Aboriginal Elders, farmers, conservationists and religious leaders make history to challenge Whitehaven Coal

Press release - 12 February, 2014
13th February, 2014, Sydney/Gunnedah. Greenpeace will today join forces with the Traditional Owners of the Leard forest, local farmers, religious leaders represented by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and conservationists to sign an historic agreement, vowing to protect the cultural and environmental values of areas threatened by Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek open cut coal mine.

Maules Creek is the largest coal mine currently under construction in Australia. Farmers, national and local environment groups and local residents have been blockading Whitehaven’s construction efforts. Today’s agreement with Traditional Owners marks an unprecedented escalation in the campaign against Maules Creek campaign, which is fast becoming seen as an historic and iconic battle against the coal industry.

The signing of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection Agreement is taking place on the sixth anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation.

Greenpeace CEO, David Ritter, said this agreement represents an historic moment that sees sometimes long estranged communities coming together with a common goal to protect country, water, air and climate from the enormous threat posed by coal mining.

 “I am enormously proud to sign on to an agreement with Traditional Owners, farmers and friends in the environment movement to work together with respect and recognize that we come together on the country of the Gomeroi Traditional Owners who have a unique spiritual and cultural connection to this area.”

“As someone who began his career as a lawyer working on native title in Western Australia many years ago, I have a deep appreciation of just how important these historic moments are to all Australians. For all of us who truly love this land and who look for an Australia where respect for each other is the norm and our care for country is central, this is a moment to celebrate.”

Gomeroi woman, Dolly Talbott said, “It’s ironic that Whitehaven Coal has been the catalyst for such long overdue change and dialogue and perhaps finally some reconciliation and understanding of each other and healing between traditional and local land holders and farmers will result.”

Images will be available on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leardstateforest/

Aerial footage available on request

The full text of the agreement between Gomeroi Traditional Owners, Maules Creek landholders, Lock the Gate and conservation groups is available here: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/leard_forest_protection_treaty

For further information:

Dolly Talbot 0413131983

Greenpeace media officer, Julie Macken 0400 925 217