On November 18, Aboriginal communities met in Darwin for an anti-fracking weekend to discuss how to stand together and stop hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking) in the Northern Territory.
This comes at a time when the NT government is deciding, by scientific inquiry, whether to enforce a permanent fracking ban or open up 85% of the Territory for gas companies to frack.
An event organised last weekend by Seed, an Indigenous youth climate network, began with a rally at Parliament House. It was followed by the Aboriginal Fracking Forum, where members discussed the potential impacts of fracking on country, culture, and way of life.
In their statement, members of the Forum said that their main concern was the disruption and contamination of underground water sources.
“We know that fracking will bring chemicals that will contaminate our water and damage our health. It will damage the entire water system.”
A Warlpiri man from Yuendumu Uncle Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves also noted in the Forum that fracking would destroy sacred land and cultural landscapes.
“Our land is extremely important to our mob, it ties with our dreaming. We will fight this fracking all the way.”
However, these are not universally held views. Groups and individuals in the NT have expressed the opinion that if properly regulated and adequately safeguarded, fracking could be beneficial to the Territory, creating employment opportunities and raising much-needed revenue.
Chair of the Darwin Major Business Group, Ian Kew said that fracking will deliver significant long term benefits and opportunities to businesses and regional communities across the Territory.
Additionally, the July 2017 Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory Interim Report has found thus far that fracking has a relatively low impact on surface water supply, and a low risk of groundwater contamination.
Nevertheless, national co-director of Seed Larissa Baldwin is hopeful that last month’s anti-fracking weekend will influence the NT government’s decision.
“I have no doubt that the weekend was a turning point in the campaign, and if we keep the pressure up we could see a permanent ban on fracking early next year.”
The inquiry’s final report will be released in March 2018 and will determine whether a permanent ban on fracking will be enforced in the NT.