Opinion | Mine proposal with obliterate our Country | Susan Syron

STRONG OPPOSITION: "As Cook family descendants, we are very proud of our links to Country within Gloucester and the surrounding areas".
STRONG OPPOSITION: "As Cook family descendants, we are very proud of our links to Country within Gloucester and the surrounding areas".

My name is Aunty Susan Syron. I am an Aboriginal Elder in the Biripi Nation with connection to the Worimi Nation. I am a descendant of Jack Cook and Jesse Brummy, First Nation people of the Gloucester area.

After European settlement, the sad fact is, that our people were subjected to massacres that decimated the Aboriginal population and that ultimately meant that the Cook family was displaced from their lands. However, the family maintains strong cultural, traditional and historical ties to the Gloucester region. Many family gatherings are held at Gloucester.  In June 2016, the Gloucester community formally recognised the contribution of Jack and Jesse Cook to Gloucester and Australia’s history through the unveiling of an Acknowledgement Plaque.  Over 150 Cook family descendants celebrated this event. 

Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL) plans to build a coal mine, known as Rocky Hill, on the southern doorstep of Gloucester and in an area of great significance to the Aboriginal community.  The Cook family has recently lodged a strong objection to the mine.

The law requires that GRL to undertake an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment (including both cultural and archaeological significance) which must demonstrate effective consultation with Aboriginal communities in determining and assessing impact. By any measure GRL has failed woefully to comply with these requirements.

GRL has completely failed to undertake any proper consultation with our family. The company has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage with our Aboriginal heritage, history, culture and the spiritual dimension permeating all aspects of our life and beliefs. 

What is happening with the GRL proposal to damage our Country, mimics the historical relationship between government and our People - relegate, move and dismiss – which we had hoped was a relic of the past. 

GRL’s environmental impact statement (EIS) is a very superficial and inadequate attempt to comply with its legal requirements, in that:

• The EIS fails to assess the broader cultural values of the land to Aboriginal people, as opposed to individual archaeological sites.

• The bungling, ill-informed and convenient ‘consultation’ with Aboriginal interests in the EIS was inadequate, and therefore the assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage is also inadequate.

• The EIS contains misrepresentations stating that superficial and inadequate/misguided consultation was legitimate and that it somehow conveyed Aboriginal agreement to the GRL proposal.

The Cook family submission includes the following by Aboriginal Elder Ken Eveleigh: “The Bucketts and the Mograni look down upon this valley; it is a very spiritual and sacred place.  You might not see them clearly.  If you belong to Country you feel the spirit and hear the rivers flow and you know that your ancestors are still here with nature and it is not just in one spot; it runs through the valley”.

GRL’s own documents reveal that at least nine Aboriginal sites will be destroyed by the mine. However, they have not even surveyed the whole of the area affected. 

It is extraordinary in that the GRL proposal will obliterate our Country, our heritage and our spiritual connection. The emotion that is stirred up by the possibility that the area that holds our ancestors’ spirits may be changed forever, and no longer be a place of well-being for people who share our connection to the place, is crippling.

This story Mine proposal ‘obliterates our Country, our heritage’ first appeared on Newcastle Herald.