T.O. Calls for Premier to Respect Country and Culture

The following press release was provided by Traditional Owner and STK co-chair Neil McKenzie following ABC’s Four Corners program last week: FOUR CORNERS tonight focussed on how aborigines have responded to deals and Government pressure in the Kimberley to exploit resources offshore. Save the Kimberley co-chairperson and traditional owner of Yawuru-Jabirr Jabirr country, Neilo McKenzie, says Kimberley aborigines will unite against any attempt at compulsory acquisition of native title lands for an LNG plant threatened by WA Premier Colin Barnett. Mr McKenzie says the experience of the BP oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should be a serious warning to anyone rushing to bring gas onshore for processing north of Broome until engineering for such projects improves. Mr McKenzie accused the Premier of “obscene lust” for “easy” money for his State. He criticised the Premier for “bankrolling pro-gas sections of the community” whilst ignoring the people opposed to the proposed hub at Walmadany (James Price Point) north of Broome and of unfair pressure from the Premier and industry to “cut a deal” claiming this could deliver health, housing and education for regional aboriginal communities. “He does not need to do this. The Premier has ignored the alternatives that Kimberley aborigines all want to discuss. “There is another way to get Browse Basin royalties for all Australians without wrecking one of the last great wilderness areas left on the planet like the Kimberley region let alone threatening an indigenous culture by taking away our Land for industrial precincts.” “The Premier appears to have no appreciation for the extraordinary Kimberley region and the irreversible environmental damage industrial activity could cause to our home where we practise our Culture. “He prefers instead to bully us all into deadlines to say yes to his plans by convincing us we might miss out on benefits for our people if we said no. “Premier Barnett has patronised aborigines, believing he could stomp over our rights to keep our native title country intact for future generations.” Last night on the Four Corners program, Mr Barnett claimed he wanted the vast Browse Basin gas reserves to be processed onshore in the Kimberley north of Broome because of the royalty benefits to aboriginal people. But Mr McKenzie claimed remote aborigines should have Federal Government resource tax dollars directed to their communities without having to surrender their native title claims to Government. “All it would take is vision and will by the Federal and West Australian Governments. “According to the United Nations Rights for Indigenous Peoples, we are entitled to education, health and housing without having to give up our Culture and Country to get it. “But the Federal and State Governments’ ignore this because they don’t want to have to pay. “Instead, they are getting industry to pay for what should be our rights. There is no way Kevin Rudd or Colin Barnett would ask non-indigenous Australians to do this.” Management of lucrative mining resources in remote indigenous areas of Australia should also be subjected to far greater scrutiny before approvals by Australian governments, Mr McKenzie said. “The recent BP disaster comes at a dreadful cost to the environment and tourism in that part of the world but it must be a timely warning to West Australians and Australians who may have been tempted to mine Kimberley offshore gas before engineers can confidently minimise risk and manage any such operational errors. “Worlds’ best practice is still too risky for the Kimberley,” he said.   Save The Kimberley is a public awareness campaign supported by volunteers who have lived, worked and/or extensively travelled the Kimberley including nurses, teachers, filmmakers, photographers, doctors and business executives.