*As an organisation, Pure Finance is committed to putting 5% of its revenue to work for good. Of that 5%, we designate 1% to supporting community organisations working hard to protect our environment, and another 1% goes toward Paying the Rent. The final 3% is set aside for the upcoming launch of a new not-for-profit - Yours.
With another new year well and truly underway, we wanted to take a moment to share the incredible organisations and grassroots activists that were on the receiving end of Pure Community’s final donations for the last quarter of 2022.
PAYING THE RENT / Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodians
The sacred fire is still burning, and we are still here.
We will not be denied. We continue to stand our ground.
I ask you to stand with us as we continue to stand our ground.
For over 500 days a sacred fire has been burning inside the ceremonial bora ring adjacent to Adani’s (aka Bravus) Carmichael Coalmine, maintained by the permanent presence of a Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodian. The ceremony being performed, Waddananggu, literally ‘the talking’ in the local Wirdi language, began as an act of resistance and reaffirmation of sovereignty on the Wangan and Jagalingou Country threatened by the mine. The site has since evolved into a community hub, which provides space for mob to share, transmit and reconnect to culture, and learn new skills. An open invitation exists for all to come and witness Waddananggu and stand in solidarity to protect human rights, culture, and Country.
Chances are you’re familiar with the widespread opposition to the Carmichael Coalmine, both locally and abroad. The project to mine thermal coal in the Galilee Basin, operated by the multinational company Adani (itself owned by the world’s third-wealthiest person), has drawn intense scrutiny for the severe threat the venture poses to the local environment, particularly at a time when future-focused energy discourse strongly favours cleaner methods of energy production. The mine has created new threats to large swathes of Country, while at the same time drastically exacerbating existing issues. From the dredging of over a million cubic metres of seafloor at our Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to make way for a coal terminal at Abbot Point – where in 2017 Adani exceeded its pollution limit by 800% after releasing heavily polluted water into the reef and surrounding wetlands – to leaking hydrocarbons into the groundwater of the Great Artesian Basin some 300kms inland, seriously endangering the environmentally and culturally significant Doongmabulla Springs. Toxic dust from the mine blankets the surrounding area, polluting land and water alike, interfering with cultural practice and poisoning traditional bush foods.
A series of desert oases, the springs at Doongmabulla are comprised of 160 separate wetlands, which are home to over 56 endemic species. They provide much needed respite for animals and people alike in an otherwise extremely dry environment, and are a reliable water source for communities and graziers during drought. Alarmingly, the potential impact of Adani’s activity around the springs is not well understood, with the CSIRO having raised major concerns about the mining company underestimating environmental impact in its water modelling. With an already observable and ‘significant’ drop in aquifer levels, there is concern that irreversible damage to the region has already been ‘locked in’.
The sacred Doongmabulla Springs are also home to the final resting place of Mundunjudra (the Rainbow Serpent) in Wangan and Jagalingou Dreaming.
"Our ancestral homelands are the locus of creation, our lives are enfolded into a sacred space. Our homelands have sustained our generations for millennia. They are the source of our cultural and religious practices as well as our economic livelihoods and our sovereignty. They are a unique cultural landscape, and we are the cultural custodians of the lands and waters..."
It is beyond foolish to squander the unparalleled knowledge and experience of a people who have lived in productive harmony with this land for tens of thousands of years, and surrender it to those who seek to profit through environmental exploitation and the wilfully negligent erasure of culture.
Those standing their ground in order to protect the region have mounted multiple legal challenges to prevent the mine from operating. Having endured amendments to native title law by the Federal Government in one instance, they had their native title rights extinguished by the State in another a couple of years later. Yet despite this, weaponised bankruptcy proceedings, confrontations with police, and rejected freedom of information requests, amongst a plethora of other things, the resistance continues, and large parts of Country remain protected. Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodians are currently relying on the creative use of human rights law as a shield against cynical opposition. Plans for another mine in the Galilee basin were recently blocked in court on the basis that human rights would be unjustifiably limited by the proposal, and that ‘the climate scenario consistent with a viable mine risks unacceptable climate change impacts to Queensland people and property, even taking into account the economic and social benefits of the Project.’ Although it might sound like those who oppose the mine are a small majority, the reality couldn’t be more contrary. Over 100 major companies so far have ruled out any potential involvement with the Carmichael Project, which has presented a range of issues for the project, including funding and insurance setbacks. A key issue that remains is the relative power and wealth imbalance that exists between those who would like to see the project proceed and everyone else. Here, we’ve been primarily concerned with the local impact of the venture, however there is evidence to suggest that the coal extracted from the mine is entrenching energy inequality and debt in Bangladesh, where energy is being bought for two and a half times more than what it can be sold for after wearing the transport costs of the coal from Australia via India.
"Now our goal is to turn Waddananggu into a permanent cultural reserve to protect totemic trees, animals, medicines, springs and cultural heritage. By contributing to our fight you are taking an active role and being part of a driving force that together makes real change in the protection of Country and the environment..."
We stand in solidarity with the Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodians as they fight to protect their history, their dreaming, and their Traditional Lands, now our home.
If you’re in a position to contribute and help keep the fire burning please consider doing so. Your donation will help to ensure they can continue to be present on, and speak for, Country and will send the message that protecting the sacred knowledge, culture and lands of Australia’s First Peoples is invaluable, particularly when compared to temporary profit.
Waddandanggu and the growing camp currently require several thousand dollars a month to maintain and to ensure the ongoing presence of a Culture Custodian in the ceremonial Bora ring. This includes providing protection against harsh conditions from scorching heat to flooding rains, and maintaining things like camping gear, vehicles, solar panels, and the communications tower, while ensuring food and medical supplies are always available. Funds also support the growing community hub where culture is both shared and produced. The camp is 100% volunteer run and funded through community donations. You can make one here.
Financial donations can also be made to their legal fund, and in-kind donations such as gift cards (for BCF, Woolies, Coles, Kmart, Bunnings etc.) can be sent to PO Box 347, Clermont QLD 4721.
This quarter, we were in a position to contribute $2,362.82 to help keep the sacred fire burning.
Links for further learning:
FOR THE PLANET / Eugowra Flood Appeal
During the first hours of a rainy Monday morning in November, on the sixty-second day of a particularly severe weather event, signs of impending disaster began to emerge. Over the weekend huge swathes of NSW, from Mudgee to Albury, were thrashed with rain. In Canowindra (a forty-five minute drive from Orange), the Belubula River had flooded at levels not seen for seventy years. Shortly after, the nearby Wyangala Dam began spilling into the Lachlan River, reaching a staggering flow of 230,000 megalitres a day. This spillage rushed down system to Mandagery Creek, which flows through the centre of Eugowra, the wall of water devastating homes, livestock, farmland, and infrastructure along the way, before quickly reaching the town.
By Monday evening the entirety of Eugowra had become flood-affected and cut off, only accessible by boat or helicopter. To add to the chaos and confusion, telecommunications had gone down over the course of the morning, hindering the efforts of both locals and emergency service crews alike as they fought to protect the community. The SES deployed twelve helicopters, which made a total of 159 flood rescues (about 1/3 of the town’s population), many from the rooftops of buildings that had withstood the initial ‘tsunami’, with some residents waiting up to six hours for a lift. The scope of the emergency was so that according to SES commissioner Carlene York the SES was required to appeal for overseas assistance for the first time.
‘The best way I can describe that night in Eugowra was to liken it to a war zone…The pure force of the water and the destruction it caused is something I will never forget.’ – Grace Langlands, SES Orange City Volunteer.
Come Tuesday morning, it was clear that around eighty percent of homes and businesses in Eugowra were damaged. Two lives had also been lost. Whole houses were torn from their foundations, cars flipped and swept away, and the streets peppered with the bodies of pets and livestock that were unable to be saved in the scramble for higher ground.
The official peak of the flood was 11.2m, a whole half-meter higher than the town’s estimate for a one-in-5,000-year flood event. Prior to this, the biggest flood on record had been 10.01m. Impacted areas stretch over two-hundred kilometres from Parkes in the North to Yass in the South, however it was Eugowra that experienced the most widespread destruction. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has faced criticism for its failure to predict and sufficiently warn residents of the imminent emergency, even cancelling its warning for potentially dangerous and lift-threatening flash flooding a few hours before the most violent waves swept through the town. The BoM has since commented that it ‘stands by the accuracy and timings of the forecast warnings’, and to be fair, it’s fairly well accepted that predicting floods can be tricky work.
On the other hand, Australia’s general preparedness for natural disasters and a changing climate, or indeed lack thereof, has been uncomfortably exposed time and again over the last few years, most recently during the flooding in Bundjalung country, and before that during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. Many parts of this country are subject to the vicious cycle of environmental disasters – droughts, fires and floods, and despite the popular view that this is just part and parcel of living in The Lucky Country, the reality seems to be that things are in fact worsening. Significantly. According to NSW Government data, most regions across the state have been under at least one natural disaster declaration since 2017. The intensity of extreme rainfall events in some parts of the county has increased by approximately 10% over recent decades, which will likely lead to increased flooding. Despite this however, we can also expect to see an increase in, and the lengthening of, hot and dry periods, bringing with them drought and fire.
Towns in Central-Western NSW are tragic yet apt examples of how varied and extreme the consequences of our changing climate are. Over the last 3 years the area has been stricken with drought, afflicted by dust storms, and plagued by mice and locusts – now, streets and paddocks lay bare for all the rain.
‘Four or five years ago we were crying out for water – now it’s totally the opposite.’ – Jason Hamling, Orange Mayor
With this in mind, extensive disaster preparedness is imperative to ensure the survival of our regions. From better early warning systems and investment in community-level mitigation, through to increases in government disaster relief funds and the embedding of timely advice in government disaster response to prevent interim homelessness. If people can’t be protected at home, or if the cost of individual disaster recovery is too high, people will leave the region, which may eventually lead to the collapse of some of our agricultural centres.
‘You can’t blame them. It has been a traumatic experience. I know a lot of the community will bounce back, but there will be some that won’t bounce back, or can’t afford to.’ – Kevin Beatty, Cabonne Mayor
We would argue that some of the most effective and painfully overlooked disaster mitigation practices and crucial knowledge of the land lie with the Traditional Custodians. Referencing the obliteration of Eugowra, Wiradjuri man Ally Cole pointed out that his ancestors had moved through the area, camping on higher ground in the surrounding sandhills. They knew not to settle on the flats. Dealing with the other extreme, cultural burning practices, like those taught by Firesticks, have proven invaluable in the prevention of bushfires, while at the same time enhancing ecosystem health.
Interestingly, the other group who were comparatively well prepared for the floods in the region were the insurance companies. In late 2021, relying on updated government flood maps, data and flood risk modelling, Allianz significantly increased insurance premiums for people in high-risk regions such as Eugowra. One Eugowra resident, a pensioner, was allegedly quoted $23,000 per year for flood insurance. The lives of those who were insured now hang in limbo, with some unsure if they were sufficiently covered by their policy due to differing technical defections of how damage came about (i.e. flood vs rain), which are technically covered by different insurance policies. While others have reported that they’re still waiting to be visited by insurance assessors. Irrespective, according to the Climate Council, around a quarter of homes in Eugowra will be ‘effectively uninsurable’ by 2030.
According to one Eugowra resident who is currently living in a caravan provided by the government while they await the processing of their insurance claim:
‘We can't live [in the house] because there are no walls left and we can’t sort it out until we know whether or not we’ll get insurance…A lot of people here have been told no. We’re just waiting.’
While residents of the impacted areas wait for the disbursement of (what is frankly insufficient) financial support from the government, or for their insurance claims to be processed, they push on, setting a shining example of all that can be achieved through collaborative community effort.
'Our beautiful community has been devastated, lives have been lost, and thousands of people have been displaced and left with nothing. Recovery is going to take a long time.'
At the behest of the community, the main source of relief for residents of the affected area is being collected through GIVIT’s Eugowra Flood appeal and distributed with the help of NSW Reconstruction Authority (formerly Resilience NSW), support organisations, charities, outreach teams and community groups. Donations will be used to purchase essential items and services, with 100% of publicly donated money being used to buy exactly what is needed, when it’s needed.
We were in a position to contribute $2,362.82 towards Eugowra’s community fundraising efforts last quarter.
A testament to the spirit of the community, the Fat Parcel Food Van aims to provide free food and coffee for locals as they work towards a return to relative normality. The van itself, as well as a cool room, have been kindly lent by a couple of businesses in neighbouring Orange in a show of regional solidarity. You can pay forward a meal or a cup of coffee through their GoFundMe.
On behalf of all of us at Pure Finance, we want to thank all of the people working hard to make our world a more just and equitable one. It is an honour to be able to support your work in ways both big and small.
*Pure Community and Pure Finance have no direct affiliation with the organisations and causes listed above, we simply appreciate the work that they do, and choose to show our appreciation by supporting them.