Origin Energy Accused Of Shutting Down Traditional Owner’s Concerns Over Beetaloo Basin Fracking

Alawa woman Aunty May August demanded Origin stop their drilling plans on sacred sites.

Beetaloo Basin

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Traditional Owners have urged Origin Energy to cease plans to frack the Beetaloo Basin over heritage and environmental concerns.

In an Annual General Meeting with Origin’s investors and stakeholders on Wednesday, Indigenous spokespeople called for veto power to stop drilling in sacred sites in the Northern Territory area. During the meeting, Alawa woman Aunty May August was cut off the video call during her question to the company, but Origin has denied knowingly disconnecting anyone.

Despite claims in their 2021 annual report of trying to “engage with and maintain the support of Native Title holders”, the energy giant has been accused of not consulting Traditional Owners ahead of developments — but when these grievances were aired in the meeting, Origin CEO Scott Perkins shut down the claims.

“Traditional Owners across the Beetaloo Basin are used to this kind of treatment from Origin and other fracking companies. They talk about ‘consultation’ and ‘consent’, but it’s a facade. In reality, they steamroll over anyone who opposes them — even entire communities that unite against fracking on their land,” said GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin in a statement.

The Morrison Government approved $50 million of grants to support gas exploration in the Beetaloo to support its controversial gas-led recovery plan. Origin is one of ten companies who have expressed interest or received petroleum exploration permits in the region. Origin has described the basin as “one of the most promising shale gas resources”.

“Origin’s fracking project would destroy my country, land, water, and community. We have said no since the beginning. It is my right to say no. When will you come to meet with me on my country?” August said.

The resolutions came two days after an inquiry into Rio Tinto’s explosion of the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, which pushed for “an ability for traditional owners to withhold consent to the destruction of cultural heritage” in the report findings.

“As a matter of urgency, Parliament should adopt the recommendations of the Senate inquiry into Juukan Gorge, and give Traditional Owners the right to veto resources projects that would damage their lands and waters. Clearly, companies like Origin can’t be trusted to police themselves,” said Baldwin.

Origin said in a statement that they acknowledge and respect the connection all First Nations people have to their country. “We respect the traditional decision-making process of Native Title holders for the specific areas where we undertake activity. There may be some who don’t agree and we understand there may be differing views in any community about fracking.”

Photo Credit: Supplied