Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Real Reality Check

Colin Barnett wants massive gas reserves in the Browse Basin to be processed at James Price Point, near Broome. Western Australia's Premier has warned he is prepared to force gas companies operating off the Kimberley coast to use his preferred site for a gas hub. Should we really be surprised that the Premier is acting like a dictator by dishing out these types of ominous threats? He did it with the indigenous community with his intimidating dialogue of compulsory acquisition.

Is this the way he is going to threat the Broome Community, our heritage and sense of place? What is the point of environmental and social impact studies when it is the state government who is the proponent for the LNG gas precinct and it is the state government departments who are undertaking these assessments? Somehow, this entire process seems highly floored, extremely questionable and very confusing.

Department of State Development placed a Community Update advertisement in the Broome Advertiser on July 23th stating “Development of the LNG precinct is still subjected to Federal and State assessments of potential environment, heritage and social impacts and evaluation by industry of the economic viability of constructing and operating LNG processing plants at this location”. So what is the truth?

"You will find governments, both here and elsewhere, taking a far more direct role in policy and the development of natural resources, and that's what came through very strongly to me last week in my visit to China," Barnett said.

It appears the Premier is more interested in taking advice from the Chinese rather than from his own government departments. The 2007 State of the Environment Report states: “The state of the environment will ultimately impact on our own wellbeing. It is our collective responsibility to look after our environment, and our collective and individual behaviours will determine how well we do this.” The report goes on to say
  • Strategic leadership for environmental matters in WA needs to be strengthened. Priorities for the environment often appear to shift in relation to media attention, with little regard for a long term strategic approach to environmental management. This approach inevitably leads to inefficient and ineffective allocation of resources and reduced environmental outcomes in the long term.
  • Significant environmental improvements can be achieved when many individuals and communities modify their behaviours and attitudes to become more environmentally aware. Environmental education and community participation are important components of such change and need to be strengthened in WA.

The health, prosperity and sense of place of this and future generations depend on our ability to stabilise and even reverse major environmental problems. In some instances, we have proved that this is possible, and as a society we have the resources and capacity to retain a healthy environment into the future. Hands Off Country Standing Up for the Planet.

Monday, July 20, 2009



Howard Pedersen;
Kimberley Institute

Let me first pay my respects to the Yawuru people - the Traditional Owners of Broome and the lands and seas that surround this town.

I acknowledge the resilience of the Yawuru people who have survived the brunt of history and the way others from far-away places have come here and shaped this town since it was first gazetted by the Western Australian government in 1883. And now your traditional ownership is an unimpeachable fact in Australian law.

I also thank Notre Dame for inviting me to speak here tonight. I’m not unaccustomed to writing speeches but rarely do I have the opportunity to actually speak to one myself.

I thought at first I might talk about Jandamarra, the Bunuba legend–who I co-wrote a book about with an old Bunuba man in 1995 but the Kimberley of 1995 is a vastly different place to the Kimberley of this first decade of the 21st century. I thought I might venture into something a little bit more contemporary and controversial and tackle the current debate about the proposed industrial development of the Kimberley.

Something huge and obvious is missing in the current debate about the future of the region.
Since returning to Broome early this year it appears to me that there is a no coherent opposition to future industrial development proposals. I know there is plenty of forthright discussion about the pros and cons of the proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) processing facility on the Kimberley coast but I don’t get a sense that there is a serious political analysis of the existing development paradigm being put forward for the industrial development of the Kimberley.

Without a clearly articulated alternative vision about the future of the economic and social development of the Kimberley the force of western style big project development with its arguments about trickle down social and economic benefit will triumph.

There has been too much emphasis put on the proposed LNG industrial precinct at James Price Point as though that is the beginning and end of the argument. The Gas development is ultimately the starting point for the industrial development of the region. The history of the Pilbara tells us that these developments do not happen in isolation. Today the discussion is about James Price Point, in another decade it may well be about extracting bauxite from the Mitchell Plateau.

What happens then if the mega corporate consortium that has control of the gas reserves in the Browse Basin decides not to proceed with the Western Australian Government’s favoured location and chooses instead the cheaper option of piping the gas to the Pilbara?
Will it mean that Broome and the Kimberley will be spared the impacts of industrial development? I don’t think so.

The Browse Basin will inevitably be developed. Woodside, BP, Impex, Shell, BHP Billiton and Chevron are leaseholders of one of the biggest natural gas fields in the world that is expanding rapidly as more and more discoveries are made. And they will have multiple floating gas rigs that will need to be supplied with water, equipment and labour to keep up production around the clock.

James Prices Point may be saved but Broome is destined for an Industrial future in some form.
Whether the Kimberley coast becomes the on-shore production point for the gas or just the supply base for the Browse Basin, it is inevitable that at some time in the not too distant future, Broome and the Kimberley generally will be changed by development and increased settler population.

If we are looking at this debate in old fashion binary terms, you would have to say that the development side is winning. And the reason for this I believe is that they have a story which strikes a public chord, particularly at a time of economic recession. It’s a simple story about spell bounding wealth of tens of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. But what makes the Browse gas development such a compelling proposal to sell is that there is apparent Aboriginal support.

Traditional Owner “in principle” support for the construction of the proposed processing plant at James Price Point will result, we have been told, in increased government investment for health, education, housing and other citizenship entitlements; the Closing of the Gap.

And we are assured it will mean that young Aboriginal people have a chance to grow up knowing that they have an economic future because a so called “real economy” will have been created. Not just a narrow economic base reliant on tourism, pearling and government administration.
Like me, I am sure many of you here do not find this argument convincing. Where in the world has large scale industrial development ever benefited Indigenous societies? World history tells us that that economic development on a grand scale leaves Indigenous people more marginalised as their environment is taken over by waves of settlers from the dominant society.

Many Kimberley people I know look to the Pilbara’s historical experience and imagine a fearful future in this region for their children and grandchildren. The Pilbara has been a huge source of Australia’s national wealth over the past five decades but while people in Perth and other places have benefited from iron ore and gas development the Traditional Owners of that region have been devastated, both socially and economically.

But the concerns people have about industrial development in the Kimberley have not translated into a critical deconstruction of the prevailing development paradigm. Nor has an alternative paradigm emerged in public discussion.

The notion that the Kimberley should be preserved as one of the last wilderness places on earth is an unsustainable argument because it is not true. This region has sustained human societies for thousands of years and the last 130 years of European occupation has left an indelible mark.
The Kimberley is for ever changing and to suggest that development should be stopped so that what is here can be protected for its intrinsic worth defies historic reality.

When I first came to Broome in 1977 the population was about three thousand people of which born and bred locals– Aboriginal and mixed descent people mostly – made up over three quarters of the town’s population. Derby then was the capital of the Kimberley with nearly twice as many people as Broome.

Broome’s permanent population is today approaching seventeen thousand and in the peak tourism season, which is about now, the population reaches up to 50,000. The issue is not about whether development should be stopped because that’s a furphy -it’s happening anyway. The real questions to be asked are - what sort of development should take place in the Kimberley; how should that development be managed and how should the people of the Kimberley participate in the decision making and planning processes as the future is determined?
If these become the questions that frame public debate then we have an opportunity to develop a different vision for the Kimberley from the current existing and largely uncontested paradigm that big resource development is the natural order of human progress.

The current debate over the gas proposal is a far cry from the politics that I encountered in when I first came to the Kimberley in the late 1970s. The region then was experiencing social turmoil on an epic scale.

In 1971 the majority of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley lived in colonial conditions – either in church missions or pastoral stations or on reserves controlled by the Native Welfare Department located in all Kimberley towns. This was six years after the Northern Territory pastoral equal pay decision and the Kimberley was the last area in Australia for that decision to take effect.
The Western Australian Government could see a looming crisis and commissioned a team of accountants, social planners and anthropologists to recommend a settlement and government service strategy for the Kimberley. The Stott Report commissioned by the Brand Government recommended that independent Aboriginal communities be established with public funding to support community development which would allow Aboriginal people to engage the dominant society from a position of strength and capacity.

This was the theory; and it was accepted by the State Government in principle, if only marginally in practice. The alternative was an influx of thousands of refugees flooding into Kimberley towns which would make those towns unliveable.

So the next time you hear that the creation of discrete Aboriginal communities was a left wing conspiracy designed by Nugget Coombs; be reminded that an early version of the Aboriginal homeland policy was first adopted by the conservative Western Australian Brand Government in 1971. Something else happened in 1971, which is often overlooked in history. William McMahon was Prime Minister and in that year he attended a meeting in Singapore of Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) whose agenda was dominated by Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence in Rhodesia that nine years later became Zimbabwe.
That some four hundred thousand white people could rule over eight million black Zimbabweans was a direct challenge to decolonisation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the British Government in particular was committed. CHOGM decided to impose trade sanctions and lead an international campaign against Smith’s regime.

For Australia to take a moral stand on this issue it needed to clean up its own backyard and when our Prime Minister returned home he immediately instructed all State Governments to repeal any legislation that formally discriminated against Aboriginal people. As it so happened state governments had been progressively repealing discriminatory legislation against Aboriginal people throughout the 1960s – a process that accelerated after the constitution was changed in 1967 that gave the national parliament power to make laws for Aboriginal people.

But in 1971 there was one law which discriminated against Aboriginal people remaining on the Western Australian statutes. The Liquor Act contained a special provision for Kimberley Aboriginal people which stipulated that only those with a permit were allowed to buy and consume alcohol. The Western Australian Government argued for its retention claiming that there would be huge social consequences if it was repealed. But McMahon insisted that the national interest was more important and the law was repealed without any consideration of any measures that could be put in place to avert the social tragedy that we are only now beginning to grapple with.

The freedom to drink grog coincided with an internal refugee crisis in the Kimberley that was unprecedented in Australian history. The Kimberley was warned about the impact of equal wages in the pastoral industry but governments did nothing to ameliorate its impact. When the equal wage decision was finally applied here in the early 1970’s mass evictions from pastoral properties happened with merciless speed.

Fitzroy Crossing’s population swelled from two hundred to two thousand in just three years. Halls Creek’s population more than trebled and in 1972 the population of the Derby Reserve numbered over five hundred living in the most horrific conditions. The refugees from pastoral properties joined hundreds of others who fled Sunday Island and Forrest River when those missions closed.

In this period of mayhem, violence and death the quality of Aboriginal leadership shone. They were determined to save their families and communities from destruction and create settlements on traditional lands. The Whitlam and Fraser Governments intervened in some small way and purchased a number of cattle stations that began to allow people to determine their own lives and the futures of their children. Doon Doon, Biluluna, Lake Gregory, Fraser Downs, Noonkanbah and Milligidee were acquired in rapid succession in the 1970s as the Kimberley homeland movement rapidly gathered strength.

The determination to live on traditional land was far more than a desire to live in peace and restore social order. It was underpinned by an unwavering commitment by Aboriginal leaders to protect their culture and way of life. And in this they were supported to a limited degree by the national government. Over the next two decades public investment built a formidable community organisational structure to support land rights, culture and language.

Here were signs of a potential development paradigm for the Kimberley region where Aboriginal culture could flourish and co-exist with western economic development. But it is a vision that threatens the State Government’s historic mission to develop the Kimberley along western notions of land, water and other natural resource exploitation.

At Noonkanbah station in 1980 the contest over the two visions for the Kimberley came to a head over sacred sites when the State crushed Aboriginal opposition to mining. That conflict gained national attention and rallied considerable support in mainstream Australia for the rights of Indigenous people to protect and maintain their culture. Noonkanbah had a huge impact on the politics of Aboriginal Australia. It became a rallying point for the national Indigenous political movement. It was pivotal in mobilising public support for the concept of a Treaty between Australia’s First People and the nation state and sowed the seeds of the people’s movement for a reconciled nation.

All that seems light years away now.

Aboriginal culture has been demeaned and diminished in the Australian public imagination as a consequence of a sustained political campaign against Indigenous rights. And as a result there is now far reaching consensus in the Australian body politic that the future for Aboriginal people lies in their absorption into the social and economic fabric of mainstream Australia.
A demonstration of that consensus is the Rudd Government’s support for the industrialisation of the Kimberley coast. The Rudd Government’s Closing the Gap strategy is predicated on Aboriginal people adopting western values particularly relating to employment. It’s housing, education, Health and even native title outcomes are very much geared around Indigenous participation in the labour market. And without industrial development the strategy cannot work.

Such is the force of this consensus that it is deemed heretical to suggest an alternative view predicated on sustaining language, laws and culture as an enhancing factor in the Kimberley’s development. Those who advocate that cultural recognition should be the basis of good government policy are condemned for not confronting the reality of crippling poverty and community dysfunction much of which can be laid at the feet of failed Government policies of the past.

Indigenous public policy has now become entwined with old fashioned regional development and economic development agendas. But the debate must reach beyond the trivia and disinformation where it is currently trapped. We must look seriously at the future of this region that many believe has world heritage status because of the cultural relationship that Indigenous people have with an extraordinary diverse and spectacularly beautiful physical environment.
There must be some transparency in the debate about the development ethos that underlies the proposed Kimberley coastal development.

Recently the Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, interviewed on the 60 Minutes Program described the proposed James Price Point gas facility as the “beginning of the beginning” for the Kimberley. It’s as if to say that history starts from now. But the truth is that the development philosophy behind the Browse Basin has a long history in the Kimberley. And the Government spin that to date surrounds the gas proposal is strongly reminiscent of the hyperbole that has surrounded every major development in the post 1829 history of the Kimberley.

The first attempt by white people to develop the Kimberley was at Camden Harbour in 1863 when a small fleet of ships landed about 200 people from the colony of Victoria. Their objective was to establish a province based on cotton production and build a city that they planned to name Grey after the young English explorer whose glowing reports they based their hapless venture. The settlement collapsed within a year and the Worrorra, on whose land the colonist had laid claim, continued their lives in their own development paradigm which had been determined by the Wandjina of their Dreaming.

A decade and half later Alexander Forrest led an expedition along the Fitzroy and Ord Rivers and came back to scenes of jubilation in Perth. In another outburst of capital raising enthusiasm Forrest claimed that finally the Swan River colonists had found the Eldorado which would propel Western Australia into financial sustainability and political independence from Britain. Here in the farthest reaches of the colony he had discovered the finest pastoral lands in Australia.

With equal enthusiasm the colonial government with the solution for the economic independence of the colony then formally gazetted the whole region as the Kimberley and named it after the British Secretary of State for the Colonies.

By 1883 squatters from southern Western Australia and other parts of Australia rushed to the Kimberley to take up their pastoral leases. In that year Broome and Derby were gazetted as towns and in 1885 Wyndham was gazetted. At the end of 1885 gold was discovered at Halls Creek which prompted a short lived rush of 10,000 prospectors.

Such was the promise of large scale settlement that the Western Australian Government even considered building a railway line between Wyndham and Broome. But by the 1890s the economic development of the region had stalled. Floods, drought, disease, ticks and the distance from markets ruined any prospect that the Kimberley would be Western Australia’s economic Eldorado. But it was the extent of Aboriginal resistance to pastoral settlement, especially in the mountainous regions of the central and east Kimberley that caused a massive public outlay for very little economic return for Western Australia.

By the turn of the century a quarter of all Western Australia’s police were stationed in the Kimberley to protect less than one percent of the State’s settler population. Such was the cost of policing and imprisonment that in 1910 the government resumed a number of small pastoral leases in the East Kimberley and created Moola Bulla and Violet Valley Reserve as a place of sanctuary for Kitja and Woolah people.

An old Kitja man, Bobajee Thomas, told me in 1980 that he was child during the time of warfare and remembered the old people talking about the Moola Bulla initiative as a genuine peace treaty between the Government and Aboriginal people. But those people familiar with the history of Moola Bulla know that there was no honour on the part of the Western Australian Government to do the right thing by Aboriginal people.

By the time Aboriginal people were brought under “permanent subjugation”, the romantic visions of wealth from the Kimberley pastoral industry had pretty much dissolved. Very few squatters stayed in the Kimberley for long. Most made their money from cheap Aboriginal labour and overstocking and left the country. The pastoral beef industry continues to dominate the Kimberley’s land use while adding a minimal return to the State’s Gross Domestic Product.
Ninety nine stations cover over half the region’s land mass. For some decades the industry claimed it was the backbone of the Kimberley’s economy principally because meatworks in Wyndham, Derby and Broome were big employers. But all those meatworks have long closed and industry is now employing less people than it ever has in its history.

After the Second World War there was a significant change in the way the Australian government viewed northern Australia particularly with respect to the strategic defence of the nation. The “populate or perish” thesis had taken a firm hold of government thinking and Prime Minister Menzies in the 1950s began to put pressure on Western Australia to invest in northern development. But Western Australia had lost its appetite for the northern vision and actually proposed at one point that the Commonwealth should take responsibility for administering all the state’s land above the tropic of Capricorn.

When David Brand came to power in 1959 and appointed the master oracle of the grand vision Charles Court the Minister for Water and the North West all concerns about the futility of developing the north were forgotten. Court embarked on an extraordinary campaign to get Commonwealth backing for large scale horticultural production in the Ord River Valley based on irrigated water from the damming of the Ord River. Scientific feasibility studies at the time concluded that it was a hair brain scheme but Court was not to be denied and he hired consultants to provide the reports that supported his vision.

Eventually the Commonwealth supported the scheme and Lake Argyle was constructed in 1974 as the biggest artificial lake in the country but the worth of the whole endeavour of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme is yet to be realised. The Mirriwung Traditional Owners were never consulted about Mr Court’s vision, or the inevitable devastation of their traditional lands and rivers. They were simply up rooted from the former Durack Stations and relocated to the Mirima Reserve on the edge of newly created town of Kununurra and almost guaranteed social disintegration.

There is a lesson in Kimberley history for all contemporary politicians who today see all our economic futures being sustained from the output from the Browse Basin. The Kimberley and the schemes of economic development embarked upon by governments and entrepreneurs have a chequered past but the point I’m trying to make is that the imposed western style development paradigm that began at Camden Harbour and has its nearest horizon on the coast north of Broome has been a disaster for Kimberley Traditional Owners and the region generally.
As the cliché goes, when history is ignored it is destined to be repeated. Extraordinarily the same thinking that got us into this mess in the first place is now being proposed as the solution.

There needs to be a new development paradigm that links wealth creation, Indigenous culture, environmental protection and social cohesion as indivisible components. I believe that is possible for the Kimberley but new thinking will not come from governments or industry. An alternative vision from the one behind the gas development will need to be constructed by people who live in this region.

Some believe that there is such entrenched division in the Kimberley that it is impossible to develop a shared vision and therefore we are destined always to respond to external economic and political forces. I don’t accept that. I believe that shared interests of those living in the same geographic landscape can override apparent differences and bring people together to forge agreement on a common regional vision.

The people of the Kimberley are capable of articulating their own vision for the region and certainly capable of building that vision into something sustainable and worthwhile.
In 1998 at the Kimberley: Our Place Our Future Conference in Broome a sound future vision for the Kimberley and its people was articulated. It was attended by pastoralists – black and white, community leaders, local government, a range of industry people, environmentalists, politicians and government officials and many others representing the rich mosaic of Kimberley society.
People came to the conference with a sense of determination that the Kimberley and its people are unique and that future developments could incorporate economic development alongside the cultural and social imperatives of all the peoples of the region. Things could be different in the Kimberley and Kimberley people were capable of working together to achieve a shared vision for our home.

Regional unity is a powerful political weapon because it threatens the capacity of government’s and corporate interests to impose their agenda. Community division is the key for governments based in distant cities to maintain power over regional and remote societies.

In 1998 the opportunity to forge a new development paradigm and negotiate a new relationship between the Kimberley region and governments was foregone. But with the national spotlight once again on the Kimberley coast; now the time may well be right. One gets a sense that government policy for regional and remote Australia is in turmoil. The handling of Browse to date only confirms this view. There is a confused narrative and lack of conviction in the region and that is reflected in how governments and their agents are again failing to include the people of the region – those who are most affected.

The current Commonwealth Government has inherited a comprehensive political program from the Howard Government that has been shaped by neo liberal economic thinking that lacked intellectual integrity and which has largely collapsed since the global financial crisis.
While Governments may believe in the welfare reform agenda and coercive and punitive measures designed to change individual behaviour, their own demand for empirical integrity in the delivery of real outcomes will expose the brittle nature of their ideological aspirations.

The incoherence of government policy at all levels is obvious in the Kimberley. On the one hand governments promote assimilation or mainstreaming yet at the same time native title recognition is entrenched within the law of the land. Governments talk about partnership yet they practice authoritarian intervention at the community and individual level. It places huge emphasis on promoting Aboriginal participation in the old economy such as mining and pastoralism and yet the evidence is that job growth prospects are in the new cultural economy such as land management, tourism and the emerging carbon abatement industry.

In conclusion I want to map out very briefly what I think could be the basis of a new development paradigm. I believe that there should be a comprehensive agreement for the Kimberley that takes the form of a regionalised Treaty that is negotiated between representatives of all people in the Kimberley and the Commonwealth and State Governments.
That agreement should recognise Aboriginal people’s ownership to land and their right to practice their culture. It should redesign the Kimberley’s land use and land management regime so that economic opportunities can coexist with cultural and social life. And it should restructure Kimberley governance so that services can be delivered effectively and with proper accountability.

Whatever the future of the Kimberley might be, unless Kimberley people are incorporated into the development and implementation of a Kimberley vision then we are all sitting on the beach at Camden Harbour. But equally, if we the people of the Kimberley abdicate our responsibility to dream and contribute to the vision and allow Governments and multinationals to determine our future then we should prepare to roll our swags and await for our children to rake over the ashes of our failure to take responsibility for the future of one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Thank You

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Camping On the Dampier Peninsula

All along the coastal strip of the Dampier Peninsular, from Willie Creek right through Barred Creek and right up past James Price Point up to Yellow River, there are campers everywhere, in all types of contraptions with all types of setups. By camping out, watching sunsets over the ocean, sleeping under the stars and waking to the sound of the birds’ gratification to the breaking of a new day, these campers are enjoying, living and embracing an integral part of their cultural heritage and distinctive part of the Australian lifestyle.

Some campers have come for the: peace and the quiet, others for the fishing, bush walking, whale watching, reefing, sand – surfing, others just to sit and watch the tide come in and go out, others to meet up with friends. Young families with parents using the environmental surroundings to teach their children about the rhythm of life and the ebb and flow of the tide. Others have come just because they can.

The Dampier Peninsula and its: user friendly qualities, easy access to pristine country and beaches, to traditional understandings and cultural exchange, to ocean views, to the privacy of camping and the ease of access to the lines of supplies from Broome. The Dampier Peninsula is an outstanding placed to visit and enjoy but in all reality its the last place, (if you’re heading north) to enjoy a swim in comparative safety or ease of access to beautiful clean beaches. If you are heading north into fresh water country you have to become very mindful of crocodiles, even when you reach Darwin you cannot swim or have the access to beautiful clean safe beaches like we currently do here, on the Dampier Peninsula.

Should the proposed Gas precinct go ahead at James Price Point not only will Broome locals and tourists be locked out of this newly polluted and destroyed country , there is really no other place (unless you can afford to hire a helicopter or seat on a cruise boat) to access this type of Country and camp and swim with ease. As a Broome local you will have to travel south to Eighty Mile Beach, and as a tourist you will have to travel to the east coast before you can enjoy the ocean again.

I come to see Country for myself

Many people are traveling to the Dampier Peninsula in order to see for themselves the Country that will be totally destroyed if an LNG Gas Precinct is built at James Price Point, 60 kms from Broome, on the Kimberley Coast. After spending the best part of a day Lyn and her mother finally track down the Lurujarri trail and its walkers who hailed from many different parts of Australia and the world. Later, they caught up with Redhand's wonderful French assistant. Redhand encourages everyone and anyone to do just what Lyn and her mother did, come and see this amazing coastal strip, monsoonal vine-thickets and flowering pindan woodlands which the Western Australian State Government is proposing to totally destroy, if its proposal to build an LNG Gas Hub on the Kimberley Coast, goes ahead. Redhand encourages all people to come and keep Country company in her hours of need. Thankyou to Lyn and her mother for their wonderful visit, their support and the morale boost. Hands Off Country and Standing Up for the Planet.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Camera Man & His Assistant

By walking along this aged old trail, you are sharing in the Dreaming, an ongoing state that draws together past present and future. For at least 6000 years this coastline has been at the level it is today. Indigenous people have walked, foraged and camped at the places featured on the Trail. Join the students, their teachers, the story tellers and the Goolarabooloo people as they move through Country. If the proposed LNG gas precinct goes ahead at James Price Point this will be the last Trail. Please help us Keep Country alive and the trail open for another 6000 years. Support HandsoffCountry

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making Clapping Sticks on Lurujarri Trail

Forty students, their teachers and the Goolarabooloo mob have be living, walking, talking and enjoying the Lurujarri Trail together over the last six days. Deep friendships and deep connections are being forged both between people and country. With the threat of the proposed LNG gas precinct being built on the Dampier Peninsula this trail and the Song Line with be inevitably damaged forever.

More on the Trail in the coming days

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lurujarri Trail

Lysiphyllum cunninghamii - Jigal

Redhand has been spending some time in country in an attempt to introduce and inform people about this amazing, healing place. The whales are everywhere at the moment: jumping, arching, sprinting, dancing, showing off and really enjoying their journeys north. Turtles are abundant, the dolphins are jubilant and the other day a friend of Redhand found herself body surfing with a dugong. The season of Barrgana is here. The South-Easterlies are blowing, bringing with them the cool nights and mystical foggy mornings. Threadfin salmon are running, the mullet, catfish and dugongs are fat. The bush bees are in full production with their sugar bags, dripping with honey, mixed with thick balls of nectar. Abundance is everywhere, flowing from the generosity of the last wet season. Cockatoos are busy hatching their young, while the Jigal trees are full of flowers, which are able to contain and capture the sweetest of country’s true essence.

Redhand was given the honour recently of being invited to participate in the Lurujarri Trail this year. Lurujarri follows part of a traditional Aboriginal Song Cycle which originates from the Dreamtime Ancestral Beings. These are believed to have created the landscapes, humans, animals and the plants; all of which are interconnected by the same life spirit.

Back in the early 1980’s, Paddy Roe, the Guardian and Law keeper for this country wanted to open up this living, walking, foraging trail for everyone to enjoy and understand. He did this not only for people but for the Guardian spirits of the Jabirr Jabirr, Jukun and Ngumbarl people. Since then many people from around our nation and around the globe have participated in the annual Lurujarri trail and have walked the nine days from Broome Minyirr (Broome) to Minarriny (Coulomb Point). Country has maintained the song and all the interconnecting environments in near perfect condition and with 21 years of continued dedication of the Goolarabooloo mob have kept Country alive and strong.

Joe Roe, (grandson of Paddy) recently stated in the local Broome Advertiser, Thursday, 2nd of July “This year’s walk has added poignancy in the light of Woodside Petroleum’s decision to nominate Walmandany (James Price Point) as the preferred location for its $30billion LNG processing precinct.” “That’s our camping site right there,” he said. And right along that coast it’s been recognised by court as one big site – you can’t fiddle with it.”

So over the coming week, Redhand will bring you up-to -date information from Country with interviews, stories and everything else we see on the walking way. If you would like more information regarding Lurujarri visit the Heritage Council of Western Australian web site.

James Price Point Vine Thickets

Monsoon Vine Thickets are a rainforest –allied ecosystem found in discrete patches along the Dampier peninsula in the west Kimberley. A great diversity of plants found within the vine thickets provide important habitat for the fauna such as Agile Wallaby, Rose Crowned |Fruit Dove, Flying Foxes and the Great Bowerbirds.

The area in and around vine thickets are of great significance to indigenous people on the Dampier Peninsula. As a cultural teaching and ecological resource, vine thickets contain many traditional food sources, valuable and reliable sources of nutritious bushtucker and medicine, water and significant sites. Monsoon vine thickets are semi deciduous. Towards the end of the dry season up to 50% of the plants lose their leaves. They rely on the wet season rain to help them flourish. It is believed that the high humidity along the coastal fringe allows them to survive long periods of no rain and provides some protection from fires. Many patches are associated with ground water springs, shallow aquifers and seasonal wet areas. The closed canopy and large fruiting trees, not present in much of the surrounding landscape, provide refuge, habitat and nesting sites for many avian and reptilian species.

Monsoon Vine Thickets function as a network ecosystem and the movement of frugivorous (fruit- eating) birds, bats and mammals through themselves ensures sufficient species migration and gene flow to maintain the plant and animal communities in their fragmented state. Equally, the loss and degradation of a single patch can isolate patches reducing opportunities for species migration, increase the livelihood of local species extinction and compromise the ecological processes operating throughout the entire ecological community.

Extracts from: Enviro Kimberley research

Sunday, July 5, 2009

hello my freinds....I have a vid featured on my channel, made by a Native American freind "Silence is ......" I would really love it and to see yr vids regarding the destruction of our counrty by mines ect.... would really love to see you post one of yr relevant vids as a video post....we are all brothers and sisters and dont want to see the destruction of our land or peole by these big companies. hope you will consider......cheers hope the fight is going strong up there in my fathers country.
Silence is a powerful weapon. We all have access to it. Silence can be deadly.

Music is Blackfire's Silence is a Weapon with the AIM song.

Check out these websites. Learn where to aim your voice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kimberley Gas - No way! Massive explosion in Big Spring

Kimberley Coral Reefs

Redhand acknowledges The Wilderness society for the text on the video

The Kimberley region contains a remarkable array of complex habits with high levels of biological diversity. The shelf edge reef atolls host some of the worlds most spectacular coral reefs in the world. The inshore reefs of the northern Kimberley coast are more extensive and diverse than Ningaloo and may well become known as a coral reef province of global significance. The region has a diversity of larger marine animals such as sea turtles, crocodiles, manta rays, whales, dugong and dolphins. Decision making in the region must be underpinned by high quality, contemporary science at both a regional and local level, to ensure the maintenance of these magnificent natural values. Quote from A turning of the tide. A Western Australia Marine Science Institution initiative 2008.