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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Pilliga people deliver warning to Santos

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Iris Ray Nunn

A delegation of traditionally painted warriors from the Gamilaraay nation and supporters went to meet with Santos at their Brisbane office last Wednesday morning.

It was a privilege to support the proud and very strong members of the Gomeroi/Gomilaraay tribe deliver an official warning to the mining company which is drilling for coal seam gas in the Pilliga (Billiga) Forest in the North West of NSW.

Paul Spearim delivered the warning in the foyer of the Santos Building to a slightly bewildered crowd, about the serious consequences of the company’s actions.

He spoke mostly in language. It was stunning!

Gamilaraay man Paul Spearim reads a letter of warning to a Santos employee at the CSG company's headquarters in Brisbane last Wednesday, December 11. Photo Iris Ray Nun
Gamilaraay man Paul Spearim reads a letter of warning to a Santos employee at the CSG company’s headquarters in Brisbane last Wednesday, December 11. Photo Iris Ray Nun

‘The purpose of the meeting is to tell Santos to stop drilling for coal seam gas in the Piliga Forest. They have to stop this dangerous practice immediately before they do irreparable damage to this environmentally and spiritually sensitive place,’ said Mr Spearim, acting as spokesperson for the Gamilaraay delegation.

The forest is in the heart of Gamilaraay lands near the towns of Baradine and Narrabri in north west New South Wales. The forest has become refuge for many bird and mammal species that are declining across Australia and is vital to the survival of endangered species like the Pilliga mouse and south-eastern long-eared bat. The forest is deeply sacred to the Gamilaraay and is connected to some of their most important stories.

Santos have stated publicly that they plan to drill 850 wells across the pristine Pilliga Forest.

‘Santos did not get a welcome to our country or permission to enter our sacred places: they need to leave’ Mr Spearim said.

‘We have stories about this place that have come down to us from generation to generation for tens of thousands of years. Those stories say step lightly here, it’s a special place, if you disturb this place it will have devastating consequences. Bad consequences not just for Gamilaraay but for our neighbours, their neighbours and their neighbour’s neighbours.’

‘Coal seam gas extraction, or fracking, is known the world over for its potential to contaminate ecosystems and waterways. Fresh water aquifers running beneath the Piliga Forest feed into the Murray Darling River system that goes all the way to Victoria and South Australia as well as feeding into rivers that run East to the coast of New South Wales. It has been identified as an important recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin.’

A company manager received the warning on behalf of Santos in a polite and attentive manner.

The event was covered by 10 News and the ABC, and although there were almost more police and security guards present then there were those of us taking part in the peaceful action, Sergeant David Simpson was very supportive of the whole action and set the mood for the generally positive way in which his men behaved towards us.

Thanks Uncle Paul and your powerful family for sharing your wisdom, knowledge and truth and staying light and open and seeing the positive, regardless of how much you and your people have had to endure (and continue to endure) through the reality of invasion and colonisation.


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