The Whitehaven Maules Creek saga: The Gomeroi People respond [opinion]

Thank you for your heartfelt article.

It brings to light an aspect which obviously some workers and companies may be feeling per perceive.

However, from the Gomeroi Elders and traditional owners perspective the treatment by Whitehaven and the disrespect and disempowerment by this company is that we simply cannot agree to your statements as our experience is vastly different from the picture you have tried to paint.

Although we respect the difference of your opinion, for the traditional people of Gomeroi Country- the country that Whitehaven wants to do business and destroy.

For us – Maules Creek executive and staff have really failed to genuinely engage with us to allow us to do ceremony and we feel that we got caught out by the sector ill-informed of the EIS process, ignored regarding the cultural heritage assessment process and made voiceless in the assessment and approvals process.

When we objected to the inadequacy of the assessment we were ignored.

This inadequacy has resulted in the projectory for conflict today.

We feel that the mining sector caught us napping- but we are now awake….very awake and we will fight to protect what’s important to us spiritually and culturally. We will also use social media, legal and political avenue available to us.

Mining has had its way for a very, very long time and has used the EIS systems and their economic weight to pretty much have the governmental approvals …to the detriment of some communities.

The Gomeroi Elders and community are one of these communities gauged by the drag line….we feel we are the collateral damage to mining.

For example- Mining in the Hunter has enjoyed many, many years of mining and wealth- the damage to Aboriginal culture and heritage is the legacy….and the travesty.

Aboriginal culture and heritage has been sacrificed by greedy mining which over time just wants to come back to areas and take more and more- even the cultural places and sites that they some years ago promised would be protected, while they destroyed other areas of the Aboriginal cultural landscape.

One only has to have a look at the country from a plane to see the real legacy and devastation of mining in the area.

Can any company or the Minerals Council tell me how we can tell our children where Baiame our giver of lore, walked?


Can you show our children in the destroyed landscape where our ancestors for generations walked and undertook sacred ceremony, trade, birth and death?

Whitehaven in our experience demonstrate the worst in a mining company.

The disrespect to our Elders and community is disgraceful-one has to also ask the question where are they mining in a deeply special place in state forest and in an area with known agricultural vulnerabilities due to water table threats.

The other question is How are they treating the people?….it’s pretty obvious by our response.

If you back Gomeroi people into a corner with the threats as great as they are…we will not be subjected to what our ancestors experienced and be massacred in the process.

Readers may think this is highly emotive or inflammatory comment but the loss of our culture and heritage and burials for us is just that ….. the destruction of our culture by a dominate foreign owned company. .

We also question how a mining company like Whitehaven with a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and former Liberal Party Leader as one of their directors Mr Mark Vaile, can disregard and disrespect our Elders, our people, our ancestors, our burials and our culture the way they are.

If this is what happens with a former Deputy Prime Minister at the helm what chance do we have with other mines?

There is no balance – from our perspective mining wants to take everything in its path…and if we object our community experiences manipulation of the poverty in our community and in our experience bullyboy divisive tactics and disrespect by companies.

We seriously are a little gob smacked that mining companies and the extractive industry are so shocked and outraged that communities who comprise Traditional Aboriginal people, local farmers and landholders would have the audacity to challenge them and the poor government planning and environmental decisions which make us so disempowered and the protection of our culture and heritage such a failure.

We are heavily under-resourced, the assessment system is stacked against us, the poverty levels in our communities are very well known, however what we lack in resources we have in strength and unwavering conviction that Whitehaven will have to come to the table and change the way they treat our elders and community…but the issue for us is what will they destroy and desecrate until this happens?

We make absolutely no apology for fighting so hard to protect what is important. We are also fighting so hard because we fear that other mines will think that the way Whitehaven treats our people and culture is the way to go about the business of mining…. We can tell you its not!!

What’s amazing is that for many, many years we as a community were looking for ways in which there may be some healing between local landholders and our people given the terrible loss and violence which has occurred.

Mining is making one positive community benefit that perhaps your EIS never recorded and assessed

The behaviour of the mine and the way in which our elders and our burials are disrespected is the galvanizing people in our communities who would have not traditionally interacted a lot with each other- It’s incredible how a common threat- mining- has been the catalyst for such long overdue change and dialogue and perhaps finally some reconciliation, understanding of each other and healing between traditional and local land holders and farmers will result.

While we may not agree with all the actions that protestors may undertake and our Elders certainly don’t condone any alleged abuse from any party.

We see the protestors differently from your article.

We see them as trying to protect the forest and our culture.

We are grateful that they are fundraising to help bring to the global attention the Maules Creek mine and the devastation it will create. We are also grateful for any social efforts to raise funds from city folk who support the effort to protect and enable people to maintain the focus on this mine so that questions can be asked – What is happening? Has there been a serious mistake in this mines approval and the way in which our cultural and heritage is so unprotected?

Yes, we agree that the mine (Whitehaven) has all the required approvals, is hiring locals (so long as you are not Gomeroi people who have concerns about our burials and sacred sites as we have been erroneously labelled as the black group, the bad group and problem group, the minority who should not be listened to or respected even though the truth is Our Elders under customary lore and practice are the decision makers of our culture and heritage).

You say they (the mine) will spend millions on wages and services during its life -but at the cost and desecration of our burials and important places-

We the Gomeroi traditional people have not been trying to stop the mine we have been trying to protect specific cultural areas and still the company do not demonstrate their social license to operate.

We ask -Does the Minerals Council and the mining sector understand that the NSW State government now approve 100% of the permits which cross the Ministers desk to destroy our culture and heritage?

How is this in balance? How can companies perceive themselves to be so badly done by in the assessment and approvals process?

How is this demonstration that you give a damn?

How does this say to our people who are the biggest losers by your business activity that you care about our people, our culture and heritage and our spiritual wellbeing?

Mines think that offering jobs when our mental and cultural wellbeing is being destroyed should be something we are excited and grateful about?

Surely genuine attempts to protect what’s important to us should be in balance…we cannot be bought with a few pieces of silver or in this case black coal. The way culture and heritage and our values are considered in mining EIS assessments need to change as a matter of urgency and if mining thinks that the new reforms will do this….IT WONT!

THE REFORMS WILL ALSO FURTHER FAIL US as they do not align to our customs and practices.

As the oldest living culture of the planet- we see hollow words and the manipulated use of government systems and approvals which leaves as a legacy for our people lived disempowerment, lived devastation, lived destruction and lived distress your article says -But how will the public know this if the industry doesn’t get out there and educate people online about what they do?

Well we also say how will the public know if Traditional people do not hold peaceful assemblies, try and have our voices heard through legal and parliamentary petitions and if we do not get out there and educate people online?

Our Elders invite Mr. Galilee. and his executive (who we see really as the lobby group for the destruction of our culture) to come to Gunnedah for a cuppa and meet with our Elders and community to see for himself what it feels like from our perspective and perhaps see if a better way can be fostered.

We will ensure that you are welcomed and treated respectfully.

Mining companies need to re-examine what they are really doing-and the terrible impacts they are having on communities and our culture…the message is very clear – what you are doing now is not working, what you have been doing for years is not going to work, and if you follow the approach of Whitehaven – you do so at a real risk of reprisal

Unless you respect our Elders and community and culture and our rights to undertake ceremony and undertake decisions in accordance with lores and customs… and genuinely look for culturally respectful and realistic approaches and outcomes, the dispute will get deeper.

We have been here longer than mining and we are not going away.


Gomeroi Traditional Custodians

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