Broome Gas Hub Protestor locks on

Protestor locked on to woodside vehicle for 6 hours1st August – A 41 year old broome man has been arrested after locking himself to a vehicle and is charged with obstructing Police. Police eventually freed the man after 6 hours by removing the axle. Shaun Clark, a fellow protester, recently resigned from his job as a ranger with the Department of Environment and Conservation, after being told he was not allowed to publicly protest against the gas hub. He said it was amazing, the extremes some people are going to here, to stop the industrialisation of the Kimberley.”

Protestors at Broome CourtAnd last week 26 protesters attended Broome Magistrates Court for standing up to protect James Price Point, on what is referred to as “Black Tuesday”. The following is a statement to the Court by one of the protesters, after her plea of guilty.

I am 60 years old. I have lived in Broome since 1998, prior to that in Wyndham and Kununurra. It is my intention to spend the rest of my life in Broome, in the home I have purchased and in the environment that I love.

I am a semi-retired consultant; formerly a Commonwealth public servant. The character statements I have presented to the court testify to the responsible positions I held and my diligence and reliability. I have never previously been arrested or charged with any criminal activity. Most of my time is now devoted to self-funded bird research.

The decision to take non-violent direct action on July 5th was not taken lightly. I felt I had no other option as the normal checks and balances that govern a resource development are absent in the current situation. When the WA government is the developer and controls the departments that should watch over environmental and cultural heritage, when the media is only interested in reporting sensations rather than investigating a situation, when taking legal action is beyond my financial means, what other option do I have but civil disobedience?

On July 5th I sat on the Manari Road and refused to move because I believed the actions that Woodside and their contractors proposed to take were both illegal and immoral.

Illegal because they did not have the permits required to disturb known Aboriginal heritage sites, and said they did not require them. When in the position of secretary of the Broome Bird Observatory Management Committee I had direct experience of the requirements of Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act. When we wanted to dig 6 holes to install new solar panels we had to consult with and get the permission of traditional owners and have an anthropologist on site when the holes were dug. Why should a small organisation have to stick to the requirements of the law but a huge corporation be exempt? I was also aware that a complaint about Woodside’s damage to cultural sites was already being investigated by the Dept of Indigenous Affairs and did not believe further work should occur until the outcome of that investigation was known.

And immoral: The proposed project has not yet had environmental sign off from either the WA Environmental Protection Authority or the Federal Minister for the Environment, and may not receive that approval. The tests Woodside proposed to conduct involved disturbance of a huge area of country – the 25 hectares advertised was to be spread over several kilometres of pristine bush – in an area known to be prime bilby habitat. Experience shows this type of clearing provides a conduit for the invasion of weeds and feral animals. I did not believe that such large-scale destruction of the bush should occur before environmental approval for the project has occurred and it is certain that the project will proceed.

I believe what occurred subsequent to my arrest proved my decision to be correct. Sacred cultural heritage sites were bulldozed. The aerial shots of the clearing that has occurred reveal the full extent of the destruction.

So, yes I plead guilty to failing to obey an instruction from a police officer, but I believed and continue to believe that the reality of the situation justified my action.

Jan Lewis