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Top End Traditional Owners denied meetings with political figures to lobby for Territory gas project

Callan Morse -

Traditional Owners from the Northern Territory travelled to Canberra this week with plans to lobby political figures to support the Top End's Barossa gas project.

However after the representatives of the Top End Aboriginal Coastal Alliance (TEACA) arrived in the nation's capital, political figures, including members of Labor and the Greens refused to meet with TEACA representatives.

According to the NT News, those who declined included Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Representatives of the pro-development group had planned to put forward their case in support of Santos' Barossa offshore gas project which, pending approval, is expected to bring billions of dollars of royalties into the Northern Territory during the project's life.

However the reported dozen members of the Alliance had their meeting requests knocked back, much to the frustration of South Australian Liberal Senator, Arrernte woman Kerrynne Liddle, who criticised the Greens and Labor's stance.

"I see you, I hear you and so do my colleagues," Senator Liddle told parliament whilst TEACA representatives watched on in the Senate chamber.

"I respect that you support gas projects in and offshore in the Northern Territory. Your views are however invisible to the Labor Party, the Greens and some independents because you do not fit their ideological narrative.

"You're right to be gutted that despite travelling so far from the Top End, the Prime Minister, the Greens and some independents did not meet you. You aren't the elite, self-appointed leaders those opposite celebrate.

"You hold so much important knowledge as remote community elected leaders with cultural authority to respect and represent your communities. Yet the Greens and Labor and some, though not all the independents, are happy to trample your aspirations, your dreams and your inherent rights and legislative rights and interests."

After meeting with TEACA representatives, Shadow Resources and Northern Australia Minister Senator, Susan McDonald, said the travelling Traditional Owners deserved to be heard from all sides of Parliament.

Top End Aboriginal Coastal Alliance members observing proceedings in the Senate this week. (Image: NT News)

"The group came to Canberra so they could speak directly to politicians about their support for Santos's Barossa offshore gas project and make them aware that statements opposing it are not shared by all Traditional Owners," Senator McDonald told the Senate.

The project is opposed by Tiwi Islands Traditional Owner, Jikilaruwu man Simon Munkara, who says Santos had not properly assessed submerged cultural heritage along the route of the project's gas pipeline.

Senator McDonald said TEACA were in favour of developing the Northern Territory's offshore gas industry as it presented an opportunity to close the disadvantage gap experienced by Indigenous peoples in the NT.

She went on to share the views of a Traditional Owner in Parliament.

"It is a fact that most remote and regional First Nations peoples of the Northern Territory are living in poverty," Ms McDonald told Parliament, quoting the Traditional Owner.

"The Barossa Project presents a desperately needed opportunity for us to improve our living standards and to close the gap.

"We decided to support the Santos Barossa Project because they are supporting us.

"Our peoples will support Barossa because of the opportunity it presents. We hope that other companies will come and talk to us about their offshore activities in the same respectful way that Santos has engaged us, and with the same level of commitment to working in partnership with our peoples."

Santos is awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court hearing regarding Mr Munkara's application, whose temporary injunction remains on a specific area of the proposed pipeline route after the Federal Court ordered a qualified injunction last month.

Hearings will commence in the Darwin Supreme Court on December 4.

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