The West

Aboriginals flay Brown s whale fears
Bob Brown aboard the Steve Irwin. Picture: Mike Gray

Jabirr Jabirr traditional owners launched a strong attack on former Greens senator Bob Brown during a visit to Broome yesterday.

They accused him of caring more about whales than Aboriginal people and refusing to listen to why they supported the planned $30 billion gas hub at James Price Point.

As Dr Brown sailed to the area on a Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel, Jabirr Jabirr elder Rita Augustine wrote of her people's fury that he spoke on their behalf but showed them "complete disregard".

On behalf of Jabirr Jabirr traditional owners, she said allowing the project was not easy but most of the group wanted a better future for their children, culture and country.

Dr Brown met senior Jabirr Jabirr elders on Monday with Warren Greatorex, chairman of the body set up to administer the $1.5 billion benefits package they would get from the project.

Initially, Mr Greatorex said there had been a "positive result" in Jabirr Jabirr's voices being heard but after thinking about it overnight, he concluded Dr Brown was a "huge disappointment" and not interested in his people's concerns.

He said Dr Brown declined Jabirr Jabirr elders' request to visit their traditional country and preferred to talk more about saving whales than addressing the Kimberley's "epidemic" suicide rate.

He said the only positive outcome was Dr Brown agreed to include the Jabirr Jabirr as traditional owners, not just the Goolarabooloo.

Dr Brown said the remarks were a "nasty representation" of the concern he expressed for Aboriginals in the meeting and during his political career. "The meeting was in good spirit and we had a very clear exchange of views," he said.

He said he visited at the invitation of Goolarabooloo traditional owners and planned to visit the country with Jabirr Jabirr people when he returned to Broome.

The groups are in a bitter dispute over the project, leading the Jabirr Jabirr people to lodge an aborted court attempt to split the claim. The bid was withdrawn when the State Government said the benefits package would be at serious risk.

The West Australian

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