Anti-fracking protesters plead not guilty to criminal damages, with one Traditional Owner saying he was motivated by fear that local Indigenous voices were being silenced by the government.
Mikele Syron

21 Oct 2020 - 11:38 AM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2020 - 11:38 AM

Two organisers of the 2019 anti-fracking protest which involved using a bobcat to dig holes in the grass outside Northern Territory Parliament House last year both pleaded not guilty to criminal charges on Monday.

Traditional Owner and driver of the bobcat, Conrad Rory, organised the protest to express opposition to the NT government’s decision to lift its moratorium on fracking.

Outside Darwin Local Court on Monday morning, Mr Rory told media he decided to stage the protest because he believed that the concerns of Indigenous people on the matter were being disregarded by government officials.

"No one cares what happens out there, (but) once you put a bobcat on parliament lawn, everyone goes berserk,” said Mr Rory.

Mr Rory and Lauren Mellor were charged with one count each of criminal damage to property.

Both Mr Rory and Ms Mellor were associated with the environmental group, Protect Country Alliance, when they organised the 2019 protest demonstration.

Witnesses told the court that the holes dug by Mr Rory were between six and twelve inches deep and took an hour to be repaired.

When Mr Rory took to the witness stand, the court was told that metal contamination from the McArthur River Mine had already negatively impacted the livelihood of the local Indigenous community and he had been concerned that fracking would contaminate the water further.

“I wouldn’t want to end up in the long grass or on the street because the water has been poisoned,” Mr Rory told the court.

In the court yesterday, the prosecution argued that Mr Rory could have staged a protest in front of parliament that did not damage property and suggested that he was directed by Ms Mellor to drill the holes.

The prosecution lawyer, Ian Rowbottom, accused Ms Mellor of being the mastermind and orchestrating the protest to gain public attention for the Protect Country Alliance group.

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