Gomeroi people successfully registered a Native Title claim in 2012. While this claim has not yet been determined, any company wanting to operate within the claim area have an obligation to negotiate with Gomeroi.
Despite offering this “right to negotiate”, however, the Native Title system prioritises the rights of resource companies over Traditional Owners. Aboriginal people have no power to veto projects. If claimants refuse to enter into an agreement, companies can apply to the NTT to impose the project anyway, destroying the lands and potentially extinguishing Native Title.
On March 24, 2022, Gomeroi voted overwhelmingly at Nation meeting held in Tamworth to reject the agreement offered by Santos. This was a historic vote that showed clearly the depth of sentiment amongst Gomeroi to fight to protect the Pilliga.
In April 2022, a hearing commenced in the Native Title Tribunal, to consider an application lodged by Santos, who are seeking to over-ride Gomeroi rights. Both the NSW and Commonwealth governments supported Santos’ application.
Just prior to Christmas, 2022, John Dowsett, the President of the Native Title Tribunal, delivered his ruling in favour of Santos.
Summarising his judgement, Dowsett said:
"The Gomeroi applicant submitted that the proposed grants should not be made, asserting that the Narrabri Gas Project would result in grave and irreversible consequences for the Gomeroi People’s culture, lands and waters and would contribute to climate change. The Tribunal does not doubt that the Gomeroi applicant’s concerns are genuine. However the Tribunal concluded that the Gomeroi applicant had failed to justify its assertions that the proposed grants would have such effect… the Tribunal concluded that the proposed grants would provide a public benefit, significantly outweighing the Gomeroi applicant’s concerns, particularly having regard to the limited and imprecise evidence provided in connection with such concerns."
Gomeroi have now appealed this decision to the Federal Court, with a hearing date expected in the coming months.
Please sign the petition
against this disgraceful attack and prepare to mobilise to stop Santos regardless of what the court decides.