Open letter from Murujuga Custodians

Published by Save our songlines, 23 March 2022

Open letter from Traditional Owners and Custodians of Murujuga concerning the proposed Woodside Scarborough gas development We are Traditional Owners and custodians of Murujuga. This includes the ancient songlines and over 1 million ancient rock carvings. It also includes the unique plants, animals and other beings that call Murujuga home, and the spiritual traditions that maintain them. Our unique culture and our future depend on the health of this country, and it is our responsibility as custodians to protect it.

We are deeply disturbed by Woodside’s proposed Scarborough gas development. We believe the damage that will be done to our own cultural heritage by this project would be devastating to our people, and we are alarmed that our country would be used in a way that will harm people all over the world by accelerating global warming.

Woodside’s gas developments on Murujuga have already destroyed or damaged many sacred sites and thousands of ancient rock carvings left by our ancestors. Today, these projects continue to release pollution which is damaging the rock art. Traditional Owners fought against these developments but were not given any say. Instead, our sacred lands were forcibly acquired, and gag clauses were placed on our people preventing us from speaking out.

The Scarborough development continues this past injustice, and will further damage to our environment and cultural heritage. It will cause more pollution, interrupt ancient song lines and harm plants and animals that are sacred to our culture.

Traditional Owners have not been adequately consulted, and do not consent to the Scarborough development. We are deeply concerned that Woodside and the State Government are proceeding without fully understanding the risks to our environment and culture, and we are distressed that Traditional Owners have been denied an opportunity to understand and consider these impacts.

Murujuga is a place of outstanding global heritage value. Through the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, Traditional Owners have expressed their aspirations to “work towards reducing the industrial footprint with an ultimate goal of zero industry on Murujuga”, however we are restricted from pursuing this goal due to gag clauses and funding agreements with Woodside.

Investors, shareholders, and decision makers should be aware that proceeding with the Scarborough development and Pluto LNG expansion without the consent of Traditional Owners denies our people basic human rights and is contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights and Interests of Aboriginal peoples.

As Traditional Owners and custodians of Murujuga, we know our culture is more valuable than short term gas projects. We want to practise, protect and share our unique cultural heritage for the benefit of all people now and in the future. We do not want to see our heritage destroyed while we are prevented from speaking out about our concerns.

Our requests

To Woodside investors, shareholders, and commercial partners:

We call on you to

  1. Withhold investment in any projects on Murujuga under the current circumstances where Traditional Owners are gagged from speaking out and denied access to the necessary information to make decisions about our country.

  2. Pause any further investment decisions on the Scarborough project until the free, prior, and informed consent of Murujuga Traditional Owners is obtained.

 

To Premier Mark McGowan and the WA Government:

We call on you to

  1. Immediately remove gag clauses in State Agreements that restrict our people from speaking out about the damage that the Scarborough development will do to our cultural heritage. The Senate Inquiry into Juukan Gorge has recommended that such gag clauses are outlawed.

  2. Provide independent funding for Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to allow it to manage the cultural heritage of Murujuga without being compromised by relying on funding from Woodside.

  3. Pause any further approvals for the Scarborough development and related projects until Traditional owners can have an opportunity to properly consider the impacts on our cultural heritage and environment.