When her turn came to speak, though, she didn't get the chance – Origin hung up on her, and moved her to the back of the queue. She persisted and eventually got her chance to ask her question, but the experience was rattling for her as a Senior Alawa Elder.
It was a sign of what was to come. As the meeting went on, Origin undercut Traditional Owners and Native Title holders like Aunty Naomi Wilfred and Aunty Gillian Limmen waiting to ask questions about the effects of fracking on their Country, and Origin's lack of consultation. When these Traditional Owners said they had not been consulted, Origin CEO Scott Perkins refuted them.
Origin also stymied a vote on shareholder resolutions lodged by Traditional Owners that called on the company to "cease all operations" in the Beetaloo Basin until Traditional Owners are given veto power over any planned drilling that would disrupt cultural heritage and sacred sites.
Alawa Traditional Owner Aunty May August said:
"I’m a Traditional Owner of Alawa Country in the Northern Territory. 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 Origin come to meet with me on my Country?"
GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin said:
"It's ironic that Origin silenced and cut off Traditional Owners questioning them, just so they could talk about how hard they've worked to get 'consent' from those same Traditional Owners.
"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.
"Origin chair Scott Perkins should personally apologise to Aunty May, and travel to Alawa Country to meet with her and other Traditional Owners so he can hear for himself what they think of Origin's plans. After such a disgraceful display of disrespect, it's the least he could do.
"It also shows the inadequacy of the laws governing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage and sacred sites. 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."
Interviews and photos of Traditional Owners available on request.
Media contact: Alex McKinnon 0411 829 334