Western Australia is known as the engine room of the Australian economy, but how sustainable is this business for Country?
That is the question Ngalia Traditional Owner and National Native Title Council chairman Kado Muir wants Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to ponder as WA fuels its wealth by “monopolising” Indigenous resources and Country.
Opening the Disrupted Festival at the State Library of Western Australia on Saturday, June 18, Mr Muir said WA was captured by multinational corporations and powerful individuals.
“If you’re going into a society that has all its needs met, how do you get them to do what you want them to do and not continue to do what they’re doing,” Mr Muir said.
“We all frown and go ‘look at the third world countries and look at them overthrowing governments’.
“(Former Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd… was overthrown by multinational corporations.”
Mr Muir’s comments come one month after the WA Budget once again revealed the strong contributions to the state economy from the resource sector.
Some $12.58bn was pumped into the State coffers in 2021-22 from the resources industry, according to the WA Government’s budget handed down in May.
That accounted for nearly one-third of all WA government revenue and is expected to be backed up by another $7.1bn in royalties next financial year, according to the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA.
The sector counted more than 155,000 people working in the industry in 2021, and is a major employer of Indigenous people in regional WA.
But vocal criticism remains around the sector’s environmental and cultural credentials.
Woodside is locked in a fight with conservationists over its $12bn Scarborough project, with Australian Conservation Foundation on Tuesday launching Federal Court action to stop the project until its impact on the Great Barrier Reef has been assessed.
The project has passed numerous State and Federal approvals and Woodside has already defeated two environment-focused court challenges.
Rio Tinto is also continuing to grapple with the fallout from blowing up ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the central Pilbara in 2020 and concerns linger about the impact of industrial emissions on Murujuga’s ancient rock art.
Mr Muir, a regular critic of industry practices in regional WA and multiple-time Greens candidate at elections, said WA’s reliance on industry had dire consequences for the planet and for First Nations people.
He said mob needed to take stock of what was important and how it was being disrupted and dismantled.
“There’s different platforms on which wealth is created – that’s good social institutions, strong social institutions with their laws or arts, culture,” he said.
“There’s natural resources and your environment, and there’s your people and the capabilities of your people.
“There’s the infrastructure, stuff around power, communications and transport.”
Mr Muir said he hoped to create discussion about new wealth models between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“The discussion I’m wanting to encourage is that, First Nations in Australia start thinking about wealth of their nations and how it’s being dismantled and taken apart by the settler state and what we need to do to actually reclaim it and rebuild it,” he said.
“It all comes back to these businesses looking for access to land, and in that access to land we need to be able to have a framework or a reference point on how does this mining activity contribute to our objectives, our goals what we want to achieve.
“And not become victim to what the settler state is trying to achieve against our will.”