Fifteen thousand call on Burke to stop the destruction of Aboriginal burial grounds at James Price Point
Goolarabooloo Elders want Walmandan protected – Photo, Damian Kelly
Traditional owners of Walmandany – the location for the proposed controversial $40 billion James Price Point gas hub – have called on the Federal Environment minister Tony Burke to respond immediately to an overwhelming call from their communities. They want him to intervene and protect the listed burial grounds and sacred sites of Walmadany which they said are set to be destroyed by Woodside’s exploratory works.
Woodside denied this and their spokeswoman said that the Woodside-led venture partners and their contractors are working alongside Traditional Owners to minimise any risk of damage to sacred sites.
Goolarabooloo family spokesman Errol Roe said that Mr Burke is obliged to act. “He must intervene to stop the destruction of ancient burial grounds and our cultures.”
“In only two weeks, over 15,000 people have signed my grandmother’s (Teresa Roe’s) petition.” Mrs Roe, a great grandmother, is the matriarch of the Goolarabooloo.
The Woodside-led venture partners were recently granted a Section 18 from the West Australian government, however according to the Goolarabooloo this is a ticket to damage or destroy listed Aboriginal heritage sites.
Mr Roe said that similar applications in the 1990s were turned down as the sites were deemed culturally significant. He said he was disturbed by the fact that the WA Government has not explained the “turnaround from then to now.”
“Even after the State Government said this area must be protected, the Barnett Government has rubber stamped the destruction of our ancient burial grounds and midden sites.”
“Barnett is hell-bent on allowing Woodside to destroy our living culture.”
Recently, Premier Barnett was criticised for imputing that he would block any alternative offshore sites for the liquified gas hub site. The Environmental Protection Agency’s head Dr Vogel was somewhat miffed by this and said he did not believe that Premier Barnett legally had this “power.”
In response to what the Traditional Elders believe will be the imminent destruction of important sites, the Goolarabooloo, one of the two Native Title claimant groups, has officially called upon Mr Burke to enact an urgent stop work order under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.
Matriarch Teresa Roe said that the petition has resonated with people around the world. She said she will be waiting with genuine anticipation for Mr Burke’s response.
“My spirit comes from this Country. My sister was stolen by welfare. My parents hid me, so I could be raised on Country with my culture. I raised nine of my own children and eight of my sister’s children after she passed away”, said Mrs Roe. “My sons are the Law Men for this Country. They have the responsibility to protect it. They hold the songs, the stories. Our ancestors are buried in those dunes. No-one would allow a whitefella cemetery to be dug up – so why here?”
The controversial Gas hub proposal has become the largest environmental issue on the Australian landscape, and similarly with Aboriginal land and cultural rights. The protests have been led by the Goolarabooloo however have attracted widespread support from Kimberley residents and Australians nationwide.