The rumour mill is working overtime in Bulga with speculation Rio Tinto is in the process of acquiring the local watering hole - the Cockfighter Tavern.
Rio Tinto spokesperson said, “As part of the approval process for Mount Thorley Warkworth’s 2015 Development Consent, a commitment was made to the owners of Bulga Tavern to acquire the property upon request.”
“Although we do not currently own or manage the tavern, we will continue discussions with its owners to ensure the property continues to benefit the local community.”
On Tuesday, at a gathering of Bulga residents, to mark the first anniversary of the arrest of Aboriginal elders and siblings Kevin Taggart and Patricia Hansson, there was much discussion on the future of the Cockfighter Tavern.
The locals wondered if Rio Tinto had seen the light and decided there was a more profitable future in selling beer than coal. They also suggested Rio Tinto may have bought the neighbouring store and petrol outlet as like the Tavern it is within the acquisition zone for the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.
The group had returned to the site of their nine week protest at the corner of Putty and Wallaby Scrub roads but this time they were joined by Kevin and Pat, who were acquitted of all charges associated with their arrest, in June this year.
Unshaken in their belief that they were targeted that day Patricia wrote a piece on the event declaring that she and Kevin were the only first nation people in attendance and the only ones arrested
“That day July 18, 2016 at the age of 69 my whole being was violently violated by Rio Tinto and the police officers involved. Stripped of everything, my good names, humanity, faith, family and so on,” Patricia wrote.
“Why did this happen only to us?Why are we still being treated like this?”
Following their arrest the pair were not allowed near the protest site which greatly upset them as they were keen to support the fight to save Wallaby Scrub Road from closure.
The road needs to be closed to allow for the expansion of the Warkworth mine. However Bulga residents are just as determined to see the road remain open. Singleton Council is expected to decide the future of the road at its August meeting.
Patricia Hansson writes:
I am my brother’s sister, Great Spirit.
On January 6, 2016 at Lizard Rock at Broke Rd, a rock slides down the rock face. We Wonnaruah people believe Lizard is crying great tears of sadness. Just as Lizard high up, we down low as one can see the environmental destruction going on in surrounding areas by Bulga Coal.
This saddens my brother, Kevin and I as our once beautiful landscape is no more. What we are seeing now is total destruction. Forever sacred places, artefacts, our heritage – totally destroyed and sadly no one cares.
Because of our spiritual connection with this Wonnaruah land, our love for ‘our place’, we have been involved in peaceful protests in the past, and will continue in the future. We owe it to our father who asked us to take care of country, just as he had done and his father before him.
On July 15, 2016 Kevin was peacefully protesting at the proposed closure of Wallaby Scrub Road at Bulga. I had joined him and about 20 other protestors, shortly before police moved in to move us on as Rio Tinto was about to blast, unlawfully, as stated in court.
We were all just sitting on chairs, or standing, when approximately ten members of the police force led by Sergeant Buggy moved in and singled out my brother, Kevin. They took him to the ground. What happened was horrific - all the police on top of him, one female officer with her hand continuously on her gun. I could not believe such violence was happening before my eyes and the oddest thing was that he was singled out.
Out of the protesters, my brother and I were the only first nation people there.
He was handcuffed and taken to the van with no notification. He was being arrested. I went into a traumatic, spiritual fit at what I had just witnessed. I could not see, talk, respond, but could slightly hear. No duty of care was shown to me by the officers. I was held down while convulsing, pulled around, handcuffed and wheelbarrowed one hundred metres to the van. I came out of the fit when I was put down at the back of the van.
We were both charged with resisting arrest and not following police direction. Weeks later, my brother was also charged with assaulting police officers that day.
That day, at the age of 69, my whole being was violently violated by Rio Tinto and the police officers involved. I was stripped of everything – my good name, humility, faith, family and so on.
On June 2, 2017, eleven month later, we were both acquitted of all charges. I truly do not understand. No “sorry we made a mistake that day”. But instead the police decided to take the oath on the stand and lie.
Why did this happen to only us? Why are we still being treated like this?
One thing did happen that day and I’m really proud of it. I believe I saved my brother’s life.
Great Spirit, I am my brother’s sister.