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Woodside CEO backs Voice, says company moved sacred rock art in the past

Emma Ruben -

Woodside Energy chief executive officer Meg O'Neill said this week that the company backed a Voice to Parliament in an address to the National Press Club which included confirmation Woodside had moved sacred rock art in the past.

The revelation came after Ms O'Neill was asked what position the company would take if the Voice recommended all Murujuga rock art be left in its current position.

"I'll be direct when we built the Karratha Gas Plant which was our first investment there, we did move rock art," Ms O'Neill said.

"We did it in a way that was culturally sensitive at the time but in light of hindsight it is not something we would repeat."

The CEO was asked the question after throwing the company's weight behind the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Ms O'Neill described a constitutionally enshrined Voice as "an important step forward in reconciliation".

"On the night of his party's election victory a year ago, Anthony Albanese said that this was his goal as Prime Minister he wanted "to bring Australia together." I applaud this, particularly as my country of origin, the United States, is polarised on many issues," she said.

Ms O'Neill noted Woodside was working to improve its relations with Traditional Owners of Murujuga, where Woodside's largest Australian operations are based.

The chief executive also said over Woodside's 40 years they had been on a journey in terms of what they would categorise as culturally appropriate.

The Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia, known as Murujuga to Traditional Owners, contains the largest, oldest collection of rock art in the world.

In February of this year, the federal government had previously nominated Murujuga Cultural Landscape for inscription on the World Heritage List.

A Woodside spokesperson acknowledged that past practices did not meet current community or company standards.

"Cultural heritage impacts were managed differently in the past, and those practices do not meet the standards that we now set ourselves and that the community expects today," they said.

"During the design and construction of Karratha Gas Plant (KGP) in the 1980s the Western Australian government, through the WA Museum, managed the heritage assessment and site clearances on behalf of the North West Shelf Project.

"1,832 petroglyphs were relocated from the KGP site to a compound at Hearson's Cove. This was in-line with good practice at the time, seeking to protect the rock art rather than destroy it."

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