STUDENTS SHUT DOWN COAL EXPORTS AT WILLOW TREE
WILLOW TREE, 13 MARCH 2016:
Coal trains have been stopped from Whitehaven’s coal mines between Maules Creek and Willow Tree. Four students from ANU have occupied a coal train. They are demanding that Environment minister “The best minister for coal” Greg Hunt use his discretionary power to permanently protect Lawlers Well, a highly sacred site to the Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Traditional Custodians of this land.
Today we are demanding basic respect for cultural land rights of the original Gomoroi/Gamilaraay people of this land. Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has neglected to fulfil his duty, under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage and Protection Act (ATSIHP Act), to protect significant sites in the forest. Whitehaven Coal have already destroyed or irrevocably damaged 38 sacred sites, including 10 sites of high significance. Lawler’s Well is the single remaining high order sacred site, and is still under threat from mine expansion by Whitehaven.
“I refuse to stand idle and watch on at the dispossession of Gomeroi land and the destruction of our environment,” said Victoria Herbert, 20, University Student.
“I’m here to protect the forest because open cuts don’t heal and I want a clean energy future,” said Elle Lawless, 22, University student.
Two years ago, Gomeroi traditional custodians made an application to Environment Minister Greg Hunt that he use his powers under Section 9 and 10 of the ATSIHP Act to stop work in the area and protect Lawler’s Well. Minister Greg Hunt has stated that Whitehaven will not clear the area until 2017, and therefore he does not need to make a decision under the Act.
“We are asking Greg Hunt to commence an independent report that will include oral evidence to inform his decision. We are asking him to do his job and protect our Lawler’s Well.” said Dolly Talbot Gomeroi Traditional Custodian.
“It is so hard seeing the destruction of our country. The elders have been waiting too long for answers. It is completely unacceptable that Hunt has dragged his feet on the protection of Lawler’s Well. We reasonably expect the respect of a timely assessment and our rightful opportunity to have protection enacted,” said Dolly Talbot
There are a large collection of people deeply concerned with the expansion of mining projects on Gomeroi country. Alliances between many First Nations and non-indigenous protectors have formed in opposition to these projects. Front Line Action on Coal is honoured to work alongside the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians to defend Lawler’s Well and the Leard State Forest.
Raymond Weatherall, Gamilaraay Nation – 0401 069 492
Front Line Action on Coal Contact
Chelsea Lazar – 0422 071 108