We wish to express our great sadness at the sudden passing of our Chairman Mr Wilson Jabarda, jungai and proud Gudanji-Wambaya man, a caring father and grandfather, who lived with his partner Elizabeth Presley on his much loved country in Lightning Ridge, just off the Carpentaria Highway, surrounded by his family of dogs.
The use of this photograph as been approved by Mr Wilson's family.
Mr Wilson defended the rights of Traditional Owners to protect and care for country, water and culture and keep them safe for future generations. He stood firm for what he believed in and constantly lifted up and supported others to do the same.
Mr Wilson was a man who showed great strength and courage in the face of extraordinary pressures, in particular the looming threat of the destruction of country by gas mining in the Beetaloo Basin.
It tore at his heart and made Mr Wilson sad to know how fracking might damage what he had a responsibility to protect. But he used this threat as his fire, working to ensure that country, law and culture could be preserved and passed on for future generations.
Mr Wilson was a talented and powerful orator. He spoke with pride in the defence of his country and challenged those who do not care to listen to Traditional Owners’ concerns. Importantly, he always did this with respect, grace and humility.
He made it clear that there was never proper consent given by the old people to develop gas mining in the Beetaloo Basin. He said, “When my people were first told about fracking they said these holes are going to be the size of billy cans, one hole and that’s it, we’re just going to look over your Country, just sign this paper. Little did they know they were signing a document that was a hook line and sinker situation."
Mr Wilson said it was wrong to claim gas would bring jobs and economic advancement for his people. He called for public money to be spent not on fracking but on our communities to make them stronger. He worried about how his people would be properly represented.
Mr Wilson always spoke from the heart, bringing to life the need to protect that which makes us who we are. He said, “We do not want fracking on our country, full stop. Our cultural heritage and our sacred sites are so important to us—our songlines, our dreaming and our water. Our water is our life. When that is contaminated, we are nothing. Where is our future?”
Mr Wilson was one of a kind, he loved his family and community and was loved by his family and community in return. His courageous leadership offered hope to so many.
We will miss him, but we will honour his memory by standing strong and continuing the fight to defend country, because this - we are certain - is what Mr Wilson would have wanted.
Deputy Chairman, Uncle Samuel Janama Sandy
12 September 2023