Uncle Chappie brings Lake Cowal battle to Lismore
Neville 'Chappie' Williams is an elder of the Wiradjuri nation, which takes in Lake Cowal, near West Wyalong in central NSW.
The lake is the largest inland lake in NSW and the site of a controversial gold mining project.
He has been at the forefront of an eight-year political and legal battle against Barrick Gold, the Canadian-based company running the mine. He describes the battle as 'a devastating, never-ending, uphill battle'.
Uncle Chappie, as he is called, recently spoke at the United Nations' Permanent Forum on Indigenous Rights.
He spoke on a range of topics, including Aboriginal sovereignty and the struggle to protect sacred cultural heritage.
“We want to be able to hold them (multinational mining companies) accountable for the atrocities they do to people in other countries,” he said.
“There are laws (in Australia) to protect and preserve our ancient cultural heritage, but they (the government) don't care. The State Government changes the laws so they can get around them,” he said.
Uncle Chappie was holding back tears as he described the mining company 'drilling into the spirit of the land'. “They are drilling into our mother, the Earth,” he said.
He also questioned the amount of water being used for the mine in a time of drought.
“The mining company can virtually use as much water as they want, but at what cost? They are destroying the environment,” he said.
Uncle Chappie has been a key member of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra and an honoured guest of tribal elders and traditional owners throughout Australia, Canada and the US.
He was in Lismore as a guest of Gnibi College at Southern Cross University and his lecture was part of a unit in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Issues.
Uncle Chappie also said he was here to raise awareness of the Lake Cowal campaign and to unite with members of the Bundjalung nation.