On Saturday 12 August, the IEU was part of a strong delegation of unionists to travel to Coonabarabran, through the Pilliga and on to Narrabri as part of the Stand with Gomeroi rally and road trip.
The union movement is supporting the Gomeroi people in their efforts to stop the Pilliga/Narrabri gas project, a project that will see Santos build 850 coal seam gas (CSG) wells on Gomeroi country in the Pilliga.
The delegation included members from Unions NSW, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF), National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), United Workers Union (UWU), the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Services Union (ASU).
Matt Shields, a proud Gomeroi man and nurse, spoke passionately about why he opposes the project.
“For eons, the Pilliga forest has been a spiritual homeland and is intrinsically connected to the health and wellbeing of my people. This project will see dramatic negative health impacts,” Shields said.
“It’s time for this country to respect First Nations people when they say no (to CSG projects). We are asking the government to respect the voice of Aboriginal people,” he said.
“We will not accept that the decision by the previous Liberal government to approve this mine cannot be overturned. The NSWNMA are standing with the Gomeroi people in their struggle for self-determination and advocacy on their land.”
Defending our frontier
IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Assistant Secretary David Towson spoke about IEU’s commitment to stand with the Gomeroi.
“This whole country, every bit of it, has been a frontier at one stage. And here we are in the Pilliga. It remains a frontier which we must all fight to defend. We cannot afford to fail in this fight. We must endure. We must support the Gomeroi people in this fight. It’s all our fight. It’s our children’s fight. We must prevail.”
Where is the fight at now?
Although the NSW and Federal governments have made most approvals, the project has not yet cleared the Native Title system and there is no approval for the pipeline to connect it to the gas network. A decision is expected in 2024 – so the project can still be stopped.
It is worth noting that Santos already has more than 70 ‘exploration’ wells. They have also been fined for contaminating an aquifer with uranium and heavy metals and for a 10,000 litre toxic waste spill that caused a ‘dead zone’ in the Pilliga. This alone shows how devasting the approval of the Pilliga/Narrabri gas project will be.
The IEU will continue to support the Gomeroi in their fight against Santos.
How you can support the campaign