Noonkanbah March 1978

Our Story

Back in 1978, Kimberley Aboriginal people came together to take a stand against the Western Australian Government and an international mining company that wanted to drill for oil on sacred ground.

Our mob came from everywhere; they jumped in the back of utes or hitched a ride across the Kimberley to make it to Noonkanbah to protest for Aboriginal land rights.

In the 12 months that American mining company AMAX had been exploring for oil at Noonkanbah, two burial grounds and a ceremonial ground had been damaged by bulldozers, roads were made unusable and fences broken.

Tensions were high. So, when AMEX, backed by the WA Government, wanted to drill for oil at a goanna dreaming place, despite the low chances of making a discovery, Kimberley Aboriginal people decided they had had enough and it was time to take a stand. Together, they marched in protest along the river bank.  The police soon came and locked many of them up, clearing the way for the mining trucks to pass.

AMEX went on to drill for oil, despite the protests of Kimberley Aboriginal people. And although we did not win that day, Noonkanbah was a victory for all Aboriginal people across Australia.  It was a turning point in the land rights movement, and influenced all Australians, black and white, in the way they thought about justice for Aboriginal people.

Later that year, the first meeting of the KLC was held at Noonkanbah.


“On the first day of the meeting all the representatives of the different communities (more than 30) talked about their own situations and experiences and about the benefits they would get from joining together and sharing their common experience and making their voices one voice, and they decided yes, they would set up a Land Council. And so the KLC arrived.” – KLC Newsletter 1978



Today, more than 35 years later, Kimberley Aboriginal people still stand together as one mob, with one voice. The Kimberley Land Council was formed by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people, and our voice remains strong.
 


"Well we made a point; the mining company can’t do these sort of things, walking into places drilling holes and that’s what they did. At that time Charlie Court was Premier of WA so he got a lot of police involved and a lot of scab drivers; truck drivers to drive out there and they nearly took us. We was sitting in the river near Noonkanbah and there must have been 300 to 400 people sitting in the river singing trying to stop the trucks going in and the police dragged all our vehicles away and chucked us in the back of the van and took us to Fitzroy, and that was the first time in my life I got chucked in jail and I was really terrified. They had us there about 2-3 hours to keep us away from the truckies while they had their way, and the mining company had their way and where they drilled at the time is today destroyed."


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