History of the Dampier issue
| This page presents details of the historical reasons for the present campaign to save the rock art of Dampier. This is not a new issue, it is an unresolved matter going back more than a century. It began becoming acute in the 1960s, with the large-scale industrial development in the Dampier Archipelago. This led to the first confrontations and demands for remedial action, resulting in the first representation made by IFRAO in 1994. This shows that long-term government apathy, indecision, incompetence and procrastination are the only reasons for the predicament today’s government finds itself in.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DAMPIER ISSUE
1868 – The Aboriginal occupation of the Dampier Archipelago ends abruptly when the Yaburara, the traditional clan occupying most of it, are decimated in the Flying Foam Massacre and further massacres over several months by a force consisting of regular police and special constables especially sworn in for the purpose. Only six people are recorded to have survived this Massacre by the police, for which the state has offered no compensation to this day.
1954 – The first offshore North-West Shelf gas deposit is discovered by Woodside.
1962 – In response to a proposal to construct a deep-water port on Depuch Island, east of the Dampier Archipelago, the Western Australian Museum conducts an impact study. It finds concentrations of rock art and the plan is abandoned, but it also reports, mistakenly, that there is almost no rock art in the Dampier Archipelago.
1963/4 – In response to the botched museum survey, government and mining interests decide to build the harbour on Dampier Island (Murujuga) instead. The large-scale destruction of Dampier rock art commences.
1967 – R. G. Bednarik re-discovers most of the Murujuga rock art and commences his survey of it, registering some 572 petroglyph sites and numerous rock arrangements over the next three years. He witnesses extensive destruction of rock art by Hamersley Iron and Dampier Salt and commences a long-term study of its deterioration.
1970 – R. G. Bednarik asks the Western Australian Museum to protect the Dampier petroglyphs ahead of further destruction by Dampier Salt.
1971 – Major natural gas deposits on the Northwest Shelf are discovered off the coast.
1972 to 1978 – Several further rock art researchers, including F. L. Virili, W. Dix, B. Wright, M. Lorblanchet and J. Clarke, examine the Dampier rock art corpus and recommend appropriate protection.
1977 – The practice of employing archaeologists routinely to ‘study’ Dampier rock art commences. In all cases, this is done to facilitate industrial development and not to better knowledge about rock art. No comprehensive inventory of the petroglyphs has ever been conducted by a government agency.
1979 – The northern half of Dampier Island (Murujuga) is renamed Burrup Peninsula after the 19th-century Roebourne bank clerk Henry Burrup.
1980 – The commercial development of the North-West Shelf commences. Woodside Offshore Petroleum employs archaeologists to destroy rock art sites by removing rock art on a large scale. The traditional owners are not consulted, and no attempt is made to assess the impact of the petrochemical development. Almost 2000 engraved boulders are deposited in a fenced-in ‘temporary’ storage area at Hearson Cove.
1987 – The traditional owners of the rock art are, for the first time, consulted in an environmental impact study, conducted by the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
1994 – R. G. Bednarik proposes in AURA Newsletter the archipelago’s declaration as a National Park, return of the land to Aboriginal ownership, and nomination to World Heritage List.
1996 – The government announces the development of the Maitland Heavy Industry Estate, located on the mainland to the south-east of Dampier.
Late 2001 – A plan to significantly increase the industrial capacity on Murujuga (the ‘Burrup Peninsula’) is announced.
January 2002 – The Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA) and the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) decide to oppose the expansion of the petrochemical plants because similar development has already caused the loss of 24% of the Murujuga rock art.
February 2002 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of IFRAO and AURA, advises the Western Australian government formally of their opposition to the industrial expansion at Dampier.
March 2002 – Green MP R. Chapple MLC petitions the government on behalf of the Murujuga rock art, in correspondence and by raising the matter repeatedly in parliament. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, A. Carpenter MLA, advises IFRAO that he cannot guarantee that no further rock art will be relocated.
April 2002 – In response to this IFRAO steps up its campaign and recruits support, advising the Premier and several Ministers that their positions are untenable. The establishment of an independent committee is requested. Application is made to the National Trust of Australia to list Murujuga as an Endangered Site. AURA establishes a Webpage to serve the Dampier campaign.
May 2002 – Separate scientific reports by P. Vinnicombe and R. G. Bednarik are published in Rock Art Research, and their publication is immediately followed by a very effective media campaign. The paper by Bednarik is so often cited in parliament and copies are in such demand that it is placed on the Internet. The traditional owners are offered a compensation package, together with an ultimatum to accept it by the end of the month.
June 2002 – In response to the Bednarik paper, the government announces the establishment of an expert panel to assess the claims made in it. The media reports the appalling conditions of the 2000 petroglyph boulders deposited in a compound in the 1980s. The local Shire President announces that the shire council has not been consulted in the planning. IFRAO accuses the government of cultural vandalism and economic mismanagement, AURA launches an Internet petition on its Website.
9 June 2002 – A public rally is held at Hearson’s Cove, which turns into a demonstration in favour of the rock art, demanding unanimously that the industrial development be located at Maitland. This establishes clearly the strength of local support for the campaign.
28 June 2002 – The government member for the Pilbara, F. Riebeling MLA, questions that the government’s policies do produce acid rain. Yet at the same time one of the companies involved in the expansion plans, Methanex Pty Ltd, releases their own scientific impact report, which agrees substantially with the claims made by IFRAO, even exceeding these in severity. Indeed, Methanex offers to contribute constructively to any endeavour addressing environmental concerns.
8 July 2002 – R. G. Bednarik, as President of IFRAO, suggests to the W.A. Premier, Dr Gallop, that politically, demographically and socially, as well as environmentally, it would be much better to spread the planned massive industrial development along the coast to the south of Dampier. This ‘nodal’ model is rejected by the Department of Resources and Industry.
12 July 2002 – IFRAO attacks the government over its dithering and procrastination, and its insensitive handling of the issue, emphasising the much more constructive attitudes of some of the companies on whose behalf the government purports to speak.
15 July 2002 – IFRAO predicts that some of the companies may well reconsider their involvement in view of the uncertainty it creates by dithering, accusing the government of endangering the projects.
18 July 2002 – The government’s negotiations with the three native claimant groups have been marred by incompetence and heavy-handedness. Its strategy of pitching one group against the others has caused division and a solution appears to have become increasingly remote.
23 July 2002 – The Federal Treasurer, Hon. P. Costello visits Murujuga to inspect the Woodside complex, stating to the media that the environmental concerns need to be resolved. This follows a few days after the elections in Tasmania, in which the Greens increased the number of their seats fourfold.
25 July 2002 – The government announces that it will conduct an independent four-year study of the deterioration R. G. Bednarik has already studied for 35 years. It is not clear how the wishes of companies wanting to commence their projects in the meantime will be accommodated. While this vindicates the concerns that led to this campaign in the first place, it is also clear that the government still does not comprehend the implications of its inaction.
8 August 2002 – A 25-year contract to annually supply 3.3 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas to China is announced by Woodside, the operator of the North-West Shelf joint venture. Valued between $18-25 billion, this is the largest single export contract in Australia’s history, supposedly involving the creation of some 80,000 new jobs. The public announcements make no mention of the siting of the required new industrial installations.
22 August 2002 – The National Trust of Australia places Murujuga (Burrup ‘Peninsula’) on its list of Endangered Sites of Australia.
26 August 2002 – IFRAO, through R. G. Bednarik, petitions the National Native Title Tribunal to ensure the return of Murujuga to the local Aboriginal people and registers a strong public interest in the rock art precinct. This submission leads to the NNTT’s decision, ten weeks later, to call for public submissions on the case.
16 October 2002 – The Premier of Western Australia advises IFRAO that he has named an independent committee of nine members, the Rock Art Monitoring Reference Committee, to oversee a study of the deterioration of Dampier rock art. This committee will report in four years’ time. Meanwhile, however, industrial development will continue at Dampier as planned.
23 October 2002 – The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, The Hon. Dr David Kemp, encourages IFRAO to pursue nomination of the Dampier petroglyphs to the UNESCO World Heritage List, and also encourages IFRAO to nominate it for national heritage listing as soon as the presently proposed Australian Heritage Council becomes operative.
24 October 2002 – On behalf of IFRAO and AURA, R. G. Bednarik nominates the Dampier rock art to be listed as one of the world’s WMF 100 Most Threatened Monuments to the World Monuments Watch program of the World Monuments Fund. There have never been any Australian properties on the list of most threatened sites.
6 November 2002 – The National Native Title Tribunal, which is the Australian legal court deciding matters of indigenous rights, makes an unprecedented ruling in the case of the Dampier rock art. Based on the submission by IFRAO, it rules that the ‘public interest’ has not been taken into account adequately in the case of Aboriginal custodians versus the State, and it calls for public submissions in this case.
29 December 2002 – The world’s largest methanol plant receives clearance from Environment Minister J. Edwards to establish on Murujuga.
16 January 2003 – After the National Native Titles Tribunal receives seventy-two submissions within a few days (up to 83 pages long), the government secures the agreement of three claimant groups with a large payout, claiming its plans at Dampier are no longer impeded. This effectively renders the NNTT case irrelevant.
19 January 2003 – A giant desalination plant is announced for Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula).
Late January 2003 – The ASTRON Report, commissioned by the Shire of Roebourne, is presented. It compares the Maitland and Burrup industrial estates and finds that the Maitland infrastructure will not cost $300 million, as claimed by the government, but only $100 million. It also reports that the Burrup sites are subject to surge tides of 2-3 m. In comparing the two options, it comes out heavily in Maitland’s favour for engineering reasons.
29 January 2003 – The head of the Department of Environmental Protection, R. Payne, is sacked by the Premier of Western Australia, Dr Geoff Gallop. His superior, Environment Minister J. Edwards, is under pressure to resign.
13 February 2003 – The State Development Minister of Western Australia, C. Brown, announces the terms of reference for the government’s Dampier Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee, and installs EPA board member Associate Professor Frank Murray as chair of the ten-member committee.
25 February 2003 – The State Opposition Leader, C. Barnett, leads parliamentary attacks against the Environment Minister, J. Edwards, culminating in a no-confidence vote that is narrowly defeated.
7 March 2003 – State Development Minister Clive Brown announces that the state government would evaluate the best location for future gas processing projects in the Pilbara. He concedes that all land for major projects on Murujuga-Burrup has now been allocated and alternative locations are being sought for future projects. They include the Maitland Estate, West Intercourse Island, Cape Lambert, Boodarie and Onslow.
13 March 2003 – Methanex Corporation of Vancouver announces that its proposed $2 billion methanol plant for Murujuga/Burrup will not proceed. The company remains interested in establishing a plant in north-western Australia, but not at Dampier. Its withdrawal follows that of another Dampier proponent, Syntroleum, after the rejection of a request for substantial government support. A third of the prospective Murujuga companies, Dampier Nitrogen, has indicated that it is also seeking further state subsidies.
15 March 2003 – C. Barnett MLA, the W.A. State Opposition Leader, states that if Maitland were in place, the Methanex project would not have been lost and that he would move immediately on developing Maitland was he the premier. He also argues that the rock art at Dampier is the most significant heritage issue the state has ever faced, and that ‘the corporate entities are not going to want to be seen in conflict with the rock art’.
26 March 2003 – Woodside, the operator of the North West Shelf Venture, announces that it has made a major error in calculating the emissions of oxides of nitrogen at its Dampier gas plant. The ‘error’ relates to the mass of corrosive emissions which is conceded to be about twice as great as listed in the National Pollutant Inventory. This provides a plausible explanation for the deterioration rate of rock accretions at Dampier which seemed to be in excess of what would be expected from previously admitted emission levels.
28 March 2003 – The Hon. Dr D. Kemp MP, Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, advises IFRAO that he has informed his Western Australian counterpart, Dr J. Edwards MLA, that the Commonwealth Government is interested in including the Dampier rock art in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
29 March 2003 – The Murujuga (Burrup) Rock Art Monitoring Research Workshop is conducted in Dampier. Subsequent newspaper reports emphasise that the participating scientists are very concerned about the survival of the rock art and that the funding provided for monitoring work is grossly inadequate.
30 March 2003 – Dr P. Vinnicombe, a member of the Dampier Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee, suddenly collapses during the Dampier workshop and dies before arriving in Karratha Hospital.
4 April 2003 – The Western Australian Department of Environmental Protection, which has been the object of severe criticism for several months, admits that a series of internal reviews show that it is incapable of fulfilling its functions. It is to be completely restructured and renamed.
7 April 2003 – The Murujuga Forum is held at the Alexander Library in Perth, under the auspices of the National Trust of Australia (W.A.). This is a forum of representatives of the key organisations now opposed to the destruction of the Murujuga rock art, including representatives of the local Indigenous communities. The Forum is addressed by the State Leader of the Opposition, The Hon. C. Barnett MLA, who pledges his complete support in securing the relocation of planned industrial developments. It also emerges at this event that the Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee will not be effective in achieving any meaningful protection for the Dampier rock art.
6 May 2003 – Hon. R. Chapple MLC raises in parliament the question of future compensation for companies having to comply with more stringent emission controls if the Emissions Committee were to recommend this. He points out that one of the companies, Methanex, is currently seeking compensation of $970 million from the U.S. government for the effects of similar changes to pollution laws there.
10 July 2003 – A contract of $14 million is awarded to construct a service corridor on Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula), which will destroy further rock art and stone arrangement sites.
16 July 2003 – Tenders are announced for six rock art monitoring studies on the Burrup Peninsula: baseline assessment of microbial activity on rock surfaces; microclimate and deposition at rock art sites; monitoring of ambient concentrations of industrial emissions; artificial fumigation of rock surfaces; field studies of colour changes to rock art; and field studies of micro-topography changes to rock art.
14 August 2003 – IFRAO informs Professor F. Murray, Chairman of the Dampier ‘Emissions Committee’, that his proposed research program is amateurish and inadequate.
23 August 2003 – IFRAO presents a 3-page submission to the Burrup Peninsula Conservation Reserve Planning Advisory Committee, criticising its Draft Management Plan for the proposed Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) Conservation Reserve, describing it as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
September 2003 – Hundreds of decorated boulders are again removed and sites destroyed in the course of construction work.
25 September 2003 – IFRAO’s nomination of the Dampier rock art precinct, made on 24 October 2002, is accepted by the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 most threatened sites in the world. This is the first Australian site in history to be blacklisted by the WMF.
Late September 2003 – The W.A. newspapers record substantial evidence of a major voters backlash as a result of government policies and the Premier, Dr Gallop, admits that his government is ‘in trouble’.
29 September 2003 – Methanex, the proponent of the largest of the proposed industrial developments on Murujuga (Burrup) finally announces the cancellation of its plans. The official reason given is that development costs are too high on the island. The Canadian firm is the largest methanol producer in the world and has been in serious conflict with conservationists before.
10 October 2003 – After massive financial concessions by the government, GTL Resources decides to build a $700 million methanol plant on Murujuga (Burrup ‘Peninsula’). The project is later cancelled.
12 January 2004 – The President of the World Monuments Fund, B. Burnham, travels to Dampier to inspect the rock art and the industrial development within the rock art precinct with R. G. Bednarik. Her visit is immediately condemned by the Western Australian Minister for State Development, C. Brown before her findings become available.
13 January 2004 – The WMF President and R. G. Bednarik meet a panel of government officials in Perth and inform them that nowhere else in the world is there a monument of the magnitude and significance of that of the Dampier rock art that has to share its locality with an industrial estate. The WMF will provide financial support to the campaign to save the Dampier rock art.
19 March 2004 – The International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) announces that it will expand an independent study into the effects of the industrialisation of the Dampier Archipelago, especially the effects on rock art of the area.
22 March 2004 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO), submits the Dampier Rock Art Precinct for the National Heritage List.
30 March 2004 – Woodside announces that the construction of a fifth LNG processing train, costing $1.6 billion, will probably proceed at the Dampier plant. A final decision will be made by the end of 2004.
12 April 2004 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) submits the Dampier Rock Art Precinct for the Endangered Sites List of Sacred Sites International.
26 April 2004 – Japanese conglomerate Japan DME, comprising Mitsubishi, Itochu and steelmaker JGC, announces that its one-billion-dollar development at Dampier may not proceed. This follows the defections of all other major proponents. More than two years after the announcement of the state government that there would be a ‘bonanza’ of $8 billion in petrochemical plants at Dampier, only one minor player remains committed to this plan.
23 May 2004 – The National Trust of Australia supports IFRAO’s bid to have the Dampier rock art placed on the National Heritage, requesting the government to fast-track the application by IFRAO.
1 June 2004 – Two days before the Commonwealth Minister is to rule on the application by the National Trust, and following pressure from the State Government, the National Trust withdraws its request for emergency listing of the Dampier rock art precinct.
12 August 2004 – More than two years after R. G. Bednarik suggested an alternative model for future industrial development in the region (8 July 2002, see above), the state government reports that it will investigate alternative sites along the coast, at Maitland / West Intercourse Island, Boodarie, Cape Lambert/Dixon Island, Cape Preston, Onslow and Oakajee, near Geraldton.
12 August 2004 – The project of monitoring air quality at Dampier to study the survival of the petroglyphs, promised more than two years ago (June 2002), is commenced.
14 August 2004 – BHP Billiton, Australia’s biggest gas and oil producer, is reported to prefer Onslow as the site for its planned $4 billion development of a liquefied natural gas plant. MP R. Chapple MLC describes the choice as socially and economically sound.
18 August 2004 – The West Australian reports that, in addition to the much greater quantities of explosive and volatile substances stored at the Woodside plant, there are 92 million tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored at Dampier Port.
3 September 2004 – The government of Western Australia refuses to fund the infrastructure necessitated at Onslow by the proposed BHP Billiton multi-billion dollar development. The reason given is that WA will receive no royalties because the gas fields are off-shore. This is equally true at Dampier: the gas is also off-shore, and royalties go to the federal government. Yet here the hypocritical state government is eagerly paying hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure.
6 September 2004 – After IFRAO reports extensive vandalism to a major stone arrangement site on Murujuga (Burrup), the Traditional Custodians of the Dampier Sacred Cultural Precinct decide to re-introduce traditional tribal law concerning the maintenance of ceremonial sites.
25 October 2004 – Canadian fertiliser producer Agrium is granted land at Dampier to establish a $1 billion ammonia plant. Plenty River Corporation plans to establish an ammonia plant together with explosives giant Dyno Nobel, producing a further 235,000 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate per year.
14 November 2004 – IFRAO again petitions the Premier of Western Australia, The Hon. Dr G. Gallop MLA, to relocate all new industrial developments at a safe distance from the explosive installations of Dampier.
16 February 2005 – Just a few days before the state election in Western Australia, the opposition concedes that it does not intend to develop the alternative Maitland Estate until the Dampier area is fully used up.
4 March 2005 – The International Sacred Sites Trust nominates the Dampier rock art precinct as one of the ten most threatened sacred sites in the world.
30 March 2005 – YARA International, a large Norwegian fertiliser producer, announces that it will acquire 30% of Burrup Fertilisers, the world’s largest ammonia plant. A new find of gas reserves prompts Woodside to canvass the proposal of a sixth LNG train at its Dampier plant.
28 April to 5 May 2005 – The travelling exhibition Visions of the Past: the world’s most endangered rock art, assembled by R. G. Bednarik of IFRAO, is premiered at Karratha, Western Australia, close to the Dampier rock art it presents. After its opening in the Walkington Theatre by some of the main stakeholders, it is open to the public for one week and seen by a large part of the local community. It is then shown in the Civic Centre of Port Hedland.
May 2005 – The Heritage Council of Western Australia, which has until now been of the view that its responsibility excludes Indigenous heritage, has asked the State Solicitor for a ruling and presents this to its council meeting.
23 June 2005 – The World Monuments Fund announces that the Dampier Rock Art Precinct is to remain on the list of 100 Most Threatened Monuments of the World for 2006 and 2007 because the destruction of the monument is continuing despite promises made by the state government.
July 2005 – Local residents at Karratha under the leadership of G. Slee form COBRA (Champions of Burrup Rock Art), an action and advocacy group opposed to the destruction of the Dampier rock art.
10 August 2005 – Burrup Fertilisers, the new petrochemical plant at Dampier, is completed, and immediately declares force majeure because the Dampier Harbour lacks the capacity to export its production.
5-9 September 2005 – R. G. Bednarik presents the Dampier issue to UNESCO in Paris and helps to draft the international recommendations for the protection of global rock art. These are significantly based on the experience of state vandalism occurring at Dampier.
31 October 2005 – Woodside Petroleum calls a meeting of local community representatives in Karratha, to discuss the siting of its proposed Pluto gas processing plant. It is considering locating it not at Dampier, but at an alternative site yet to be determined.
4 December 2005 – Woodside has made an application to the Environmental Protection Authority concerning a proposal to clear land at Dampier for its proposed Pluto plant. IFRAO appeals against the application, claiming that it is misleading.
5 December 2005 – A coalition of organisations and individuals places a half-page advertisement in The West Australian newspaper, publicly appealing to Woodside to locate their Pluto plant not at Dampier without an impact study. It is signed by numerous organisations and individual academics alerted by IFRAO.
15 December 2005 – In response to the EPA Referral and Scoping Documents lodged by Woodside Energy for its new Pluto LNG plant, IFRAO as well as several supporting organisations and individuals lodge appeals requesting that the level of assessment be raised to an appropriate level.
23 December 2005 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of IFRAO, applies to the Compliance and Enforcement Section of the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage to lodge a High Court injunction to further destruction of the Dampier Cultural Precinct.
16 January 2006 – Dr G. Gallop MLA, the Premier of Western Australia since February 2001, suddenly announces his immediate retirement. This cultural heritage vandal has presided over the world’s most severe case of state vandalism of rock art in recent history.
17 January 2006 – J. Edwards MLA, the Western Australian Minister for the Environment, announces her immediate retirement. She has presided over a department with an appalling environmental record, marked by a succession of controversies.
19 January 2006 – Plentex, a company planning to build an ammonia plant with explosives giant Dyno Nobel at Dampier, announces that it is withdrawing from the proposed project.
February 2006 – A. Carpenter MLA replaces Geoff Gallop as Premier of Western Australia.
9 March 2006 – C. Barnett MLA, the former Opposition Leader of Western Australia, addresses parliament passionately in favour of saving the Dampier rock art, having travelled to Dampier to see the rock art himself.
March 2006 – Pre-publication distribution of the book Australian Apocalypse: the story of Australia’s greatest cultural monument commences.
23 March 2006 – Woodside Petroleum secures two contracts totalling in the order of $20 billion to supply natural gas from its proposed Pluto plant to Japan.
6 April 2006 – Woodside Petroleum admits that the contract it signed with China in August 2002 was based on an oil price of a third of its real value. Therefore the company will lose $20 billion over the full term of the contract.
19 April 2006 – Woodside has submitted revised EPA Referral and Scoping Documents, now made for Sites A and B at Dampier, despite the considerably cheaper establishment costs at the alternative Onslow site. IFRAO and supporting organisations lodge appeals against the application.
20 April 2006 – The establishment of a new port on the west coast, at Oakajee north of Geraldton, is announced.
21 April 2006 – Another proposed Dampier industrial project, the DME project by Japanese companies led by JFE Holdings, is scrapped.
28 April 2006 – The book Australian Apocalypse: the story of Australia’s greatest cultural monument by R. G. Bednarik, is released. It describes the origins of the Dampier rock art, the fate of its makers, its rediscovery and the course of the campaign to preserve it.
3 May 2006 – A project to establish the extent of the Dampier rock art, initiated by Senator the Hon. I. Campbell, Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, is scuttled in Western Australia.
5 May 2006 – The National Trust holds a public forum on the heritage values of the Dampier Rock Art Precinct. The State Government’s advocates walk out to avoid public debate.
12 May 2006 – The Department of Environment’s chief, D. Carew-Hopkins, resigns ‘for personal reasons’.
Mid-May 2006 – Extensive damage to rock art and stone arrangements occurs near the port access road, where numerous sites are bulldozed.
24 to 29 May 2006 – The national TV program 60 Minutes shoots a program about the Dampier campaign with R. G. Bednarik at Dampier and Depuch Island, interviewing also other key players, including the federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage.
1 June 2006 – An ammonia plant in Billingham, United Kingdom, similar to the Burrup Fertiliser plant at Dampier, is set ablaze by an explosion.
6 June 2006 – The Environmental Protection Authority blocks the giant Gorgon natural gas project on Barrow Island, SW of Dampier, because of environmental concerns.
21 June 2006 – The meeting ‘The Dampier Rock Art comes to Parliament’ is held at Parliament House, Canberra, hosted by Senators R. Siewert and A. Eggleston. The speakers are R. Chapple, R. G. Bednarik and Prof. J. Mulvaney.
25 June 2006 – The film Sacred Stones is shown in the national TV program 60 Minutes, featuring R. Martin, R. G. Bednarik and three politicians, presenting the plight of the Dampier rock art to the Australian public. It is seen by 2.4 million people.
13 July 2006 – The federal leader of the Greens, Senator Dr B. Brown, visits the Dampier rock art with R. G. Bednarik and Senator R. Sievert, and pledges his total support for the Dampier campaign. Segments for two TV networks are filmed and a community meeting organised by the National Trust is held in Karratha.
8 August 2006 – An ammonia leak occurs at Burrup Fertilisers, which is traced to the inadequate burning of ammonia vapour in the flare. Complaints of odours have been received by DEC for months but have not been acted upon. On 12 April 2006, an ammonia spill had occurred at Burrup Fertilisers, the emergency plan was enacted and the company received an infringement notice.
23 August 2006 – The Australian Heritage Council completes its assessment of the nomination of the Dampier Rock Art Precinct to the National Heritage List. It recommends to the Minister to list the monument.
16 September 2006 – The Indigenous Affairs Minister of Western Australia, Sheila McHale, who is responsible for the protection of rock art in that state, gives Woodside Energy permission to destroy 150 rock art sites for the construction of the Pluto plant at Dampier.
19 September 2006 – The Minister for Environment and Heritage, Hon Ian Campbell, announces that he is seeking public submissions on whether he should accept the advice of the Heritage Council to list Dampier on the National Heritage.
4 October 2006 – Woodside announces that it will fund a rock art scholarship at the University of New England.
17 October 2006 – The State Government releases a ‘Final report’ by CSIRO, dated 10 April 2006, on the air quality at Dampier, claiming there is no evidence of significant pollution. This is the result of the first of four years of study.
18 October 2006 – The NW Shelf joint venturers BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Shell and Japan Australia LNG reject a bid by Woodside to process gas from the Pluto reservoir through their existing facilities at Dampier. Their reason is that this would commercially favour Woodside, their competitor for international LNG sales. This is a severe blow for Woodside’s Pluto project.
24 to 28 November 2006 – A petition by advocacy group GetUp!, in conjunction with IFRAO, secures over 24,000 signatures demanding that the remaining Dampier rock art be saved. IFRAO collects another 6000 signatures.
27 November 2006 – Woodside Energy announces that it has reversed its opposition to the National Heritage listing of the Dampier Archipelago, citing public opinion as the reason. It asks, however, that the Holden Point site it eyes for its Pluto project be excised from the area proposed to be protected.
November 2006 – The Friends of Australian Rock Art are formed in Perth and begins to campaign for the Dampier rock art.
4 December 2006 – IFRAO submits the Dampier Precinct to the World Monuments Fund’s most threatened sites list for 2008 and 2009.
5 December 2006 – Three federal politicians, Senator R. Siewert, Dr C. Lawrence MP and P. Andren MP lodge an application for emergency heritage listing of the Dampier Rock Art Precinct. This means that the Minister must make a decision within ten business days.
22 December 2006 – The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator I. Campbell, rejects the call for an emergency listing of the Dampier Cultural Precinct. Campbell misleads the public by falsely claiming the destruction of rock art is unavoidable, ignoring that the Pluto project can easily be located elsewhere. Campbell is sacked two months later in the course of corruption disclosures.
30 December 2006 – Burrup Fertilisers, the only new plant established at Dampier since the previous Premier of WA promised about a dozen additional plants, faces serious legal and economic problems, including with the supply of natural gas, internal wrangling, possible accounting irregularities and insolvency.
8 January 2007 – Preliminary construction work, which is to include the destruction or removal of hundreds of petroglyph-bearing rocks, commences at the Holden Point site for Woodside’s Pluto plant.
29 January 2007 – R. G. Bednarik applies to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Violations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva for help to have the rights of the Dampier Traditional Owners respected by the Australian governments.
2 February 2007 – The Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation issues a public statement that it is fundamentally opposed to the destruction of rock art at Holden Point, or anywhere else at Dampier.
6 February 2007 – Woodside commences the destruction of rock art and stone arrangement sites at Holden Point, without approval from the EPA and although Woodside has not yet finalised funding of the project.
7 February 2007 – The WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs meets all Native Title claimants in Karratha and is advised that they condemn the ongoing cultural vandalism unanimously.
23 February 2007 – John Bowler, the WA minister who in mid-2006 lied several times on TV about there not being any further rock art destruction at Dampier, is sacked after revelations by the CCC (Corruption and Crime Commission) of his corrupt conduct as a minister. He cries in parliament.
26 February 2007 – The CCC proceedings reveal that the Premier of WA, Alan Carpenter, had directed a minister to ignore the recommendations of the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee concerning the destruction of Woodstock-Abydos rock art a month before that committee was to consider the issue.
28 February 2007 – The State Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Michelle Roberts, approves Woodside’s application to destroy a series of rock art sites and stone arrangements near Holden Point, despite the opposition of all indigenous groups expressed to her on 7 February, and despite the area’s consideration for National Heritage listing.
2 March 2007 – The endemic corruption and incompetence in the government of WA has now claimed the political careers of five ministers, an opposition politician and the Deputy Director-General of the Dept for Industry and Resources, Gary Stokes. Today it also claims the scalp of the former federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Ian Campbell, who had visited the Dampier rock art with R. G. Bednarik but subsequently refused to protect it.
March 2007 – Through its dithering and procrastination, the WA state government has now lost the participation of nearly every proponent intending to establish a major industry at Dampier: Apache Energy – natural gas from the Reindeer field – (chose alternate location at Forty Mile / Devil Creek); BHP Billiton – natural gas from the Scarborough field – (chose alternate location at Onslow); Dampier Nitrogen Pty Ltd (formerly Plenty River Pty Ltd) – ammonia and urea – (abandoned); Japan DME – dimethyl ether project – (abandoned); Methanex Australia Pty Ltd – methanol plant – (withdrawn); Australian Methanol Company Pty Ltd, (a subsidiary of GTL Resources PLC) – methanol plant – (withdrawn); GTL Resources PLC – methanol plant – (withdrawn); Syntroleum Sweetwater Operations Ltd – synthetic hydrocarbons – (withdrawn); Plenty River Ammonia – ammonia and urea – (withdrawn); Sasol Chevron – synthetic hydrocarbons – (withdrawn); Shell – synthetic hydrocarbons GTL technology – (withdrawn); Woodside Aromatics project – (deferred); Chloralkali – dimethyl ether project – (deferred); Agrium Inc – ammonia and urea – (still under consideration?); Deepak Fertilisers and Petrochemicals Corporation – ammonia and urea – (still under consideration?); LiquiGaz Pty Ltd (formerly GTL Resources and Australian Methanol Company) – methanol (unsure). In the order of $12-15 billion of investment has been lost.
17 April 2007 – Three years after the application by IFRAO (22 March 2004), the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Malcolm Turnbull, announces that he will list the Dampier Rock Art Precinct on the National Heritage register by the middle of 2007, in an effort to save the remaining rock art from destruction by the state government.
30 May 2007 – A study commissioned by the Federal Department of Environment and Heritage finds that the Burrup industry presents both direct and indirect (through emissions) risks to rock art.
3 June 2007 – Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser speaks out against the destruction of Pilbara rock art, stating that the state government had made a mistake allowing industrial infrastructure on Murujuga.
5 June 2007 – The WA Minister for State Development concedes in parliament that the state government is still trying to entice two major companies to Dampier. One is Dyno Nobel Ltd, the world’s largest explosives manufacturer, but the government refuses to name the other.
6 June 2007 – In response to the request by IFRAO on 4 December 2006, the World Monuments Fund lists Dampier for the third bi-annual term as one of the world’s most threatened monuments. Dampier remains the only Australian monument ever blacklisted by the WMF.
21 June 2007 – After almost six years of opposition to the protection of the Dampier rock art, the state government caves in to national and international pressure and ceases its opposition to the monument’s listing on the National Heritage Register as proposed by IFRAO on 22 March 2004.
3 July 2007 – IFRAO’s application to list the Dampier rock art precinct on the National Heritage List is accepted by the Federal Minister for Conservation and Water Resources, Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, three years and three months after it was made, and against bitter and sustained opposition from the state government and the Woodside company.
9 July 2007 – The Environmental Protection Authority rejects Woodside’s application to build the Pluto plant at Dampier, made late last year. Woodside has two weeks to appeal against this ruling.
28 July 2007 – Woodside announces that it will proceed with the $12 billion Pluto project at Dampier, despite all opposition to it and not having secured EPA approval for it.
30 July 2007 – The very same lobbyist of Woodside who achieved the exclusion of the Dampier Pluto site from the recent National Heritage listing, Barry Carbon, is appointed Chairman of the EPA for a period of three months, apparently to facilitate the approval of Woodside’s EPA application.
August 2007 – The CSIRO final report on the rock fumigation and dust deposition study, dated March 2007, is made available. It reports significant iron ore dust deposition at Dampier, but its studies of dry gaseous effects on the rock are irrelevant because these effects need to be assessed in the presence of water, forming acids on the rock surface.
4 September 2007 – The Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo, custodians of Murujuga, lodge an application to the Federal Environment Minister to prevent the removal of more rock art and to establish an enquiry into the cultural values of the Dampier Rock Art Precinct.
7 September 2007 – Woodside Petroleum signs a contract with PetroChina to supply 3,000,000 t/year LNG for 20 years.
3 October 2007 – In response to the vandalisation of Murujuga rock art with power tools, ‘federal authorities’ threaten fines of up to $5.5 million and jail terms of seven years for vandalism of the monument.
12 October 2007 – The Federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, approves the construction of Woodside’s $12 billion plant at Murujuga (Burrup), despite the numerous objections, including the recent appeal by the Traditional Custodians. This act, on the eve of a national election, will involve the vandalisation and destruction of numerous sites of rock art and stone arrangements, and the removal of up to 200 petroglyph boulders.
18 November 2007 – A gas explosion near Aramco’s Hawiyah LNG plant in eastern Saudi Arabia claims 28 workers’ lives and an undisclosed number of injured.
19 November 2007 – Woodside announces that, in addition to its new Pluto plant, it intends to construct two new LNG trains at its Dampier plant, which is to continue operation for at least another 40 years. This will increase the emissions of greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxide and benzene, already the highest in Australia, by about 150%.
7 December 2007 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations, requests the Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett MP, to pursue an application to have the Dampier Rock Art Precinct placed on the World Heritage List.
12 December 2007 – Engineered Construction and Maintenance Pty Ltd plans to establish workshops and housing on Lot 314, near Dampier Port, Murujuga (Burrup), which will involve a new wave of rock art sites and stone arrangement destruction.
16 January 2008 – The archaeologists destroying the rock art and stone arrangement sites at the Pluto onshore facilities site at Dampier complete the relocation of 170 petroglyph-bearing boulders. No stone arrangements were salvaged, and this operation only cleared the site for the first stage of construction. The site may ultimately contain four LNG plants.
29 February 2008 – A snap poll following the publication of a detailed report on the Dampier rock art in the Australian Financial Review indicates that 96.18% of respondents want development at Murujuga (Burrup) halted in order to preserve the cultural heritage.
30 April 2008 – Further rock art vandalism in the Dampier Rock Art Precinct suggests an escalation in the destruction by visitors. This suggests that the recently threatened substantial fines are ineffective. The Federal Minister for the Environment takes no action to protect the sites.
13 May 2008 – Burrup Holdings announces that it plans to establish an ammonium nitrate plant at Dampier at a cost of c. $600 million, which will significantly add to the acidic emissions of the industrial complex.
23 July 2008 – Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo spokesman Wilfred Hicks announces that the Traditional Custodians of Dampier rock art will not permit the destruction of any further rock art sites.
28 July 2008 – Apache Energy decides against locating its new Reindeer Field gas development project at Dampier because of environmental reasons and safety factors. The $900 million plant will be established at Devil Creek instead.
31 July 2008 – The Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs investigates the illegal destruction of a standing stone arrangement in Woodside’s Pluto lease site B at Dampier.
7 August 2008 – The Western Australian state government, racked by corruption and allegations of mismanagement of the economy and the State’s gas supplies, calls a snap election on 6 September. Opposition Leader Colin Barnett, appointed only a few days previously, has consistently promised effective protection of the Dampier Cultural Precinct.
6 September 2008 – State elections are held in Western Australia.
14 September 2008 – Colin Barnett claims victory in the state elections, and Alan Carpenter, who has vigorously opposed all efforts to protect Dampier rock art since he was Minister for Indigenous Affairs under Dr Gallop in 2002, resigns his positions of power.
1 to 6 November 2008 – R. G. Bednarik travels again to Paris to discuss with UNESCO the under-representation of rock art on the World Heritage List and the plight of the Dampier Cultural Precinct. UNESCO is developing new policies for the protection and listing of rock art sites.
11 November 2008 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of IFRAO, petitions the Australian Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett MP, AM, to nominate the Dampier Cultural Precinct to World Heritage, together with the petroglyph complex Woodstock/Abydos (also in the Pilbara) and the rock painting complex of the Kimberley.
1 December 2008 – The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority sets the level of assessment for the proposed explosives plant (to produce technical ammonium nitrate, the most economical civil explosive available) by Burrup Nitrates Joint Venture (Yara International and Burrup Holdings). Appeals will close on 15 December 2008. The proposed plant is to be built next to the existing plant of Burrup Fertilisers and will significantly add to the acidic emissions destroying the Dampier rock art.
5 December 2008 – The highlight of a session on the Murujuga rock art, held at the Annual Conference of the Australian Archaeological Association in Noosaville, is a role-play presentation by two Dampier traditional custodians, Tootsie Daniel and Robyne Churnside, depicting the relationship between consultants and traditional owners.
9 December 2008 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of IFRAO, appeals to the EPA against approving the establishment of an explosives factory at Murujuga (Burrup Island).
22 December 2008 – The federal Minister for the Environment, the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, responds to the request, made on 7 December 2007, to nominate Dampier to World Heritage, by requesting R. G. Bednarik to raise the merits of listing with the Western Australian Government.
13 February 2009 – The Premier of Western Australia, the Hon Colin Barnett MLA, invites R. G. Bednarik to his office to discuss the future of the Dampier Cultural Precinct. Bednarik requests that (1) the unencumbered land of the archipelago be declared a national park; (2) that it be operated by uniformed Aboriginal rangers; (3) that it be given an Aboriginal name; (4) that the rock art boulders held in storage are repatriated; and (5) that its land is transferred to an Aboriginal corporation (still to be established). Barnett agrees to all these requests but “in return” demands that some of the rock art be made accessible to tourism.
20 February 2009 – R. G. Bednarik, on behalf of IFRAO, submits an invited report concerning the future of the Dampier rock art to the Premier of Western Australia, proposing the establishment of a National Park with an Aboriginal name, to be managed by Indigenous rangers, and the return of the unencumbered land to the local Aboriginal community.
24 to 28 February 2009 – R. G. Bednarik travels again to Paris to pursue issues of rock art protection with UNESCO.
2 to 10 April 2009 – R. G. Bednarik travels to UNESCO’s World Heritage workshop at Drakensberg, South Africa, to pursue the World Heritage listing of Dampier as well as three other sites in Australia, and two each in Saudi Arabia, India and China. He argues that 60% of the world’s rock art is in Asia and Australia, which is currently represented by only two sites out of 34 on the World Heritage List, rendering it severely unrepresentative and lacking credibility.
4 May 2009 – Global cement company Cemex faces prosecution for allegedly destroying rock art within the boundary of Dampier’s National Heritage site. The maximum fine for the offence is $5 million and seven years in jail for individual company managers.
22 June 2009 – The proposal to build an explosives plant alongside the Burrup Fertilisers ammonium plant, hoped by the proponents to be approved by this time, has been delayed significantly and the company has been advised that its environmental approvals may take another year. Burrup Fertilisers has been plagued by numerous chemical spills and court actions for years, and also faces shortages of gas supplies.
23 July 2009 – Tap Oil, supplier of natural gas to Burrup Fertilisers, has declared it will run out of gas within five years and is facing off in the WA Supreme court with its customer.
29 July 2009 – The West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett MLA, a supporter of the campaign to save the Dampier rock art, has since February sought to divert industrial activity away from Dampier by establishing a gas plant near Broome and rejecting the construction of a pipeline from Broome to Dampier. In response to dissenting partners in the project, he hinted today that the WA State controls pipeline easements and could dictate where WA natural gas came onshore.
26 August 2009 – The plan by the WA Premier to establish a major LNG hub near Broome has won the support of Woodside’s CEO, Don Voelte, who now threatens his Browse Basin joint venture partners to develop the project without them. This would avoid the threat of a massive increase of acidic emissions at Dampier.
23 October 2009 – Woodside suffers significant losses of gas supplies for its new Pluto plant as Apache Corp decides to support instead Woodside’s arch-rival Chevron and its massive Gorgon project. Yet Woodside is proceeding with the development of a second and third train for the Pluto project which poses a severe threat to the Dampier rock art.
7 November 2009 – Burrup Fertilisers, the only new polluter to establish a plant at Dampier since 1980, has its plans for a new urea plant thwarted when the giant Gorgon project refuses to supply natural gas to it. BF demands access to cheap gas from Premier Colin Barnett, but he refuses to intervene in the matter.
7 December 2009 – Chevron, one of over a dozen companies that decided not to establish at Dampier, signs a $90 billion contract to supply LNG to Japan. The seven largest contracts for Australian LNG, totalling $305 billion, derive very little gas now from Dampier, and this is before the Broome projects are effective. As a result of the Dampier rock art campaign, a $1 trillion industry has been driven from Dampier, which is becoming an industrial white elephant, to be phased out prematurely.
26 December 2009 – Woodside’s partners, Shell, Chevron and BHP, accept Colin Barnett’s direction to build their Browse LNG plant at Broome, rather than pump the gas to Dampier for processing. Barnett thus saves Dampier from a massive increase in acidic emissions which would have devastated the rock art.
9 February 2010 – The cement company Cemex, which was accused of damaging Dampier rock art on 4 May 2009, is fined $280,000. The ruling is widely criticised as being far too lenient, and commentators say that the maximum fine should have been applied ($5 million penalty plus seven years jail for responsible manager).
22 September 2010 – The partners of the proposed explosives plant on Murujuga, Yara International and Burrup Holdings, who in 2008 failed to float their project, are involved in court action concerning the company status of their venture.
23 October 2010 – Woodside’s Pluto LNG plant, now over 90% complete, is again in difficulties, with design errors to the flare towers expected to increase the costs further beyond $13 billion. It was originally budgeted for $5 billion.
26 October 2010 – The Western Australian state government announces the construction of a $370 million desalination plant on Murujuga, which will increase the island’s emissions, but will produce only one-eighth the amount of water of the Kwinana plant south of Perth.
1 December 2010 – As the Pluto natural gas project at Dampier approaches completion, its projected cost, originally budgeted at $5 billion, has now blown out to $14 billion, due to design errors and industrial action. The project will roughly double the acidic emissions into the atmosphere, which already have caused acid rain since 1999.
18 December 2010 – The only new company that established a plant at Dampier since IFRAO opposed the state government’s 2002 plan to add 16 to 18 new industries, Burrup Fertilisers, is bankrupted by the Australia New Zealand Bank. The majority owner (65%) of the $700 million plant, Pankaj Oswal, owes $800 million. This plant has been responsible for dozens of serious chemical spills since it was commissioned, and the Oswal business in India has been accused of flagrant environmental vandalism in that country. Nevertheless, the incompetent state government allowed it to establish business in Western Australia, and now the firm is insolvent.
10 January 2011 – The Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia releases the proposal by Burrup Nitrates Pty Ltd to construct and operate a technical ammonium nitrate production facility (an explosives factory) at Dampier for public comment.
9 February 2011 – Robert G. Bednarik makes a submission to Senator Dr Bob Brown, Leader of the Australian Greens, to improve the protection of Australian rock art. In particular, it focuses on the need to submit the Dampier Cultural Precinct to UNESCO for World Heritage listing.
2 March 2011 – In response to Bednarik’s submission, the Australian Greens demand the submission of the Dampier Cultural Precinct to World Heritage, and the Federal Government commissions an investigation.
15 May 2011 – Prompted by the parliamentary motion of Greens Senator Scott Ludlum in March, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke had requested the Australian Heritage Council to conduct an emergency review of the threats to Dampier rock art. Woodside, the company most affected by a proposed ban on rock art site destruction, mobilises lobbyists to oppose any protection moves.
3 June 2011 – The mining giant Rio Tinto signs a major agreement with traditional Aboriginal owners of 70,000 square kilometres of the Pilbara in NW Australia, to create 40 new iron ore mines. The agreement is said to deliver $2 billion to the Indigenes and promises to protect cultural sites of the region, such as its numerous rock art sites. Hamersley Iron, now incorporated in Rio Tinto, was the company that commenced the massive destruction of Dampier rock art in 1964.
21 June 2011 – The further cost blow-out of the still uncompleted Pluto project at Dampier has reached $10 billion above the budgeted $5 billion, i.e. the cost has trebled. As Woodside’s shares fall in value, BHP Billiton is rumoured to plan a takeover bid of Woodside.
22 October 2011 – Woodside is having difficulties finding natural gas reserves to service its second stage of the Pluto project, and with falling share price is rumoured to consider abandoning the search and revising timetables for new LNG projects.
23 November 2011 – Fortescue Metals Group, a rogue mining company operating in the Pilbara region that opposes claims by Indigenous title holders, forces an archaeologist to delete key sections of a survey report by threatening to withhold payment on the work.
21 December 2011 – The Chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, Andrew Forrest, is banning the Traditional Owners of his Solomon Hub mine to visit the site and examine the damage he is causing to sacred sites. He is a personal friend of the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Peter Collier, who appreciates his ‘guidance and great advice’.
2 February 2012 – The ill-fated Burrup Fertilisers plant, the only one of about 17 proposed new operators at Dampier to proceed after IFRAO opposed further development in 2002, is carved up after it was bankrupted by the ANZ Bank. It is taken over by Yara International and Apache.
4 May 2012 – Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett reiterates to the natural gas companies that he will not permit the gas from the Browse joint venture to be conveyed from Broome to Dampier, thus preventing a massive increase of the acidic air pollution at Dampier.
24 October 2012 – Three-and-a-half years after the Premier of Western Australia accepted R. G. Bednarik’s request for a national park at Murujuga, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the Dampier rock art precinct will be declared a national park in early 2013. It will be jointly managed by the newly established Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the Department of Environment and Conservation. Management of what will become Western Australia’s 100th national park will be by Indigenous rangers provided by the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.
17 January 2013 – The state government of Western Australia declares the Murujuga National Park, occupying 44% of Murujuga (Burrup) and to be managed primarily by the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation. This also heralds the transfer of non-industrial lands at Dampier to the Aboriginal organisation as freehold land, under a historic native title agreement. Although the rest of the island still needs to be incorporated into the National Park in future years, this development meets one of the principal objectives of the Dampier Campaign, as first stated in 1994. Four of the five requests the Premier accepted on 13 February 2009 have now been fulfilled.
31 March 2013 – The ill-fated Burrup Fertilisers plant, now owned by Yara Pilbara Fertiliser, is the subject of a safety warning by the Department of Mines and Petroleum after complaints by its workers that it is so dangerous it could blow up Karratha and the industrial precinct at Dampier. Plant maintenance was substandard, several fires had occurred in the ammonia plant, in addition to its numerous chemical spills since it was commissioned. (Just 2 or 3 weeks later, a similar fertiliser plant explodes in the USA, with heavy loss of life; numerous ammonium nitrate installations have in the past exploded, e.g. in Toulouse, France.)
19 April 2013 – Woodside defers its planned Pluto expansion due to a lack of natural gas supplies. This follows immediately after the company’s announcement that it will not establish its proposed LNG hub at Broome.
1 May 2013 – The danger of a massive increase in acidic emissions at Dampier is averted as Woodside decides to build floating LNG vessels to process the natural gas from the Browse field off the coast near Broome, rather than deliver the gas to Dampier via a pipeline. Premier Colin Barnett has expressed strong opposition to the proposed pipeline.
19 August 2013 – The company Burrup Materials Pty Ltd proposes to quarry the rocks on the south shore of King Bay for the construction of a marina. The area contains thousands of petroglyphs and numerous stone arrangements, as well as the site of the first of a series of massacres in 1868 (see above). The company proposes to build a rock art museum and house some of the decorated rocks in it. The plan is universally rejected and has no Indigenous approval.
11 October 2014 – At long last, 34 years after the removal of almost 2000 decorated rocks from the Woodside LNG site, the repatriation of these rocks is completed in accordance with the wishes of the elders of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation. The petroglyph boulders had been placed in a ‘temporary’ holding compound around 1980 and in 2002 their derelict state was exposed. Many thousands of other petroglyph-bearing rocks were destroyed at the Northwest Shelf site. The rock art repatriation fulfils the last of the five requests R. G. Bednarik made to the Premier, the Hon Colin Barnett MLA, on 13 February 2009.
12 February 2017 – The Senate Inquiry into the protection of the Dampier rock art has been advised that the government’s scientific organisation, the CSIRO, has botched its monitoring program of the deterioration of Dampier rock art for the past 13 years. Its former assistant divisional chief, Dr John Black, disclosed that CSIRO’s advice to government and industry has been wrong and was based on the fundamental failure of the method. Dr Johan Kuylenstierna from the Stockholm Environment Institute, whose work the CSIRO study was based on, has informed the Inquiry that his methodology is entirely unsuitable to monitor rock deterioration. His global maps from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation are irrelevant to the CSIRO’s task of studying weathering processes on the Dampier rock faces. The CSIRO has admitted to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper “that it had never undertaken any assessment of the capacity of the Burrup rocks to cope with acid deposition from industry”, i.e. it has never attempted to comply with its brief of assessing the risk of atmospheric acidification. Dr Ian MacLeod of the W.A. Museum has confirmed the findings of Prof. Robert G. Bednarik, concerning the significant increase in acidity of both the rock surfaces and the rainwater. The CSIRO has also failed to effectively monitor the colour change in the rock patination, on which the continued existence of the petroglyphs depends. It has used an instrument that is unsuitable for the purpose; after it had already been pointed out in 2004 that a previously used instrument was inappropriate. The Chairman of the Dampier ‘Emissions Committee’, Frank Murray, had already been advised on 14 August 2003 “that his proposed research program is amateurish and inadequate. … I have to advise you that we regard much of your proposed list of works as a waste of taxpayer’s money. Most certainly, the issue of the deteriorating rock art of Murujuga will not be solved, or even illuminated by these endeavours.” But what is most disturbing is that the incompetently executed 13-year project by the CSIRO has been funded by the very companies that emit tens of thousands of tonnes of destructive airborne pollutants every year.
13 February 2017 – In response to yesterday’s scandalous revelations, CSIRO pulls out of the Dampier rock art study conducted by Frank Murray.
May 2017 – The May 2017 issue of Rock Art Research publishes the findings of Dr John Black and colleagues, detailing the abject failures of the CSIRO for the past 13 years in establishing the condition or survival potential of the Dampier rock art. The paper appears together with an editorial, suggesting for the first time that the complete removal of the industry from Dampier is inevitable in the long term.
13 December 2017 – The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation of Western Australia defers to the end of 2018 the decision to grant Yara Pilbara Nitrates Pty Ltd a license to emit acidic pollution into the Dampier atmosphere.
15 December 2017 – Dr John Black and former Greens leader, Christine Milne, meet with Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to explain the plight of the Dampier rock art, where the 1000-fold increase of atmospheric acidity caused by industrial pollution is gradually dissolving the rock patina on which the rock art depends for its continued existence. The Minister now appreciates that the industry will eventually destroy the rock art unless there is an intervention.
26 April 2018 – The plan of establishing a $4.3 billion fertiliser plant on Murujuga is announced. This would add greatly to the already massive acidic emissions of the more than $50 billion industry on the island. A second proposal is for a methanol plant, which would also use the natural gas produced by Woodside. At the same time, the deceitful Western Australian state government is planning these massive industrial projects, it also pursues the creation of a major tourism centre for the rock art it is destroying, and it seeks to submit the Murujuga Cultural Precinct – or rather what is left of it – to the World Heritage List.
17 March 2019 – The Western Australian government is pursuing the nomination of the Murujuga rock art precinct to the Tentative List of World Heritage by 2020. It cannot be considered for actual listing before the Australian representative on the UNESCO committee steps down in 2022. However, the emissions at Dampier remain unmonitored and two large new projects to add to them are being planned: a $1.4 billion methanol plant by a consortium led by Wesfarmers, and a $4.3 billion fertiliser plant by Perdaman. The issues concerning the botched monitoring program remain unresolved, so there is every reason to believe that a WH listing would be rejected by UNESCO.
February 2020 – The Murujuga Cultural Landscape is added to Australia’s World Heritage Tentative List.
13 February 2020 – Exactly three years after the botched 13-year project by CSIRO, Australia’s pre-eminent scientific agency (which admitted that it never attempted to comply with its brief of assessing the risk of atmospheric acidification): Puliyapang Pty Ltd, a joint venture between Calibre Ventures and Tocomwall, partnering with experts from Curtin University, Artcare and the ChemCentre, is appointed to monitor the rock art on Murujuga. It will be using its “world-best practice scientific monitoring and analysis program”. The contract is worth $7 million.
23 May 2020 – The British mining company Rio Tinto deliberately blasts the Juukan 1 and 2 Shelters in the Pilbara, against the wishes of the Traditional Custodians and despite available alternatives that would have preserved these important sites. In the subsequent weeks, this attracts universal condemnation, including from many shareholders of the company. Rio Tinto is forced to apologise and a Senate Inquiry is established to investigate this demonstration of the ineffectiveness of the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 in protecting cultural heritage. Rio Tinto/Hamersley Iron has been involved in the destruction of Dampier rock art sites since 1964, as has Dampier Salt and later Woodside.
12 April 2021 – Yara Pilbara Fertilisers Pty Ltd announces that it intends to build with ENGIE (world’s largest independent power producer) a renewable hydrogen plant next to its existing facilities in Murujuga (formerly Dampier Island). Yara’s plant is virtually surrounded by the Murujuga National Park successfully demanded by IFRAO a decade earlier, but there is no indication of the effects of any proposed acidic emissions on the petroglyphs of the Park. Copies of the environmental impact document can be downloaded from www.yara.com.au/about-yara/about-yara-australia/pilbara/
30 April 2021 – Puliyapang Pty Ltd, the joint venture appointed to monitor Aboriginal rock art on Murujuga on 13 February 2020, is sacked for breach of contract by the Department of Water and Environment Regulation. They were supposedly using their “world-best practice scientific monitoring and analysis program”. The Department is trying to secure a replacement. Since 16 July 2003, when the first tenders were announced for the rock art monitoring program at Murujuga, it has cost vast sums of money, been mired in incompetence and controversy throughout, and has not produced any credible scientific findings about the deterioration of the Dampier rock art. Its most fundamental flaw is that it is being funded largely by the companies producing the acidic emissions causing the destruction of the rock art.
24 November 2021 – Shortly after the approval was given to proceed with the massive Scarborough project, three protestors block the only access road to the Burrup industrial hub for 12 hours by cementing themselves inside a caravan. These members of the Scarborough Gas Action Alliance protest against the release of 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 by the project.
4 December 2021 – A community rally is held in Karratha over fears that Woodside’s planned Scarborough liquefied natural gas project will increase damage to the Dampier petroglyphs through its additional acidic emissions. Traditional Custodians Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec address the meeting.
22 December 2021 – The Western Australian State Government introduces the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 to replace the flawed Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. However, instead of adopting the recommendation of the Juukan Gorge Joint Standing Committee to remove the Section 18 exemptions, it retains these provisions. For the past 50 years, almost all exemptions sought were granted, and permission to destroy cultural sites was given to resource companies and developers. That practice of disregarding the recommendations of the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee will now continue unimpeded. Under this legislation, the deliberate destruction of Western Australian rock art will continue, in defiance of the UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage (2004, Section VI), to which Australia is a signatory.
10 February 2022 – A proposed amendment to the Murujuga National Park Management Plan of 2013, aimed at improving access to the National Park, is released for public comment. Its principal change is the construction of a road to Conzinc Bay at the northern end of Murujuga and the establishment of a visitor centre there. The proposal has the support of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.
18 February 2022 – Traditional owners call on the federal government to stop the construction of a $4.6 billion urea plant on Murujuga to protect the rock art from further acid rain deriving from emissions.
21 April 2022 – The 2022-23 Western Australian State Budget will provide an additional $11 million for the enhancement and management of Murujuga National Park. This includes, however, additional funding for the poorly conceived rock art monitoring program, funded by the polluters Rio Tinto, Woodside and Yara Pilbara. The state government has also returned 221 hectares of former industrial land to the national park.
May 2022 – Seven international rock art conservation scientists publish an article entitled ‘The impact of industrial pollution on the rock art of Murujuga, Western Australia’ in the journal Rock Art Research. They respond to a paper presented by two commentators supported by the polluting agencies who tried to play down the adverse effects of the massive air pollution on the petroglyphs.
June 2022 – In response to the introduction of the flawed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations cancels the IFRAO-24 Congress it had intended to hold in Perth in mid-2024, in conjunction with the Fourth AURA Congress. The Premier of Western Australia, who had invited IFRAO/AURA to Perth, is advised of this step, as are other parties affected by this cancellation.
27 June 2022 – The Australian Conservation Foundation announces that it will take Woodside Energy to the Federal Court over its planned Scarborough Project, which will add massive pollution and hasten the destruction of rock art in the Murujuga National Park.
8 September 2022 – Last week’s approval by the federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek to allow the destruction of Murujuga rock art sites for the Perdaman urea plant has led to the almost immediate commencement of work on expanding Woodside’s facility to accommodate the Scarborough project. That expansion is expected to create up to 1.7 billion tonnes of additional CO2 emissions by 2050, leading to greatly increased acidification of the rock art’s ambient environment, as well as significant climate changes.
15 September 2022 – Save our Songlines, an organisation of Traditional Custodians led by Mardudunera woman Raelene Cooper, has made an application to have the destruction of Murujuga rock art sites by the removal of petroglyphs stopped and to review the threats to the rock art. An ‘independent reporter’ has been appointed to consider the application.
1 March 2023 – The University of Western Australia refuses to extend the tenure of Dr John Black as an Honorary Research Fellow in its rock art unit, without providing valid reasons. Holding this position for the past six years, Dr Black has been instrumental in uncovering the incompetence of the various teams conducting rock art monitoring programs in Murujuga from August 2003 to the present (as detailed above). He secured funding for the first effective study of petroglyph deterioration on the island, but the comprehensive evidence that he presented in several international scientific journals has not been welcomed by the polluters and the state government. This attempt to silence him is an assault on the principles of scientific freedom.