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“Santos can fuck off”: Protesters demand end to Narrabri gas project

The project is one of many that have damaged Indigenous land.

Protesters gathered in Martin Place today as part of a nation-wide action against the Narrabri gas project. 

Called by Gamilaraay Next Generation (GNG) and Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties (FISTT), the protest was in response to Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley’s decision to sign off on the controversial development last Tuesday, despite years of pushback from local communities, climate scientists and activists. 

The $3.6 billion project, headed by Australian energy giant Santos, will see up to 850 coal seam gas wells being drilled into 1,000 hectares of Gamilaraay Land.

If allowed to continue, the project will cause significant damage to the Pilliga Forest, which contains hundreds of sacred sites and many threatened species. It will pollute many of the freshwater sources in the area, including the largest freshwater aquifer in the world.

The action drew a large crowd of around 200 protesters and 50 police officers. A few protesters carried placards that read “Gamil means no” and “kill Santos.”

Protesters march down King St. Photography: Vivienne Guo.

The protest began at Macquarie Street near NSW Parliament House. “Our demands are for Santos to cease work on the Narrabri gas-fields — in our home country —  immediately,” said Ian Brown, who chaired the rally.

“Our demand is for federal and state governments to amend the cultural heritage laws that allowed this destruction and desecration of our homelands to happen in the first place. We demand for Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley and New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian to meet with Gomeroi people and undergo proper consultation,” said Brown.

Tameeka Louise, a Gomeroi-Dhunghutti-Biripai woman from Gamilaraay Next Generation, described the failures of heritage laws in protecting Indigenous heritage sites. “You sit here and you dictate in that [Parliament] house that means nothing. It destroys our land, it destroys our people, it rapes our land and it rapes our people, and it kills the lot of us.”

“There’s one land and there’s one law, and it’s ours,” Louise said.

The Santos gas project is the latest in a string of controversial projects that have damaged Indigenous land and heritage. In May, mining company Rio Tinto destroyed two sacred rock shelters in Juukan Gorge that were over 46,000 years old. In October, the Victorian government bulldozed sacred Djab Wurrung birthing trees, including a 350 year-old Directions Tree, to build a highway.

“When we examine the history of colonialism on this continent, these actions are just the continuation of the genocide committed against First Nations peoples,” said University of Sydney Enviroment Officer Lauren Lancaster.

She described the project as part of the “sanctioned erasure of the history of Indigenous Australia, designed to separate them from their Country and vandalise the living cultures of this nation’s rightful custodians.”

The crowd marched through the city, with chants such as “Santos can fuck off” and “sovereignty never ceded” echoing through the streets. The march eventually reached King St where protesters occupied the road before being told to move on by police.

As the protest disbanded on the steps of Town Hall, organisers called for protesters to attend the next Black Lives Matter rally on Monday December 7, which will continue the fight to establish an independent body to investigate Indigenous deaths in custody.

Gamilaraay Next Generation are the next generation of Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay mob fighting for our rights and generations to come. Follow their Facebook page here.