Country Music star and winner of three Golden Guitars* at last weekend’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, Luke O’Shea, has locked himself to Whitehaven Coal’s pump that draws water from the Namoi River this morning to join the community blockade against the Maules Creek coal mine near Narrabri. Mr O’Shea is joined in his protest this morning by his 71 year old father, Rick, who spent his early years living on the property on the banks of the Namoi River, at the very site of the large pump that the Maules Creek mine uses to draw water for its construction and to wash its coal.
Whitehaven’s controversial Maules Creek coal project has already cleared a large area of Leard State Forest and clearing is slated to begin again in mid-February. Over the last thirteen months, over 250 people have been arrested blockading construction of the mine, including members the local farming community.
O'Shea has a deep personal connection to the local struggle. His father was born and raised near the very spot on the Namoi River where Whitehaven is now extracting water for the mine.
O'Shea said he was answering a “call to country” shared with tens of thousands of Australians who think that farmlands, water and environment need protecting from the impacts of coal mining.
O' Shea said, "Knowing that a mining company was sucking water out of the Namoi River near where I grew up was very painful for me. Fresh and abundant water is the lifeblood of country Australia, and I couldn’t sit by and do nothing while it was being wasted on washing coal."
"Australian Country musicians have a strong tradition of standing up for people in the bush and singing the songs that highlight the strength and mateship found during hardship, be it through war, natural disasters or taking on large multinational mining companies. It is so integral to let the people on the land know they are not alone. Hopefully, by taking this action I can provide some hope and amplify the call."
“It was important to me to come here to Maules Creek and join the local community and farmers in their fight to protect their water, their land and their forest. The sad but beautiful fact that the property where this pump exists once belonged to my family makes it deeply personal.”
"It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, if you believe in something, and you love the land, and the rivers, then you put yourself on the line to defend it. One hundred years ago, our ancestors answered the call to help their mates in strife overseas. Today ‘greed’ is the enemy and the battle is on our land. So much of rural Australia needs our help. Hopefully this action can inspire others to find out what’s really happening out here and to realise they can make a difference.”
Late last year, O’Shea released a video clip “Sing You Up” dedicated to people across Australia fighting inappropriate coal and gas mining. The track is available for viewing here: http://vimeo.com/110972359
Luke has now won three Heritage Awards in a row, over three consecutive years, the last person to do this was Slim Dusty in the 80’s.
Read Luke's full statement here.