Working with Traditional Owners in the Beetaloo
published: 24 Apr 2019
The prospective Beetaloo Basin covers 18,500 square kilometres right in the centre of the Northern Territory – a place where relationships with host Traditional Owners is the starting point of any future success.
The Beetaloo Basin, located six hours’ drive south of Darwin near the town of Daly Waters, has the potential to be a game-changer for the Northern Territory and as a major new source of natural gas supply which could deliver decades of economic prosperity for all Territorians.
The exploration permits we hold that allow us to apply explore for natural gas in the Beetaloo sub-basin were only granted after Tripartite Agreement was reached between the Northern Land Council, as the statutory representative body for host Traditional Owners – those who have the cultural authority to speak for the land on which we plan to explore in, the Northern Territory Government and the exploration permit holder.
Permits can only be granted after agreement is reached and signed off by all parties, and occurs well before any work commences. The processes followed to reach these agreements respects the principles of what’s known as free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
FPIC requires that affected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are fully consulted and give their free and informed consent to any activities on their land. Sitting behind this is the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and other international law, which together provides a framework under which host communities are included in the decision-making on projects and ensuring they share in the benefits.
Origin has good relationships with its host Traditional Owners in the areas where we work, and they are supportive of our presence and the benefits working together brings to their community.
We listen to our hosts who have been supporting and participating in the Beetaloo exploration project for four years now. Before the moratorium we were formally meeting with our Traditional Owners every year. We plan to resume these regular meetings as we recommence our operations.
There’s work going on right now with Traditional Owners conducting Sacred Site Clearances prior to any disturbance in preparation for the planned resumption of operations next year. This work recognises and respects host Traditional Owners enduring connection to country – the landscape, the rivers and the flora and fauna.
Although the project is still in the early stages, local communities are already seeing benefits with our exploration activity helping to create jobs and grow local businesses.
One example is Triple P, a local 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and operated business from Elliott, two hours’ drive south of Daly Waters, which has had a contract with the project since 2017, monitoring and maintaining our well sites.
Should Origin’s exploration activities in the Beetaloo prove successful, this will be the first step in turning resource potential into that game changer delivering economic benefits, jobs and royalties for all Territorians.
All these things however can only exist if we continue to work in partnership together.