Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation rejects implication its management of Murujuga is ‘compromised’

Alexander Scott
Pilbara News/Kimberley Echo
Fri, 25 March 2022

An Aboriginal corporation has rejected implications from an open letter presented to Parliament that its management of Murujuga has been compromised.

It comes after 27 Murujuga custodians from Save Our Songlines signed an open letter to the State Government protesting “gag clauses”.

Signatories presented the open letter in person on March 24 before meeting members of Parliament about what they claimed was inadequate industry consultation due to a ‘gag clause’ in the Burrup and Maitland Estates Industrial Agreement.

The letter claimed past attempts of traditional custodians to speak out about these developments were prevented by gag clauses placed on them by State Government agreements.

It asked the State Government to hold any further approvals for Scarborough and the related Perdaman project until “proper” consultation could occur, as well as ensuring independent funding for the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation rather than “forcing them to rely on industry”.

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation chairman Peter Jeffries. Credit: Alexander Scott/Pilbara News/Pilbara News
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation has rejected any implication that it is “compromised” in its management of the cultural heritage of Murujuga as a result of receiving funding from Woodside.

MAC chairman Peter Jeffries said the corporation was not a signatory to the open letter, nor did it contribute to or endorse its content.

“Woodside’s Scarborough development, and other industry development on Murujuga, is a highly sensitive and emotive topic which has caused significant unrest within the community,” he said.

“MAC remains committed to protecting the cultural and heritage values of Murujuga and is the most appropriate and dedicated entity to fulfil this duty.”

Mardudhunera traditional custodian Raelene Cooper said they did not consent to the Scarborough project or the Perdaman plant developments.

Traditional owners Josie Alec and Raelene Cooper.Traditional owners Josie Alec and Raelene Cooper. Credit: Supplied/Save Our Songlines Camp/RegionalHUB
She said traditional custodians were concerned about the environmental impact the projects would have on Murujuga.

“The State Government needs to come to the table on this. We don’t want to negotiate Scarborough at all — this project is null and void,” she said.

“Our human rights state that we as Ngurrara people have every right to salvage, resource, maintain, promote and preserve our Ngurra.

“We are here as Ngurrara people to take care as guardians of the land and the government won’t even listen to us. Today we demand that they allow us to speak at last.”

Ngarluma custodian Patrick Churnside said the Juukan Gorge inquiry’s recommendation for the removal of gag clauses from all agreements should be adhered to and acted on.

“I think it’s highlighting the need to change that agreement,” he said.

“The wellbeing of our songlines and dreaming and stories is dependent on this country. We have an obligation to our country, our people and our culture.”