The Minyerri community – 250 kilometres south-east of Katherine on Alawa Country – are demanding consultation with gas exploration company Origin Energy.
Jennifer Scherer

21 Jun 2019 - 2:25 PM  UPDATED 21 Jun 2019 - 2:39 PM

A gas company has gained approval to begin several fracking projects in the Northern Territory, but Alawa Elder Naomi Wilfred says the company has no such agreement with the traditional owners of the land.

Origin Energy intends to create two new 'fracking' wells in the Beetaloo Basin 600 kilometres south of Darwin on Alawa Country near the town of Daly Waters, but the remote Minyerri community has other ideas.

“Our Native Title Rights: they are ignoring it and making decisions without us,” Aunty Naomi told NITV News. “No one is listening to us, not even our Land Council.

“We were never invited to the meeting.”

The interests of Origin Energy in the Northern Territory covers three permits for exploration over 18,500 km2.

On its website, the company claims to have worked closely with First Nations Traditional Owners and pastoral leaseholders in the Beetaloo basin, which has involved securing permission to access lands and undertaking sacred site clearances "to ensure the protection for areas important to the Native Title holders”.

Spokesperson for Origin Energy Christopher Zipf says the exploration permits "aren’t on Alawa Aboriginal land, and we’re not exploring for gas (or fracking) in the community of Minyerri."

"Every Aboriginal person is [a] Traditional Owner - and we respect the deep connection they have to land and sea," Mr Zipf told NITV News.

"We work with the Northern Land Council to ensure we talk with the Traditional Owners who are the Native Title holders and who can make decisions and speak for the country within our exploration permit area.

"We’ve recently met with the Native Title holders for where we’ll resume work later this year to review our plans again with them in detail and talk about the protections and controls in place to protect groundwater and the environment."

Community resistance

But the Alawa people claim 99 per cent of the community have voted to stop Origin Energy’s access to Country.

And according to national director of Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Amelia Telford, this kind of community advocacy has the ability to stop Origin from 'fracking' in the area.

“Earlier this year when the Northern Territory government lifted the moratorium on fracking, it became pretty evident that the concerns of Aboriginal Communities and people across the Territory about fracking, were being ignored,” Ms Telford said in an online video.

“Lifting the moratorium was a huge slap in the face especially to those people on the ground who’ve been fighting for years against this dangerous industry.”

'It will contaminate everything'

To assist the Alawa people's plight, Seed Youth Climate Network have started an online pledge to ban fracking across the Northern Territory. So far, the drive has exceeded its goal of 5000 signatures.

Aunty Naomi said she will stand firm on Country and continue to fight.

“It damages our land, our song lines, our history, our bush tucker,” she said.

“It will contaminate everything - our beautiful springs where the kids swim will be gone. When we hunt for fish, they will be toxic.

“We are worried about our water which is culturally alive and important."

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