The health consequences of indiscriminate gas extraction
On 4 November, other NSWNMA members and I joined a trade union contingent of activists and travelled to Coonabarabran to see first-hand both the beauty of the Pilliga region but also the devastation caused by fossil fuel extraction.
We were shown the incredible underground river systems, told of the diversity of plant and animal life sustained in this region, learned about the connection to country for the Gomeroi people and the ceremonial significance of this land.
We also learnt about the proposal for 850-plus gas wells that are being planned in this area – which would be blasted through into the Great Artesian Basin, creating toxic salt by-products that no-one – including the government and the mining companies – knows how to dispose of safely.
The Gomeroi people have voted overwhelmingly AGAINST the proposed gas wells, and in response Santos has taken the Gomeroi Nation to the Native Title Tribunal to try to ultimately dispossess them of their land. Of the 180 disputes taken to the Native Title Tribunal – only three have ever been decided in favour of First Nations people. The verdict in this current case is still to be decided, but this is a rigged and racist system that perpetuates the harms of colonisation and continues the destruction of the land.
This is our battle. We know that dispossession of First Nations people from their land has caused catastrophic health outcomes across this nation – and as nurses it’s our business to be aware of this.
We know that fuelling further global warming will cause catastrophic health outcomes across the world. Australia, our patients, and our families will not be excluded from this.
So as nurses and midwives, we must lend our support and commit to act when required to by the Gomeroi people. It is a commitment we must make if we are serious as a union about standing with our First Nation brothers and sisters to fight for a fair and equitable future.
Let us be the follow-through … let us not be another empty promise. Let us stand proudly with our brothers and sisters across the union movement in condemning Santos’s project and stopping it in its tracks.
Let us commit to fighting for the health of our country, the health of the Gomeroi nation and against the ongoing harmful dispossession of First Nations people from their lands.
Damien Davis Frank, RN