Story & photos Melissa Hargraves
Local Indigenous people joined the weekend’s seismic-testing protest, near Casino, after serving paperwork at Metgasco offices claiming that the company had not met its requirements under the Native Title Act. Local Indigenous men Kevin Boota and Kamally Monsell accuse them of having ‘free reign over traditional land and its resources’.
The company contracted to undertake the testing, Terrex, claim on their website that they ‘have respect for traditional owners and sites of cultural significance’. However Mr Boota and Mr Monsell are not satisfied that they have met their obligations.
Mr Boota told Echonetdaily, ‘We are concerned that they are walking through country without a cultural officer with them, which is required under the Native Title Act, which the government has promised to uphold. The Native Title Act is a fraudulent document that leaves us fighting about our own future.
‘Once a Native Title has been signed, they can bring in their own archaeologists and anthropologists. We are concerned that they are not connected bloodline to country. They can’t come from Sydney to the northern rivers [to make these decisions] as they don’t know all the stories.’
When Mr Boota speaks of the future, he is sure to include all peoples.
‘We have a vested interest of those who are on our lands, we have a duty of care to them as well, to their children and our own.
‘It is our god-given right as sovereign people of this country with ancestral ties to this land over thousands and thousands of years, to protect this country. If we allow these practices to happen, our children won’t have places to swim, they will not know their bush food and we will not be able to continue our traditional practices on land for ceremonies, which we have only just started to re-ignite.’
Mr Monsell added, ‘this is not a black or white thing; it is a Mother Nature thing’.
Mr Boota believes that CSG mining damages more than just the land and has a deep concern for its cultural impact.
‘A lot of our ceremonies are based around the spirituality of the lands and the spiritual energy that comes from it. This brings great sensitivity and great ideals to our culture. We are about to see that destroyed.’
Mr Boota and Mr Monsell will be attending a tribal council meeting this coming Wednesday, then heading to the most eastern point of the continent, Byron Bay, and opening up dialogue about reconciliation. The process will be peaceful and organic and, in time, women will be asked to gather to have a moment for Mother Earth.