A Message to Statoil Heard Around the World: No Oil in the Bight!

by Emily Stock

16 May 2018

Yesterday, the people of South Australia came together to send a clear message to Norwegian Big Oil company, Statoil: They are not welcome in the Great Australian Bight.

Jo-Anna Robinson

Standing outside the annual Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference in Adelaide, leaders from South Australian communities backed an open letter opposing Statoil’s reckless plans to drill in the Bight

The coalition included Traditional Owners, local mayors, surfers, fishing industry representatives and locals.

Together, they sent an unmistakable message to Statoil, and the rest of Big Oil: Not here. Not anywhere.

Here’s how the action unfolded on the day:

Community activists stood on a black carpet representing an oil spill, and in front of spilled oil drums and a banner that read ‘Statoil: No oil in the Bight’.

Banners and signs were held up representing the diverse groups that oppose Statoil’s presence in the Bight, and the names of places that would be in the pathway of a catastrophic oil spill.

Video footage of the action, as well as Indigenous Elder Sue Haseldine’s powerful message to Statoil, is captured in this video:

On the same day as the protest in Adelaide, our message was delivered immediately and directly to Statoil’s most senior executives by Kangaroo Island Mayor, Peter Clements. Peter travelled to Norway to read a letter from Sue Haseldine and Leader of the Norwegian Saami Association, Beaska Niillas at Statoil’s annual general meeting.

You can watch Peter deliver that message powerfully here, from 1:08:00 inAnd here’s a live recap and anlysis of the action from our friends in Norway.

An excerpt of the open letter:

Consent to drill the Bight has neither been sought, nor given. Together, we ask that Statoil abandon their plans to pursue risky deepwater oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, and around the globe.

Statoil must respect the Indigenous custodians of the land and sea from who you wish to extract oil and gas.

We call on Statoil instead invest in our country in clean renewable energy.’

#PeopleVsOil heard around the world:

Ripples from the day of action were felt across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with people standing with community representatives in opposition to Statoil and their friends at the APPEA conference.

We watched on cheerfully as the official Big Oil conference hashtag – #APPEA2018 – was trashed on Twitter.

Even Sia joined in the conversation, sharing our #FightfortheBight message to her millions of followers (legend!).

And amazing underwater photographer Michaela Skovranova lent her skills to the cause.

With so much attention on them during the APPEA conference, Statoil’s friends at Shell thought they’d address community concerns (albeit, indirectly), telling us all that Big Oil has been “overwhelming welcomed” in the places where it operates.

Given leaders representing a broad spectrum of local groups, and thousands of people from around the world, have made it clear that the exact opposite is true, we’re highly skeptical of Shell’s claim.

Our friends at Greenpeace New Zealand, where new oil exploration has just been banned, agreed.

The protest generated a swathe of crucial media coverage for the campaign, with stories in the Guardian, SBS and ABC as well as plenty more regional broadcasters.

What’s at risk:

The Great Australian Bight is one of the world’s last oil-free areas – a pristine wilderness including hundreds of kilometres of towering cliffs and home to a critical whale sanctuary, tight-knit coastal communities and fishing towns, and more unique species than the famous Great Barrier Reef.

If drilling goes ahead, all of this is at risk. An oil spill here would devastate the shoreline – and the communities whose livelihoods and history is interlinked with it – anywhere from Western Australia to Tasmania and New South Wales.

An endangered Australian Sea Lion, found only in southern Australian waters. Captured by talented photographer, Michaela Skovranova

It’s People Vs Oil, and the battle is not yet won. But yesterday, we shone a glaring light on Statoil and their Big Oil friends as they plotted to conduct risky deepwater drilling in the pristine Bight.

If Statoil wants to be the people-friendly and environmentally conscious company they say they are, they will listen to the depth and breadth of community opposition to their presence.

Big Oil know they’re losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the public, and have even admitted to it.

Join thousands of others in standing with community in opposition to Oil drilling in the Bight. Add your name to our open letter to Statoil and help us send them packing.