wall for gravel. I have but a simple message for Colin Burnett – “Have some respect for your elders dude! Have some respect for Country!” said Captain Watson.

Phillip Roe pointed out the graves of his ancestors and said he would die before giving up the fight for his homeland and its flora and fauna.

Sea Shepherd is calling on all Australians who believe that all grave sites are sacred, that culture is important and want whales in our oceans for future generations, to unite and stand in solidarity with the Goolarabooloo as they stand in defence of what we all hold sacred and what Woodside and the WA Government plan to destroy.

How you can help:

  1. Please sign and share this powerful petition from Goolarabooloo traditional owner Theresa Roe, "Our ancestors are buried in those dunes. No one would allow a whitefella cemetery to be dug up so why here?"
  2. If you would like to know that you are helping grassroots efforts directly and want to help sponsor food, fuel or other basics for the camp at Walmadan/James Price Point - you can purchase gift cards and send them via post directly to Walmadan camp, c/- PO BOX 7308, Broome, WA, 6725.
  3. Suggested Tweets:
    · Tell @Tony_Burke to draw a #lineinthesand & stop #Woodside from destroying #aboriginal burial grounds in #Kimberley
    · 'No one would allow a whitefella cemetery to be dug up so why here?' Sign to stop destruction of #aboriginal culture
  4. Hon Tony Burke, Minister for the Environment, has the power to stop this. Tell him your opposed to the destruction of burial sites, culture and whale nurseries. Contact him at:

Address: Parliament Office, PO Box 6022, 
House of Representatives, 
Parliament House, 
Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 7640
Fax: (02) 6273 6101

Protect Songlines
Photo: Damian Kelly


 The Sunday Times article
The Sunday Times article, "Broome 'army'
ready for war on gas", January 20, 2013


Sunday Times Sand Dunes Article

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