He was best known as the face of Aboriginal opposition to gas processing at James Price Point north of Broome, and for being a grandson of celebrated Broome cultural leader, Paddy Roe.
The Goolarabooloo Law Boss, who cannot be named for cultural reasons, passed away in a Perth hospital after he suffered what is believed to be a massive heart attack while in Broome. His death comes as a shock to many who knew him as a vigorous opponent to the State Government and Woodside Petroleum’s plans to build a gas processing facility at James Price Point north of Broome.
He first lodged a native title claim over the James Price Point area in 1994. He described his connection to this country as the Keeper of the Northern Tradition, which had been passed to him from his Grandfather, Paddy Roe, who was given cultural custodianship by the Jabirr Jabirr traditional owners in the 1930s.
He, and his grandfather before him, were regarded by many in Broome as cultural leaders who maintained active Aboriginal religious beliefs which coexisted with modern society. But he was a controversial figure and his opposition to the planned James Price Point gas facility lead to a division between his Goolarabooloo family group, and the Jabirr Jabirr traditional owners.
He led many appeals and challenges to the gas processing facility planned for James Price Point. Eventually Woodside decided not to proceed with the project as it was determined to not be economically feasible.
Since that decision, the State Government has proceeded with the compulsory acquisition of James Price Point in spite of there being no known industry interest in developing the area. The Goolarabooloo Law Boss was unmoving in his opposition to efforts to industrialise the area.
Tributes have flowed today for the man from the Australian Greens with Senator Rachel Siewert expressing deep sadness at the man’s passing.
“His courage in fighting the James Price Point Gas hub proposal was inspiring and his leadership was a key to the success of the campaign,” she said today.
“His work will long be remembered and respected across Australia. It is a great shame to lose a leader at such an early age. He will be greatly missed.”
“I offer sincere condolences to his family, friends and community.”