15 December 2016

Micklo Corpus stands up for a frack free Kimberley

For two years, Rawlinson Award winner Micklo Corpus has camped at the gates of Buru Energy’s Yulleroo fracking site, sharing his knowledge of culture and love of country while engaging the community and industry to keep the Kimberley frack free. Wade Freeman tells his story.

Micklo Corpus is a Traditional Owner from the Yawuru people. 

For over two years he has been camped on his native title land approximately 60 kilometres east of Broome (at the gates of Buru Energy’s Yulleroo fracking site) to peacefully protest against and draw attention to plans for large scale gas fracking.

When workers arrive, he refuses to move until the police arrive from Broome, one hour away. He monitors and records the activities of Buru Energy including the equipment that they are carrying in and how long they spend on site.

“I’ve inherited a role and responsibility through our tradition to look after and protect our country."

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For over two years he has been camped on his native title land approximately 60 kilometres east of Broome to peacefully protest against and draw attention to plans for large scale gas fracking.

His resistance and peaceful protest has cost the company lost time and money and is slowing down the pace of exploratory activities.

He has faced strong pressure from the state government, the mining company (Buru Energy Ltd) and the shire council to remove his camp but he has defied this pressure and, with the support of other Traditional Owners and the Broome community, brought widespread attention to the issue of proposed fracking in the Kimberley/Canning Basin.

"I'm determined to stay here on my country, exercise my Native Title Rights, and look after the land and water for future generations."

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With the support of other Traditional Owners and the Broome community, Micklo has brought widespread attention to the issue of proposed fracking in the Kimberley/Canning Basin.

His crucial and timely intervention has so far helped delay Buru's plans for fracking on Yawuru Country by two years.

This may prove to be decisive in ending the threat of large scale fracking in the Kimberley.

“Buru Energy has got three wells on our country," he says. "They’ve got a footprint of their well and it’s 150 metres wide and long. They put a 10 foot fence right around that well to deny people access to their own country."

“I will never - or my children will never - have access on that country, and that’s only one well and there’s a potential for 15,000."

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Micklo's intervention has so far helped delay Buru's plans for fracking on Yawuru Country by two years.

His brave stand has galvanised awareness of the threat of fracking and helped build opposition in Broome and the wider Kimberley region.

He has helped protect the National Heritage listed Roebuck from the potential contamination ground and surface water and the industrialisation of the West Kimberley.

“In the Federal Court we were granted exclusive rights over this country," he says. "And what I understand of exclusive rights is that no one else in the world makes a decision on what happens on this country; only the Yawuru people."

"I'm not a protester, I'm a Yawuru traditional custodian."

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Micklo Corpus jointly won the 2016 Peter Rawlinson Award, for his outstanding leadership in his efforts for Indigenous and environmental justice.

Without Micklo’s stand, on Country, there would be no personal focus for the campaign against fracking in the Kimberley.

He has become the face of the campaign and this has helped massively in raising awareness and building support for a frack free Kimberley.

“I’ve been at this site now for two years and our country would be fracked now if I wasn’t here," he says. "I’m prepared to stay here to cease this fracking operation. Our people voted against it. I’m adamant about taking that stance."

"I can see myself living out here for the rest of my life to protect my country and practice my tradition.”

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Micklo Corpus is the face of a campaign to raise awareness and build support for a frack free Kimberley.
All photos: Damian Kelly

Wade Freeman

Wade Freeman is ACF’s Kimberley campaigner and is based in Broome WA