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Gas hub opponents take fight to the United Nations, march on Murujuga

Giovanni Torre -

Fresh from speaking at the United Nations last week, a group of Traditional Owners led a march on Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) on Sunday to express their opposition to further industrial development in the area.

Organisers say about 100 people gathered at Hearson Cove in northern Western Australia on Sunday to march in opposition to Woodside's gas operations on the peninsula.

Days before the protest, the organisers voiced their concerns at the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People in Geneva about the impact of expanding industry on the Burrup's UNESCO World Heritage-nominated rock art.

Ngarluma man Patrick Churnside said they marched was held to raise awareness about industrial impacts on Murujuga.

"We're out here today, expressing the message that industry cannot coexist with our culture and heritage on Murujuga and we need to make that clear for some of those that may not hold that same view," he said.

"The messages we have consistently been putting out is about the free, prior and informed consent of traditional custodians regarding the industry impacts that are coming to Murujuga.

"Ultimately, as traditional owners and custodians we don't want to see our country being destroyed - we want to be able to say no."

Yindjibarndi elder Tootsie Daniel said she did not want to see any petroglyphs moved or sites disrupted.

"We need to stand strong together and do what is right for us and for our leaders that went on before us, but mainly we need to stand together for that Country, for that place, the Burrup Peninsula known as Murujuga," she said.

"It was a lonely country after the massacres but we have brought it back to life by looking after it, and caring for it, and standing up and speaking for it."

Demonstrators also raised concerns about carbon emissions from the project and from fuel subsequently being used by Woodside customers contributing to climate change.

A Woodside spokesperson said no petroglyphs or other sites would be moved or disturbed as part of the Scarborough/Pluto Train 2 project.

"The expansion of the Pluto facility will occur entirely within a previously cleared area which contains no cultural sites or rock art," she said.

"In addition to the comprehensive archaeological and ethnographic surveys conducted for the Pluto foundation project over the area, Woodside has conducted ethnographic surveys with community Elders for the Scarborough project focusing on the offshore area and Australia-first underwater archaeological assessments.

"These assessments have not identified any heritage values or sites which would be impacted by the project."

The Woodside spokesperson said research had not demonstrated any impacts on Burrup rock art from emissions associated with Woodside's operations to date, and said the company had a role to play in reducing overall carbon emissions.

"We see a significant ongoing role for Woodside's LNG production to support our customers' decarbonisation commitments," she said.

"When used to generate electricity, natural gas emits around half the life cycle emissions of coal.

"Gas-fired power generation is expected to be an important source of grid stability and flexibility as power systems become renewables-rich."

In April, Environment Minister Reece Whitby and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti announced an additional $11 million for enhancement and management of Murujuga National Park, including the expansion of the Murujuga Rock Art Monitoring Program.

The funding includes $1.6 million to support the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation's role in overseeing the monitoring program and the formal training of two Aboriginal rangers.

National Indigenous Times has contacted the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation for comment.

The $16 billion Burrup Hub will see gas from the Scarborough fields processed at Woodside's Pluto LNG facility on the Burrup Peninsula, with, according to the state government, construction expected to create 3,200 temporary jobs, and 600 ongoing operational jobs.

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