ABC reporter, MARK COLVIN: An area marked for a massive gas project in Western Australia has hit another potential hurdle.
An Indigenous man says it’s a sacred site for secret men’s business.
Traditional owners in the Kimberley have reached agreement with Woodside and the state and federal governments for a gas hub at James Price Point, north of Broome.
But Goolarabooloo man Joseph Roe says the site was known for ceremonies associated with initiations and secret business.
Joseph Roe says he is prepared to testify if necessary but only in a court of men.
He spoke to our reporter David Weber.
JOSEPH ROE: James Price Point is a special place for us, well for me anyway and my people. There’s a song cycle that runs from the northern part of the tip at the Dampier Peninsula through that country and down south to Bidyadanga.
DAVID WEBER: It’s described as secret men’s business what has occurred there in the past. Can you tell us anything about that at all?
JOSEPH ROE: There’s a lot of old sites in there, Goolarabooloo grounds and whatever. My job is to protect that in the best way I can. And, but no one’s been listening.
DAVID WEBER: The concept of secret men’s business, I mean does that mean that there are things that have gone on there that can’t be explained or can’t be described to mainstream Australia, whether it’s in a court or whether it’s a government or whatever?
JOSEPH ROE: Well men’s business is men’s business. I mean if I really need to go to parts and explain that it would be done in a court of law under proper instructions from my lawyer. It’s men’s business is men’s business.
DAVID WEBER: So you can’t talk about it right now?
JOSEPH ROE: No because it’s sacred and it’s sacred stuff that belongs to us.
DAVID WEBER: At what point will the concept of secret men’s business be brought into the legal sphere to try and stop the gas hub from going ahead?
JOSEPH ROE: Well when they, it all depends what court I end up in. At the end of the day if I need to give evidence and the other law bosses we’ll probably do it in the court room but restricted only to men.
I mean it’s not like changing a tyre mate. It’s serious than that.
DAVID WEBER: Men will be allowed but no women?
JOSEPH ROE: Yeah.
DAVID WEBER: Has this area been acknowledged before by the WA Government as a sacred site?
JOSEPH ROE: There was a report done back in ’91. It’s called the Terrex. My grandfather Paddy Roe brought a sand mining company to court here in the warden’s court in Broome and then went to Perth. And the warden’s court made a decision that they declared it as a site of significance to us. And who did all that for us was the Kimberley Land Council then.
DAVID WEBER: I asked some elders in the middle of this year about whether there were sacred sites at or near James Price Point and they said there’s nothing there.
JOSEPH ROE: Well let’s go back September 2005. The same elders that you asked, they were part of a, we had a big law boss meeting. Everybody was there. Back in 2005, September 17th, Don Voelte was present from Woodside. The Kimberley Land Council was present. The Kimberley Land Council cultural advisers, they were all at the meeting. The northern traditional law bosses said no because of the song cycle.
DAVID WEBER: This week, tomorrow, it’s scheduled in the Supreme Court that the chief justice will hand down a judgement on your challenge to the validity of the compulsory acquisition by the WA Government of the site at James Price Point.
If that goes against you will you continue to fight in the courts?
JOSEPH ROE: Oh well I have no choice. That’s my job mate. That’s my job as a law boss. I have to keep fighting to protect what I believe is right.
MARK COLVIN: Joseph Roe speaking to David Weber.