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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Why should we be standing up for Standing Rock?

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Standing up for Standing Rock. Photo Angus Mordant

The Standing Rock protests in the US against the construction of 1,886 kilometre underground oil pipeline has garnered international support. Part of the proposed pipeline cuts through contested Indian Sioux territory and there are concerns a leak could have severe environmental impacts.

While the Northern Rivers has a history of political activism – stretching back to 70s with saving the Terania Creek rainforests through to the CSG-free protests at Bentley just a few years ago – the Dakota Access Pipeline is 14,000 kilometres away from here.

Coinciding with Angus Mordant: Standing Rock photographic exhibition currently at the Lismore Regional Gallery, tomorrow night’s Thursday Night Live! Asks ‘Why does it matter to us?’

Presented by the gallery and Southern Cross University, Thursday Night Live! is a monthly talks program putting critical, thought-provoking topics in the spotlight.

The panellists are Dr Shawn Wilson, an Opaskwayak Cree from northern Manitoba, Canada and Southern Cross University academic; human rights activist Dr Cristy Clark from the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross; and Elly Bird, a Lismore City councillor and one of the leaders of the Gasfield Free Northern Rivers campaign.

Protest or home invasion?

Dr Shawn Wilson said with Standing Rock evolving into an international protest movement, it called into question the difference between a protestor and someone who is defending themselves from a home invasion.

‘In the West we have partially embraced the concept ‘free and informed consent’, with the exception of when there is a corporate profit to be made: then we all become aware of how profit outweighs any balance between risk and benefit – especially when that risk is diffused. So corporate profit comes ahead of risks to the environment, community cohesion, or cultural continuity.

‘But when a community stands up for themselves against the government or big corporations, how is it framed in the media?  Are they defending themselves and their homes – or are they protesters pushing their own agenda?’ questioned Dr Wilson.


Dr Cristy Clark’s research focus is the intersection of human rights, neoliberalism, activism and the environment, and on issues of legal geography and the commons.

‘Here in Australia, we can no longer afford to remain complacent about our human rights, especially those such as water which depend on our environment,’ said Dr Clark.

‘We have to remain vigilant against development that has the potential to cause ecosystem collapse.’

Dr Shawn Wilson said with Standing Rock evolving into an international protest movement,

Property law scholar Associate Professor John Page, also from the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross,  will facilitate the discussion.

He said Standing Rock represented more than a pipeline protest.

‘Standing up for Standing Rock invokes diverse calls to action, whether it’s standing up for democracy, standing up for community, the right to a healthy environment, the right to clean water, or Indigenous sovereignty and land rights. These provocations and more will be explored this Thursday evening. We look forward to seeing you at Thursday Night Live!


Thursday Night Live! is presented by Lismore Regional Gallery and Southern Cross University.

Thursday June 12 at 6pm – 7.30pm. Free event.

Venue: Lismore Regional Gallery, 11 Rural Street Lismore, NSW.

This is an Auslan interpreted and wheelchair accessible event


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  1. Yes, Standing Rock is more than a pipeline. It spoke to the world
    loud & clear & its presence is with people all over the globe each
    time what’s ‘just’ is overthrown. Check out ‘The Intercept’ & many

    Meanwhile, I continue following Red Fawn Fallis’ case where
    prosecutors have said she should receive a 7 year sentence
    after having already served one year. Fawn’s latest court date
    is July 11, 2018. Note too how water-bearers & First Nation
    people arrested during the protest still await their prison prime

  2. Here we are in lismore about to destroy one of the most significant Aboriginal sacred places on the North Coast.

    I dont understand why Cr Bird is speaking when she is one of the supporters for the development to go ahead.

    Indeed she is well aware of the significance to the Bundjalung but she ignores their pleas, breaks her promises and is just another local pollie making a name for herself.

    Seems that the Bentley blockade has been a means for these pollies to grand stand some environmental credential. Former Mayor Jenny Dowell indeed was the master of this type of populism using an environmental issue.


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