Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Tiwi islander seeks urgent injunction against Santos offshore drilling

Following a Federal Court challenge launched last month to halt energy giant Santos’ Barossa drilling plan, a Tiwi elder is seeking an injunction from the court to stop the commencement of drilling until the case is heard.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 12 July 2022 The Bar
Tiwi islander seeks urgent injunction against Santos offshore drilling
expand image

Munupi senior lawman Dennis Tipakalippa, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), filed a challenge in the Federal Court last month, with the support of his community, to have approvals – issued by the offshore gas regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) – for the Barossa offshore development.

The development includes a pipeline from a gas field in the Timor Sea to an existing LNG facility in Darwin Harbour. Santos is set to commence drilling up to eight production wells in the Barossa gas field, approximately 120 kilometres north of the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory.

As reported by ABC, Tiwi islanders and Larrakia elders are concerned that the project could have deleterious impacts on their sea country and marine life.


According to EDO, Mr Tipakalippa and his community “were never consulted about the drilling plans – contrary to Santos’ legal obligations”.

“The Federal Court has listed the matter for trial on August 22nd, 23rd, and 25th. However, Santos has refused to delay the drilling until the Federal Court can fully consider the case, requiring Dennis to seek an injunction from the Federal Court,” the EDO submitted.

EDO will argue, it said in a statement, that Santos should not commence drilling until the Federal Court has decided if NOPSEMA properly issued Santos’ Barossa drilling approvals.

Mr Tipakalippa said that proper consultation has not occurred, and “so for Santos to begin drilling at this moment shows disrespect for our culture and our interests”.

“We are worried to hear about drilling going ahead soon, before the court has decided. That is why we want this injunction, to protect our sea country and our culture until the court decides what is right,” he said.

“We have cared for this sea country for millennia. Once those holes are drilled into the ocean floor, that cannot be undone. For that to happen when Santos has not consulted with us would be devastating to our culture and a huge betrayal.

“I am doing this for my ancestors and for future generations. We want to tell our children our traditional stories. If this drilling goes ahead now, it would be a very bad story to tell.”

EDO special counsel Alina Leikin added: “Dennis and his community should have been properly consulted about this drilling project in sacred sea country that they have protected for millennia. The Federal Court will hear their case in late August. All they are asking is that Santos wait until their case is heard before starting to drill into their sea floor.

“Tiwi people have a spiritual obligation to protect their sea country and there are serious spiritual and cultural ramifications for Tiwi people if the drilling starts.

“There is a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the Barossa drilling plans, with a case before the Federal Court. Santos should respect Tiwi people and wait until a decision is made about the validity of the drilling approval.”

Jason Fowler, who is a marine scientist and energy campaigner for the Environment Centre NT, also said: “The minute the Barossa drilling rig is turned on, the impacts begin. There is noise, air, water and chemical pollution, and an increase in heavy shipping traffic close to the Tiwi Islands.

“The Barossa gas field lies adjacent to the Oceanic Shoals Marine Park, which is a critical area for sea turtles. Not only is this an ecologically significant site, but we’ve been told that these sea turtles are integral to Tiwi culture.”