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December 10, 2020

MEDIA RELEASE: Traditional Owners call for moratorium on Warragamba Dam raising proposal

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Committee examining the destruction of Jukkan Gorge handed down its interim findings, which included the following (selected) recommendations:


-The ultimate conclusion of this report is that the tragedy of Juukan Gorge must not be repeated. While arguments might be had about the details of events and the impacts of laws, the ultimate cause of the destruction of the caves was that insufficient value has been placed on the preservation of Indigenous culture and heritage—a living culture with a timeless heritage.

-The Western Australian Government place a moratorium on the consideration and approval of new Section 18 applications until the new legislation is passed unless it can be established and verified that there is current free, prior and informed consent obtained from Traditional Owners.

-The Australian Government seek to legislate a prohibition on agreements that restrict Traditional Owners from publicly raising concerns about heritage protection or exercising their rights under heritage legislation.

Gundungurra spokeswoman and community leader, Kazan Brown, called on these findings to be applied through legislation and cultural heritage assessment practises in NSW. Specifically, in relation to the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 17 metres, Ms Brown said:

"We truly hope these findings will shine a bright light on the racist, disingenuous and flawed proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall and its associated assessment process.
"We call on these strong findings to be applied in the case of the Warragamba Dam wall raising proposal, which by the Federal Government's own leaked estimates would see the destruction of over 1,200 Gundungurra rock art sites, occupation shelters, archaeological deposits and burial locations from inundation by dam waters.
"Raising the Warragamba Dam wall would result in an additional two Sydney Harbours of dam water eroding, scarring and killing the plants, animals and rock shelters that are the last remaining connections to our lands in the southern Blue Mountains.
"The only difference between the Warragamba proposal and the destruction of Jukkan Gorge is that our sites are located within a declared World Heritage area, a point barely touched upon in the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment for the proposal." The SMEC Engineering subcontractor’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment for the dam proposal was also leaked to the media several weeks ago here.
"The best recommendations the Infrastructure NSW dam-builders and their consultants have come up with is that they will let us tell kids in our local school about the culture genocide we will endure from this project.
"Despite recently sending a letter to all concerned State and Federal Ministers clearly stating
that we do not give 'free, prior and informed consent' for this project to proceed, our meeting
requests have been ignored by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ken Wyatt.
Pictures of the cultural sites that would be destroyed from inundation by the Warragamba
proposal can be found here.

Media contact:
Kazan Brown

The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, NSW Premier 52 Martin Place Sydney NSW 2000
The Hon. Robert Stokes MP NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces 52 Martin Place Sydney NSW 2000
The Hon. (Matt) Matthew John Kean, NSW Minister for Energy and Environment 52 Martin Place Sydney NSW 2000
David Harper, WaterNSW Project Director PO Box 398 Parramatta NSW 2124
Maree Abood, Infrastructure NSW Director PO Box R220 Royal Exchange NSW 1225

No free, prior and informed consent to raise Warragamba Dam wall from Traditional Owners

Dear Sirs/Madams,

We write to in your capacity as the NSW and Commonwealth Government consent authorities for the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall. We do so after witnessing the gross procedural unfairness afforded to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples in the destruction of the Juukan Gorge Cave in Western Australia. Gundungarra people and their neighboring peoples across western Sydney have experienced cultural destruction on a landscape scale due to the original construction of Warragamba Dam wall in 1960, which permanently destroyed the vast proportion of Aboriginal cultural heritage in the southern Blue Mountains. We now face the possibility of near obliteration of our cultural heritage from the proposed raising of the Warragamba Dam wall by 17 metres which would flood several hundred remaining burial, cultural and rock art sites. The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment completed to date for the dam project has not considered the significant impacts of recent bushfires upon our cultural heritage sites to be flooded, nor have our people been properly engaged in assessing the significance of the cultural heritage areas to be impacted by the dam raising proposal. We have indeed raised serious concerns about the reputation of the NSW Government’s chosen consultants to oversee the assessment of the Warragamba Dam proposal, SMEC Engineering, who have long disregarded Indigenous rights on dam assessments across Asia.

Gundungurra people and their neighboring peoples across western Sydney have not, do not, and will not, provide free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for the Warragamba Dam wall raising proposal to proceed.

As such, we ask that you do not approve the raising of Warragamba Dam wall. The Commonwealth Government must abide by the World Heritage Convention to protect the Greater Blue Mountains and its rich cultural heritage.

The undersigned,
Aunty Sharyn Halls
Wayne Riley and family
Aunty Shirley Riley
Kirean Duncan and family
Uncle David King
Casey Grimston and family
Burra Burra Aboriginal Corporation
Vanene Riley and family
Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation
Michelle van Tweet and family
Kazan Brown
Tony Duncan and family
Taylor Clarke
Micheal van Tweet and family
Dale Chalker
Jordan Duncan and family
Jaye Bauman
Daniel van Tweet and family
Daniel Chalker and family
Marieann Duncan and family
Haylee Kidd
Leslie Riley
Bruce Grimston
Michelle Halliday and family
Laykin Kidd
Matt Riley and family
Karen Jones and family
Damien Duncan and family
Craig Duncan
Teena Riley and family

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