Wednesday 26 April: Traditional Owners of three First Nations across Australia along with superannuation fund members have lodged human rights complaints against the top 20 Australian super funds over hundreds of millions of dollars of members’ money invested in Santos and its Barossa and Narrabri gas projects.
Australia’s top 20 super funds, including AustralianSuper, REST Super and Hostplus, collectively manage more than $1.7 trillion of members’ retirement savings.
The complaints – lodged by Equity Generation Lawyers with assistance from Market Forces – outline that under international human rights standards, investors like super funds have an obligation to prevent adverse human rights impacts of companies in which they are invested.
Traditional Owners are voicing their deep connection to lands and seas of the Tiwi Islands, Larrakia country near Darwin, as well as the sacred Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Pilliga Forests in northern New South Wales.
Santos’ polluting projects threaten the spiritual and cultural lives of Indigenous communities. They risk damage to sacred sites, the environment and the livelihoods of Traditional Owners. The Barossa and Narrabri projects risk spills, pipeline eruptions and devastating impacts on the local environment including clean water, precious wildlife, threatened marsupials, endangered birds, dugong, turtles and other sea animals.
Antonia Burke, Indigenous Human Rights Advocate from the Tiwi Islands, said:
“This is a message to superannuation funds from the Tiwi people. Santos is reckless and unsafe in their operations. Their projects are unsafe for the environment, Indigenous traditional owners and residents, the people that work for them and landowners. There is so much evidence to prove Santos’ inability to mitigate risks to the environment; they have a trail of destruction across this entire country.”
Karra Kinchela, Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Traditional Owner, said:
“The Billiga Forest holds both tangible and intangible cultural heritage that needs to be protected for the cultural values held by our Gamilaroi/Gomeroi people. We will not allow it to be damaged or desecrated to a point where it will not return to its natural state. With at least 90 cultural sites, the most abundant wildlife and biodiversity there is no other place like it in Australia.”
Miah Wright, Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Traditional Owner, said:
“Water – ‘Gali’, is the source of all life. It is Yinarr/Warringa (women) Lore to hold a spiritual connection with all water. The majority of cultural heritage sites are found within 200 meters of a waterway, maintaining and sustaining our way of life. If Santos gets its way with the Narrabri gas project, enabled by investments from Australia’s super funds, they will pollute our sacred water that sustains all life.”
Vidhya Karnamadakala, Associate at Equity Generation Lawyers, a lawyer representing the members and Traditional Owners:
“Traditional Owners and members are asking funds to justify their investment in Santos and disclose how they are complying with human rights standards.”
Will van de Pol, Acting Executive Director, Market Forces, said:
“Funds must ensure Santos upholds the human rights of Traditional Owners or else dump their investments. It’s in the best interest of super fund members, Traditional Owners and the climate to stop these catastrophic gas projects going ahead.”
Jan McNicol, UniSuper member, said:
“These investments are totally morally reprehensible, ignoring Indigenous peoples’ rights and stated objections, as well as the ability of our farmers to feed us. This is not the investment policy of a socially responsible twenty-first century superannuation fund. I implore UniSuper to take its investments out of fossil fuels in general, to save our money and the planet.”
Viola Rosario, Member ESSSuper:
“As a former teacher, when I look at the efforts of the Gomeroi and Tiwi Islanders to protect Country from destruction by fossil fuel companies like Santos, I feel enormous respect for their ongoing sense of responsibility. I call on ESSSuper to withdraw financial support for new fossil fuel mines and stand with First Nations people – for all Australians, for humanity and for life on Earth.”
Catherine Rossiter, member, Commonwealth Super Corporation, said:
“I call upon my super fund to withdraw its investments in Santos, on both human rights grounds and on the basis of the environmental and climate damage that both the Barossa and the Pilliga projects will inflict. Investing in projects that are destroying the climate, and which are likely to be stranded assets, makes it less likely that members will have a safe and secure retirement.”
Neil Barber, Equip Super Member, said:
“It is intolerable to know that Equip Super is investing in Santos. Equip prides itself with being named by SuperRatings as a top performer, an accolade that is hollow when investing in companies that are top performers in the demise of human existence. I am acutely aware that Australia must take a lead in rapidly reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, with no time to waste if we are to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”
Jenny Bennett, Aware Super member, said:
“I can only fiercely raise my opposition to such investments, particularly when I think of our two grandchildren, (3 and 7), who will be dealing with the dire consequences of continual fossil fuel reliance.”
Tracey Nayler, Australian Retirement Trust member, said:
“Climate change threatens all life on earth and harms human health. Reckless investment in companies like Santos that have fossil fuel extraction expansion plans are a human rights issue. I wish the executives of Santos and Australian Retirement Trust would take the time to appreciate culture and put it ahead of profit. I am calling on Santos and their investor, the Australian Retirement Trust, to listen to and respect Tiwi people and urgently put into effect the recommended actions that will right our course toward climate justice.”
For media inquiries and interviews, contact:
Antony Balmain, +61-423-253-477, [email protected]
A copy of a complaint letter will be available at