“Waylay and delay. Educate and mobilise. Stop it.”
Such were the objectives of the campaign won on Friday, April 12 with the withdrawal of Woodside Energy from the $45 billion Browse LNG gas project. The local community managed to stop the world’s second largest liquefied natural gas hub at James Price Point, near Broome.
The project threatened not only a pristine biodiverse marine ecosystem, encompassing endangered and undescribed species by coral reef dredging and blasting, but also the largest humpback whale nursery in the world.
Additionally, 2400 hectares of rare monsoon forest and Pindan woodlands was set to be cleared for infrastructure. Of immeasurable importance, the project would all but remove any remaining autonomy of the Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr peoples from their land, whilst dividing Aboriginal songlines and destroying sacred burial sites.
This would only serve to open the previously inaccessible Kimberley region to dirty, unconventional fossil fuel hunters. Woodside CEO Peter Coleman credits the project withdrawal with “economic unviability”. With construction due to commence in 2010, do we believe them when they deny the agency of unwavering protest? No.In fact, we expect that of unethical industry married to a corrupt government.
It is the steadfast protest by Indigenous custodians, community blockaders, independent scientists and national lobby groups which have succeeded in scaring Woodside out of developing without a social license. Direct action at the Walmaden blockade not only prevented construction for days at a time, but asserted the presence of the land’s true custodians, and a national community who joined in solidarity to support them.
Moreover, government corruption throughout the development approval process, where only one of five Environmental Protection Agency board members voted to pass the project, was exposed. WA Premier Colin Barnett’s exploitation and coercion of traditional owners, through “compulsory acquisition” was also shut down in two successful legal battles, and a federal court case scrutinising the Kimberley coastline development rages on.
It is this broad community fight which shaped victory in the Kimberley. It reminds us that community action can, and does create change. Let us celebrate our win and use it to propel us further. The fight is not over.
Contact the Student Environment Action Collective (SEAC) on Wednesdays, 12pm at the Manning lawns to meet others on campus seeking environmental justice.