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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: In the zoo

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Image S Sorrensen

Currumbin. Tuesday, 10.40am

My heart goes out to the poor kangaroo. It’s obviously young, but just lies there, unmoving, right paw twitching occasionally. A man with a huge camera takes a photograph of the joey, checks the result on the screen, and moves on. A group of young women with large sunglasses rolls up to the motionless joey.

Nearby are more kangaroos, also lying on the bare ground. They, too, don’t move, despite the tide of tourists that flows around them, bumping from supine kangaroo to supine kangaroo. People squat down to pat those unmoving bodies, smiling for photographs with this Australian idol, offering the idle icon feed bought from the kiosk.

The kangaroos don’t eat the feed pellets. Some, like the joey, are so listless they don’t even raise their heads from the ground. They don’t open their mouths when handfuls of pellets are thrust at their lips. They’ve had more than enough pellets – they have an endless supply; as endless as the stream of visitors.

The group of young women drops a little pile of pellets on the ground right in front of the joey’s mouth after it refuses to eat. They take a round of selfies, crouching over the joey, pouting to the camera.

Overwhelm. That’s what it is. Too much. Too much that is not natural. Too much the joey doesn’t understand. Disorientated in a crazy world. Sometimes, all that is left to you is to lie down. Don’t move.

I know the feeling. It happened to me on the weekend. I learned something that just, well, tipped me over the edge, tipped me into bed, tipped me into torpor.

You see, traditional owners of Adnyamathanha land, in South Australia’s far north, sought a Supreme Court injunction to halt a three-month underground coal gasification trial on their land. Now for those of you not familiar with this particular type of fossil-fuel extraction (also called in-situ gasification), it means you set fire to underground coal and extract the gas. What could possibly be bad about that?

(Well, maybe something, because the process is banned in Queensland. Yes, in Queensland.)

The mining company is keen to construct the demonstration plant and get the trial underway because, well, there’s money to be made ripping off the common wealth; the government is keen to burn coal because, well, that’s what it loves; but the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association wasn’t keen, for cultural and environmental reasons, and took it to the Supreme Court.

The kangaroos may be comatose, but the pigeons are ever ready to snaffle any fallen pellets. They follow the humans, cooing and conning all the time, sashaying from kangaroo to kangaroo, blithely walking over a kangaroo haunch here, a tail there, audaciously gulping down the pellets right in front of closed mouths of the motionless roos.

So, a few days ago I read the Supreme Court’s decision. Justice Sam Doyle said:

‘The evidence before me suggests that the Adnyamathanha people will suffer a significant degree of distress and harm, much of which will be irreparable, if the work on the demonstration plant proceeds.

‘However, it is important to appreciate that the apparent inevitability of harm to the culture of the Adnyamathanha people, and the possibility of harm to the environment more generally, are not a sufficient basis for an injunction to restrain the works going ahead.’

That’s when I had to lie down.

Read that last paragraph again. Hell, what would be a sufficient basis for an injunction? It certainly is okay to be white.

It is a crazy world, people. Noisy pigeons are walking all over kangaroos dazed by the prevailing dissonance, and people think it’s normal.


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  1. Do we really think that without culture and natural environments we can continue to be human! Can’t stop reading that last paragraph. Definite lie down material. Time to make some big tough decisions for ourselves because there are plenty being made for us right now.

  2. “…. it is important to appreciate that the apparent inevitability of harm to the culture of the Adnyamathanha people, and the possibility of harm to the environment…..is not a sufficient basis for an injunction to restrain the works going ahead.”
    To paraphase you – so what the heck DOES constitute sufficient basis for an injunction to restrain the works???
    I, too, read & re-read it…disbelievingly!
    For heaven’s sake it seems this country is run, at all levels of government – & the judiciary – by the blind & the deaf – the greedy & the self-serving!
    What chance does the country/the world/the planet have?


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