Songlines or pipelines in the Burrup?

Jesse Noakes, February 2022, The Monthly

The largest new fossil-fuel project in Australia threatens the world’s most significant rock art.

“The rocks are not just pretty preschool drawings – they are a creation story,” explains Josie Alec, a Kuruma Mardudhunera traditional custodian and healer who organised the rally in Karratha. “For me, our ‘Save the Burrup’ campaign is about giving voice to the plants and animals, and protecting their songlines.”

It’s Saturday afternoon in Karratha, an industrial town in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region at the gateway to the biggest liquified natural gas hub in Australia. Drowsy in the November heat at the end of the dry season, a crowd of a few dozen gathers on the turf of the Karratha Quarter, the town’s main square.

It’s the first time the local community has rallied against industrial developments on the nearby Burrup Peninsula, or Murujuga, in more than a decade. “If you look and listen and learn, the country will show you,” Churnside explains, translating his Ngarluma introduction before a ute revving loudly behind the stage drowns out his words. Police cars, marked and unmarked, crawl past every few minutes.

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