is speaking at the event LNG Development in the Kimberley: Culturally and environmentally sustainable?
A world-class pristine environment in the Kimberley — an Australia-wide heritage issue and an Aboriginal song cycle are at risk if the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) precinct development goes ahead.
Redfern (Sydney), 9 July 2011
Sponsors of the event: The Wilderness Society, The Women’s Reconsiliation Network (WRN) and the Filipino Women’s Working Party (FWWP)
Here's from my diary (Christmas Eve 2011):
Thinking of Walmadan
The unknowing, the paucity of words on paper...I shudder at the thought of failure. I hope to bring a flicker of light that guides our path from the dark alley of governance. Let not hope be allowed to vanish. It is true that some let their soul be tarnished by short-term gains but nature speaks a language hidden to those who let their hearts be vanquished by the glitter of the metal or the invisible gas or the black gold...until disaster strikes when life itself is the price of the betrayal of one's true nature.
I see now how the resilience of the ordinary folk in defence of their land and home of inter-generational stories of their lives becomes the litmus test of true endurance. For what have they to lose by standing upright? The song from their heart reverberates deep into the craters of the earth and threads together the fabric of inner life. Development is a double-edged sword. What do we exchange for clean air and a healthy habitat? Development does not always mean progress. What needs mining out from the black heart is greed that allows the lure, the promise of a good life by this new century's transnational energy trading empire that has feet of clay. Life's deficit is seen in Aboriginal grinding poverty, homeless and hungry, drug-filled child abuser, wife basher shadows of themselves that need to be redeemed from their misery by philanthropic resource developers. Such a sketch of the life of the 'other' is totally racialized, and responsibility by governance of the colonised, past and present conveniently swept away. The new high priests of development today find a scapegoat to justify the slaughter of their land --- Mother earth who to traditional first people's eyes, with mutual care, continues to recreate this world to sustain our life. Do the so-called 'developers' not realize that snipping away the umbilical cord to our planet earth spells the death knell of all our existence?
Human law is like a reed that sways with the wind. Sometimes it delivers on the side of the upright but at other times, it perpetuates the action of the unjust. The law of the Dreaming is the law of nature - the land and the sea and the river and the air, the flowers and animals and the rocks have eyes and ears. Nature is alive and it delivers its own judgement upon the earth. Catastrophe can strike beyond human control. The pride of the human species is the supreme deficit of the intellect when it inflicts upon society a drive for the instant gratification of a few, and in the process, threatening to destroy the habitat of generations yet to come.
I cannot sleep tonight. But faith and hope in the resilience and endurance of the human spirit breathe new life into my inner struggle.
Extract from my research (work-in-progress):
In May 2011, the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) presided over the traditional owners’ final vote of 60% in support of the LNG development at James Price Point. A new group has emerged in Broome after this vote, calling themselves ‘Broome families’. The ‘Broome families’ questions the validity of that vote because of what it perceives as an anomaly in the representation of traditional owners’. Mitch Torres, a Jabirr Jabirr, Djugun and Yawuru traditional owner and a spokesperson for this group was asked by an ABC reporter if she considered that day as a day for ‘self-determination’ as the premier calls it, and if she felt that her voice was part of the decision-making process? She replied,
Absolutely not! How can it be when family groups were left out of the process. The voting process was absolutely flawed. That is not about self-determination. When a people cannot be heard, their voice cannot be heard...the town of Broome is made up of many families…The decision that was made will impact on all of us. We don’t know what that impact is really. We don’t have that information. You don’t have that information. Woodside doesn’t have that information. They cannot tell us that we are going to be safe. We have all the right to have clear air, clean water — looking after nature. What about all those things? That wasn’t taken into consideration. And of the 1600 registered Jabirr Jabirr people, less than 300 voted. That was not a clear mandate. (ABC radio, 1/9/11)
Another spokesperson for the ‘Broome Families’, Dr Anne Poelina claims that the KLC does not represent all Indigenous people and that there is a conflict between the traditional owners and the KLC in terms of the democratic process employed. She said ‘Broome families’ is a key stakeholder that had not been included in the conversation.[i] Representing the families, Poelina, Alan Pigram and Mitch Torres brought to Canberra a petition consisting of almost 3000 signatures from Broome. They want to slow the process down because they do not believe it is good business. She said that the development would impact on the cultural landscape and on the quality of life of the ordinary people of Broome. She objects to the ‘total encroachment’ on Aboriginal land and on the song line and is concerned over the effect on the pristine wilderness that she said should be preserved for all Australians and the world.
Dr Poelina, a health professional and human rights advoocate is the main author of Niykina Mangala Mardoowarran (Fitzroy River) Sustainable Livelihoods on Country Case Study that outlines a more integrated cultural and ecological approach to governance that would build sustainable livelihoods and secure the socio-economic wellbeing of her people. The kind of development the locals seek is a partnership and capacity building model that utilizes local knowledge and resources combined with western science. Past and present government attitudes are seen as promoting institutionalised, structural and legislative racism through a highly anti-dialogic approach (Poelina 2011:19). Local people are concerned that the process does not involve broad and extensive community discussion, for example, ‘whether mining, exploration or other large developments should have the right to take up a proportion of the national carbon emission allocation or the right to destroy wilderness country, including rare and endangered ecosystems and species or to negatively impact on indigenous people and /or the environment…’(Poelina 2011: 21).
In a speech Poelina prepared and read to the ‘No New Coal Rally on 11 December 2010, she illustrated the indirect flow-on environmental effect of the proposed gas hub development on Fitzroy River:
While the proposed gas hub at James Price Point won’t have a direct impact on the river country (Fitzroy River) it will send clouds of poisonous gas and particulates to settle on the land, water, and animals, plants and people right across the Kimberley…We are Australians and we want the right to live free from the poison and destruction imposed by the deepening colonial footprint called industrialisation. Coal and uranium mining, and gas extraction processes propose very real threats to the people, environment, hydrology and economic sustainability of the West Kimberley region. (insertion supplied)[ii]
[i] http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/local/kimberley/201107/r794345_6937963.mp3, accessed 12/9/11
Poems by Deborah Wall
1) Spiral of silence.
The corporate world
mines the ground
mines our hearts.
The energy alliance feeds ungrounded faith
in the spiral of affluence, widening the gulf
between the natural and the contrived.
When the earth becomes a desert,
where do we turn?
When our soul becomes a desert,
where is life?
Famished body, shrunken soul.
and the twinkle of life
deserts our grasp.
Le-an is an invisible relationship feeling
of how Country reaches out.
A subtle shift breaks open consciousness,
letting us hear her call.
The earth, the surrounding sea
is a mother embracing our dreams.
Does not the child who turns away from her
shrink her own soul link with the Self?
The intrusive industrial drill and dig
damages mutual life-giving
that people Indigenous to Country
The Spirit never dies
but our co-creation
of the features of the land,
of the old song-line is put in peril
with unfettered development
let loose to destroy
our umbilical bond.
Politicians warn protesters
of breaking the law, of breaching safety.
But a greater LAW broken heralds
you will know when next
3) A Star far and near
Star fragmented, fractured,
swallowed by the black hole
in a galaxy light years away.
Old life dies.
New life creeps in.
Mysteries fold and unfold.
The gulf seems wide and deep
and you are just a breath away.
A moment captures
People doing time.
prisoners of their mind.
What new knowledge to explore?
Flora and fauna
speak a common tongue
while we make aliens
in the home planet
we all share.
in the autumn of my life.
The glitter of the world
hardly allures me.
At the edge of ‘non-existence’,
my world turns grey in the light.
I am not yet done.
4) Fragments from the abyss
Raindrops, like tears held back suddenly
burst out from the clouds like a torrent.
Raw thoughts struggled for re-birth
longing to be unchained from objectivity.
Re-imagining the mining of minds,
of rare gems explored that dematerialized.
Struggling against the current, spirits were caught
in the eye of the 'development' storm.
Blood dripped from my chalice as I watched
sacrificial lambs offered in the altar of ONE World.
Life, emptied of pulsating energy,
slowly lost its lustre.
Stars that adorned the night sky
retreated to the cover of darkness.
Dwellers within the tough shell’s crusty exterior
seemed to be 'missing in action'.
Now pristine crystal raindrops slowly feed
the parched dry land of my arrested thoughts.
Reproduced with kind permission from Deborah Wall.
Info about the Kimberley campaign in German and English: please click here