“We’re a human being, We’re not an animal!” – Woodside Energy’s empty promises?

What’s at stake? See for yourself…

The Kimberly is a very sparsely populated and vast region in the far north west of Western Australia; its uniqueness is prevailing and is thus thought to be one of the few global assets. This pocket of tranquillity is home to some of the most endangered marine animals, including the humpback whale that swims just off the shore, furthermore Kimberly’s ecosystem and landscape is as immense as its beauty. The indigenous foundations are strong amongst Kimberly’s identity, oozing with an ever present aboriginal culture. Yet amongst this tranquillity the world’s second largest gas extractor plans to be built. Woodside Energy Ltd, a transnational gas company submitted an application to build a gas extraction plant in the sea, as well as a terminal on the Dampier Peninsula cliffs. The land right in this area are legally owned by the local indigenous group and in 2010, after a long debated period of bullying and empty promises, the aboriginal group approved the project. But where is the justice? Was this choice truly theirs? And how will this impact upon their current and future lifestyles?

Australia is economically dependent on mineral resources extraction. By exporting commodities such as iron and uranium, Australia can afford to import manufactured goods. Although, the bi-product of this reliance on natural resource seems to be the widespread disputes amongst environmentalists, energy companies, government officials and aboriginal communities. For energy companies as well as government organisations, the economic benefits outweigh the disruption and further marginalisation of precious Australian sub cultures, as well as the environmental damage caused. But in the case of the Kimberly gas extractor, some voices will not be ignored.

Woodside Energy Ltd promised a number of benefits that the aboriginal groups would reap upon commencing the project. These included; better education for young indigenous people, training and employment, support systems, protection of cultural heritage, environmental reassurance and compensating native title claims. Figures as high as $30 billion are thought to be assigned to helping and protecting indigenous culture. Yet, before constructing has even begun, aboriginals feel like the rights, the voice and the empowerment they were so forcefully lead to believe they would have, are vanishing.

Socially the long term impacts of this development could ruin the aboriginal community. The affirmative decision to allow the project instantly divided many communities, and since, the attitude of gas worker and associates toward indigenous people has been degrading and racist. As well as this, from an environmental perspective greater pressure, on the already stressed housing in Kimberly would worsen, tourism rates would plummet and the impact of the toxic fumes would put further strain of the health services in Kimberly. The project promises jobs for indigenous groups, but after further examination it seems these would be both short term and have few long term benefits. In previous cases, the white invasion has caused dependence on alcohol and drugs for indigenous groups, as well as sexual corruption from the white workers. Environmentally the cost of this gas plant would be very high. Continuous polluting flares will degrade not just the environment, but the fragile ecosystem as a whole. But above all, I struggle to comprehend when indigenous voices are still not equal. Some women speak about how they are treated like dogs. “We’re a human being! We’re not an animal!” (Crombie, 2012). This should not be stood for.

To allow aboriginals the freedom and right the not only deserve, but are entitled to, this project needs supervisor at the roots. We need to protect the Kimberly, its residents and its wildlife, before it’s too late.

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