Update: On Tuesday 31 October, we appeared before Justice Natalie Charlesworth to seek urgent interim relief until our client’s full case is heard. The hearing has been adjourned until Wednesday 1 November at 12:30PM ACST/2PM AEDT where the parties will present further evidence.
A Tiwi Traditional Owner is heading to the Federal Court in a bid to prevent Santos from building its Barossa gas export pipeline through ancestors’ burial grounds and Songlines, without proper assessment of significant risks to cultural heritage.
Simon Munkara, a member of the Jikilaruwu clan, filed proceedings on October 30 and applied for an urgent injunction to prevent Santos commencing pipeline work while the case is heard.
The Traditional Owner will argue Santos has not properly assessed submerged cultural heritage along the route of its Barossa export pipeline, which runs within seven kilometres of Cape Fourcroy on Bathurst Island.
Mr Munkara will argue that the approval Santos is relying on is of an Environment Plan that was accepted by offshore regulator NOPSEMA in March 2020, without an assessment of the risks to underwater cultural heritage. It was also approved before another case brought by Munupi man Dennis Tipakalippa established Traditional Owners’ consultation rights in relation to the Barossa Gas Project and other offshore developments.
Tiwi Traditional Owners have commissioned reports from independent experts, who confirmed that, if installed in the current proposed location, the pipeline would damage Sea Country, dreaming tracks, songlines and areas of cultural significance.
Mr Munkara says commencing the pipeline work under these circumstances breaches environmental regulations because there is a significant new environmental impact or risk that has not been assessed and accounted for in the Environment Plan.
Mr Munkara will ask the Federal Court for an injunction to prevent pipeline activities from proceeding until Santos has submitted a proposed revision of the Environment Plan and NOPSEMA has made a decision about the resubmitted plan.
Traditional Owner Simon Munkara said:
“We are going to court because we can’t let Santos build a pipeline through our Songlines and our ancestor’s burial grounds. I don’t want it to be destroyed. We have kept our stories alive for thousands of years and I want to be able to share this with future generations, with my kids and grandkids and their kids.
“Santos doesn’t want to hear this story, so we are going to court. My Country, both the land and sea, it’s everything to me and my kids. The sea is part of us.”
Alina Leikin, Special Counsel for the Environmental Defenders Office said:
“Tiwi Elders and senior knowledge holders have worked with independent experts to map their connection to their Sea Country. They have mapped locations of important cultural heritage and are worried about the damage the pipeline could do to their Songlines, ancestral burial grounds and sites of cultural significance.”
“In this case, Mr Munkara will argue that no work on pipeline installation should commence until all the risks to Tiwi cultural heritage are properly assessed in a revised plan for the activities and that revised plan is considered and determined by NOPSEMA.
On Monday October 23 2023, a group of six Jikilaruwu senior elders made an application to Minister Tanya Plibersek to protect the underwater cultural heritage under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.
Represented by EDO, the group asked Minister Plibersek to make a special declaration under the act to provide emergency protection to prevent serious and immediate harm to the sites. That application is under consideration.
The EDO previously represented Tiwi Senior Lawman, Dennis Tipakalippa in his landmark victory, which invalidated Santos’ approvals to drill the Barossa gas field.