In October 2021, I travelled to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to start my long journey out to Borroloola and Minyerri in the lead up to the Origin Energy Annual General Meeting.
Origin Energy would usually hold their AGM in Sydney in person, and we would support Traditional Owners to make the trip from regional and remote communities across the NT to the AGM in Sydney. They would ask questions to Origin face-to-face, and we would back in TOs by attending the AGM via phone and emphasising their questions and concerns.
The year 2021 was different.
It was just over a year since COVID first hit our shores and the country was still adjusting to the ‘new normal’, so the Origin AGM was online. This meant that staff had to travel out to communities and bring TOs to a location that had reception to be able to dial in to the AGM. It wasn’t until this moment that I understood the vast distance between major towns and communities; in under seven days I travelled almost 12,000 km (6000 km of that was driving in the NT) to ensure that TOs had their voices heard at the AGM.
During the AGM, Seed staff and TOs attended by proxy of shareholders. We kept the pressure on Origin and hit them with the hard questions:
If groundwater is polluted from the processes and production of shale gas fracking, who is accountable for that damage?
How can you claim that you are committed to the rights of Indigenous people when there are serious doubts about your ability to obtain free, prior and informed consent?
How can you guarantee that the health and wellbeing of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal communities will not be sacrificed by your fracking projects?
The response we received from Origin was as to be expected – long-winded answers that did not actually respond to the concerns of community and TOs.
Post-AGM, we hung around for a few days to support TOs and community through the upset and the hurt that the AGM had caused to ensure that community and TOs could come back stronger than ever.
I travelled home and got stuck straight into Welcome Nights across the country to bring new young First Nations volunteers into the Seed network and increase the capacity of our young people to take action on the campaign and support those mob on the frontlines.
Our work on the ground was not for the faint-hearted. It was long stints driving on a road that continued straight for hours on end. It was so hot that you could see the heat waves on the horizon as you drove. You had to ensure you were prepared for the long drives between servos and had enough water and food if anything was to happen.
But the most challenging of all was saying, “See you later” to the people that are the heart of the campaign.
- Angel Owen is a proud Butchulla & Woppaburra woman, living and working on Barada Barna Country. She is the Chief Impact Officer at Seed Mob. A passionate and staunch environmentalist, Angel was one of five Indigenous youth who originally supported the launch of Seed in 2014 and was awarded with the NAIDOC Youth of the Year award for her district in 2016. She has dedicated herself to the movement and fighting for First Nations Justice and has inspired many along the way.