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WA Police raid home of outspoken Burrup campaigner

Giovanni Torre -

The home of Mardudhunera woman Raelene Cooper, who is campaigning to protect ancient rock art in Western Australia's north from further industrialisation, was raided by WA Police on Thursday while she was giving evidence as an expert witness in a case involving climate change protesters.

Ms Cooper, the former chair of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, is one of the leaders of the Save Our Songlines campaign, which argues that the impact of industrial activity on the Burrup peninsula is threatening Indigenous rock art in the area believed to be more than 60,000 years old.

Ms Cooper is the lead applicant on a Section 10 cultural assessment application under the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act. The assessment, which began in September, is ongoing.

WA police searched a number of properties on Thursday morning, including Ms Cooper's while she was at court in Karratha giving expert evidence at the trial of three protesters who blockaded the Burrup peninsula in November 2021.

Ms Cooper said that according to the police search warrant and property receipt, which she received after the raid, the only items taken by police were two smoking devices "that can be legally purchased in shops".

"While I was appearing as an expert witness to give evidence about the cultural heritage and climate impacts of the Burrup Hub on our sacred Murujuga rock art, a dozen police raided my home," she said.

"While I shared my cultural knowledge and authority as a traditional custodian a dozen cops kicked down my unlocked door, locking up my dogs and went through my house.

"The police found nothing and charged me with no crime. This is an obvious and brazen attempt to shut me up and make me scared to keep speaking out. It will not work."

A WA Police spokesperson said four people had been charged with seven offences as a result of the execution of "several search warrants" on Thursday morning.

"Karratha Detectives conducted several search warrants under the 'Misuse of Drugs Act, 1981' This was a day-of-action, responding to several community reports received in recent weeks. These reports described anti-social behaviour, and drug related activity on Miles Loop in Baynton," they said.

WA Police would not comment on the identity of those charged or the details of the charges.

Ms Cooper said she would not be silenced or intimidated.

"It is just the latest tactic from powerful vested interests who have already used gag clauses, dodgy consultation and ignored the objections of Elders to repeatedly prioritise dangerous industry over our sacred sites and the climate," she said.

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