With the recent announcement that the NT Government is lifting fracking bans and the community of Borroloola being told that their water is now unsafe to drink, the message presented in SEED's Water Is Life documentary is now more important than ever.
With the threat of coal seam gas fracking across the country, environmental activists SEED Indigenous Youth Climate Network Mob recently travelled to a First Nations community in North Dakota to learn about the dangerous health implications caused by this dangerous industry.
Filmed over two years through funding by small contributions from Seed's supporters and directed by Cam Suttie at Know Studio, the documentary Water Is Life, introduces us to Kandi Mosset a Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara woman from the community who shows first-hand the impacts that fracking has had on her immediate family and extended community.
"Once you destroy your water, you destroy yourself. You become toxic, you get sick, you die," she says. Delivered with grave urgency at the site of a chemical dumping ground, with the town's water tower visible just nearby, Mosset's message is clear —do whatever you can to stop the companies who are keen on profits, but not accountability.
Since fracking began in Kandi's community in 2006, the town has been plagued by health conditions that only seem to be getting worse. "The people that are sitting on the fence [about the issue of fracking]. Wake Up! They are lying to you, they are going to destroy you." Mosset warns.
Amelia Telford, National Co-Director of SEED, tells NITV that the threat to Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory is very real. Meeting with other First Nations' groups overseas, they've learnt that lives and culture is at stake. "Meeting and sharing stories with our First Nations sister Kandi Mossett and her community showed us the firsthand experience of fracking and how little regard these companies have for Indigenous peoples," she says.
"This visit also gave us insight into the many failed attempts that gas companies in the US have made to stop poisoned waste water from fracking from entering fresh water systems, threatening the health and lives of people in surrounding communities. This is incredibly scary to think about how waste water would be managed in the Northern Territory especially during wet season and monsoons."
The documentary, which debuted in the community of Bagot, in Darwin also introduces us to several community leaders in Borroloola who share their concerns for their country and wellbeing. With the threat of fracking on their doorstep the changes already evident in climate. Bush foods, for example, are late to bloom, signalling a sickness in the country.
"I don't want fracking in this place," says Yanyuwa man, James Roper, "Our songlines run through this country. We need to keep it as it is. [Fracking] is just like pulling your heart out of your body."
Last week the NT Government posted a warning to residents of Borroloola, instructing them not to drink water in the Garawa communities, a site just 70km away from one of the worlds largest lead mines. The warning comes only days after the government announced they would be lifting bans on fracking throughout the state.
Telford says that communities should be concerned. "Fracking is a huge threat to Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory. [People] who are concerned about the impacts that this industry would have on country, water, culture and the climate for generations to come. If fracked, recent estimates suggest that development of the Beetaloo and McArthur Basin gas reserves alone could release emissions that would be five times that of Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in QLD," Telford states.
Thank God for the people that are fighting back. Fight as if your life depends upon it. Because it does.
"Remote and regional communities in the NT are already feeling the impacts of climate change, but fracking will make this even worse seeing increases in heat waves, water shortages and more extreme flooding which could force many remote communities off their country, and make large parts of the NT unliveable," she says.
In a report from the NT Fracking Inquiry, admissions that fracking is risky are made, with offers of mitigating these risks made at the same time. However SEED believe that this is not good enough.
"No number of regulations will protect precious country, groundwater and our climate from thousands of new gas wells. You only have to look at the failed attempts to protect the environment from the McArthur River lead and zinc mine, the Ranger uranium mine and other large resource projects across the Northern Territory to know that it is not possible to protect country from these environmental disasters and consecutive governments and mining companies cannot be trusted, especially with the huge risks posed by fracking."
Some of Australia's top scientists and doctors are raising the alarm about the impacts of fracking, after research has shown that days where Darwin experiences temperatures over 35 degrees, is expected to climb from 11 to 308 by 2070 if emissions are not reduced. It's this kind of evidence that has seen fracking banned in many states across the world.
Many people are still unsure about the actual process of shale gas fracking and what dangers it poses, with many in Aboriginal communities led to believe that this form of gas mining will bring stability and economic development.
Telford explains, "The process of fracking sends hundreds of dangerous chemicals into groundwater, and storing the waste on the surface would pollute drinking water for communities who are already struggling with water security. The potential damage to water, country the climate and people's health caused by fracking would be irreversible. NT communities do not want to be treated like an experiment for such a dangerous technology."
The fight is not over and we know that people powered, community-led movements in Australia and around the world have won state and territory-wide bans on fracking before
Without consultation and transparency with Aboriginal communities, the implications could potentially be catastrophic. "Many communities are actually looking towards a future powered by clean, renewable energy and alternative industries like eco-tourism that could bring about positive change and economic development that doesn't force people to exploit country and culture for cash. The jobs and economic benefits of fracking are only short term but the long term impacts on sacred land, precious water and the climate are long term and irreversible."
Looking forward, Telford is hopeful that when the public comes together and puts pressure on governments, that great outcomes can be achieved. Victoria, where fracking has been banned, is one such example.
"There's a lot more work that we need to do to pressure the NT Government, Federal Government, as well as the gas companies to make it clear that Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory, supported by people around the country, don't want their country to be fracked and are calling for a ban.
The fight is not over and we know that people powered, community-led movements in Australia and around the world have won state and territory-wide bans on fracking before, like in Victoria where the State Labor Government have banned fracking, so there’s no reason why the NT Government can’t do the same and eventually, the entire country."
Mosset praises those that are leading the battle across the world. "Thank God for the people that are fighting back. Fight as if your life depends upon it. Because it does."
Watch SEED's powerful documentary, Water Is Life.