Indigenous Australians urge pension funds to stop gas company’s “trail of destruction”: Euronews

By Lottie Limb  & Reuters  •  26/04/2023
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Gomeroi Traditional Owners Karra Kinchela and Miah Wright in Pilliga Forest, NSW.

Traditional Owners of three First Nations are putting pressure on the pension funds over their fossil fuel investment plans with Santos.

A group of Indigenous Australians have filed a human rights complaint against 20 large pension funds over their investments in two “catastrophic” gas projects.

The traditional landowners of the Tiwi Islands near Darwin, and the Pilliga Forest northwest of Sydney, claim the funds have an “obligation to prevent adverse human rights impacts of companies in which they are invested.”

Oil and gas giant Santos is seeking to extract gas from these culturally and environmentally significant areas, under its Barossa and Narrabri projects.

“We will not allow [the forest] to be damaged or desecrated to a point where it will not return to its natural state,” says Karra Kinchela, a Gomeroi Traditional Owner. “With at least 90 cultural sites, the most abundant wildlife and biodiversity, there is no other place like it in Australia.”

Tiwi Islander, Larrakia and Gomeroi First Nations peoples – represented by Equity Generation Lawyers – have filed their complaint directly with the superannuation funds. They are joined by members of the funds who have requested information about their investments.

Australia’s top 20 super funds, including AustralianSuper, REST Super and Hostplus, collectively manage more than €1 trillion of members’ retirement savings.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have increasingly influenced investors in funds and companies. In 2020, mining giant Rio Tinto was forced to make management changes after it destroyed sacred rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia for an iron ore mine.