A coconut is brown on the outside but white on the inside. It is a classic slur on blacks who co-operate with whites. For similar reasons Chinese sometimes get called "bananas"
KIMBERLEY Aborigines who support Woodside's $30 billion gas hub are being racially abused as "money-hungry coconuts" in an intensifying campaign involving hateful newsletters and graffiti attacks.
And the Aboriginal leader who helped to secure a 30-year package of indigenous benefits in exchange for a gas hub on Western Australia's far north coast says green groups have betrayed the region's Aborigines.
There is angst and tension in the resort town of Broome, where some of Western Australia's poorest Aborigines live alongside residents who want the hub to go ahead at a different site, preferably 800km south in the industrialised Pilbara.
A newsletter widely distributed in Broome labels Kimberley Land Council chief executive Nolan Hunter as Woodside's "chief coconut" for his role in securing a $1.5bn deal that will bring education, employment and social benefits to the region's indigenous population in return for their support for the gas hub project.
In an exclusive interview with The Australian yesterday, Mr Hunter told how the hate mail came so thick and fast he now instructed staff at the KLC office not to open letters with their bare hands.
Mr Hunter said green groups promised in 2007 to support a single site for a gas hub in the region, but now were campaigning hard against the project. "For them, the environment can stay pristine and the people in it can live in poverty and destitution," he said. "People who oppose the gas have housing, they have income and their kids have good educational opportunities. They want somewhere pristine to come and spend their money on holidays."
The proposed project has been dogged by controversy since April 2009 when Kimberley traditional owners signed a heads of agreement with the state government and Woodside for a gas precinct at James Price Point. In May, the Goolarabooloo Jabbir Jabbir native title claim group voted to support the project. The KLC considers the deal "a landmark exercise in democratic decision making" that will lead directly to hundreds of jobs and guarantee a social justice package of health, education, housing and training.
Protesters have been near the site of survey work since July. "The threatening, offensive and intimidating behaviour that some of our staff, contractors and traditional owners have been subjected to over recent months is unacceptable," a Woodside spokesman said last night.
The region's indigenous Labor MP, Carol Martin, is named along with nine others in the most recent newsletter as "black on the outside, white on the inside and full of the milk of white man's money". She said opponents of the development showed disrespect for Aborigines' rights to make decisions about their land. "I'm shocked at the level of vitriol that's come out . . . this is the worst I've seen it," she said.