Unfortunately, Harry Stratton needs to master the humble Google search engine before announcing ‘I tend to research my claims.’ Indeed, the Kimberley Land Corporation initially voted 60% in favour of the LNG processing plant going ahead in the Kimberley region. That must have appeared in the first search option. However, Harry, I’m sorry to inform you that quite a great deal of supreme court level corruption has occurred on the part of the WA government on this issue.
Prior to the vote, the Goolarabooloo/Jabbir Jabbir people had been threatened by the WA Government that if the Kimberley Land Council voted against the LNG proposal their land would be compulsorily acquired, the project would go ahead anyway, and they would not receive the compensation package which would arrive if they voted ‘yes’. Surely, such threats entwined in a ‘democratic’ vote is evidence of corruption?
Yet with such threats to land and livelihood, only 60% of the indigenous representatives voted yes. That’s not exactly an ‘overwhelming vote in favour.’
In September 2011, after Walmadan (James Price Point) had been confirmed as the exact location of the gas hub, traditional owners from across the Kimberley denounced the Kimberley Land Council as their legal entity and announced their staunch opposition to the project. The Goolarabooloo people even went so far in their opposition of the project to invite Sea Shepherd Conservation Organisation, amongst other ‘professional protestor friends’ to join them on their land, in their fight. Does that sound like the actions of people who wanted the project to ensue? Community campaigning then took form as Indigenous elders and community members set up a blockade at Walmadan to stop the destruction of their lands and of their songlines. The Lurujarri Heritage Trail follows part of a traditional Aboriginal Song Cycle which goes directly through Walmadan. I’d agree that those traditional owners ‘know a damn sight more about where their songlines are’ ‘’than the both of us.
Evidently, indigenous communities of the Kimberley are not a homogenised mass and there were those in favour of the project due to its economic benefits or otherwise. But making an ‘indigenous benefits package’ contingent on the project is evidence that State and Federal governments are still withholding from remote indigenous communities, and using autonomy as a bargaining tool. I feel quite comfortable labelling that as corruption. Is it not a repetition of ‘paternalistic policies of the past’ when indigenous Australians are forced to compromise their lands, their beliefs and their heritage in order to gain the economic and social support that every other Australian living in cities across the country receive? It’s really really easy for ‘inner city trendies’ such as ourselves to argue within the lines of a student newspaper. It’s harder to sustain solidarity when complex questions of environmental and social justice are playing out in the real world. Community campaigning in the Kimberley demonstrates the coming together of not just ‘professional protestors’, but everyday people for intersecting reasons. Whether they feel personally afflicted or no, they choose to fight corporations to save the land of a peoples for generations to come. Hopefully the rest of the country agrees that autonomy and justice to indigenous Australians is long overdue.