Independent investigation of Montara oil spill must occur
13th Jun 2014
An independent investigation of damage sustained in the closest Indonesian province to Australia should be funded by the company responsible, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said again today.
In August 2013, a delegation from the Australian Lawyers Alliance met with
communities claiming to have been affected by the Montara oil spill in Kupang, West
Timor, Indonesia. Coastal communities, across the sprawling island province of East
Nusa Tenggara claim that, in late 2009, oil and dispersant flowed into the Timor and
Sawu Seas and wreaked havoc on their fisheries and seaweed farms. In addition,
illnesses and deaths are reported and thousands of families, dependant on the sea
for life itself, have been rendered desperately impoverished.
“East Nusa Tenggara is listed among DFAT’s top five priority provinces to receive
aid in Indonesia,” said Emily Mitchell, Australian Lawyers Alliance’s Legal and Policy
Officer, who was part of the delegation.
“However, Australia’s total spending in Indonesia is not equivalent to even 40 per
cent of the economic loss estimated annually in East Nusa Tenggara following the
“Communities assert that vital seaweed farming industries have been devastated
following the spill,”
“In some communities, annual income is less than one per cent what it was prior to
“In addition, there have been reports of sudden and suspicious deaths, food
poisoning and impacts on human health.”
“It is a disgrace that the impact of the largest offshore oil spill in Australia’s history
has not been appropriately investigated on the shores of our closest neighbour.”
“A comprehensive and transparent scientific investigation is the only way forward.
Now is the time for the oil company responsible to fund an appropriate study,” said
“Given the strength of the evidence that serious environmental and social damage
has been caused, the oil company must fund a proper study to assess the impacts of
“It is unacceptable that five years on, there has still been no clean up, no remediation
and no assessment in Indonesia.”
“Communities are afraid for their health and for the futures of their children.”
“This failure would not be accepted on Australian soil. As our closest neighbour, the
province of East Nusa Tenggara must receive the support required to appropriately
investigate reported damage.”
The Montara Commission of Inquiry, initiated by the Labor government in 2009,
found that ‘oil entered the waters of Indonesia and Timor Leste to a significant
“However, following the Montara Commission of Inquiry, there has been no effort
made to follow the oil. It is unprecedented not to properly assess an event of this
scale and to ignore the call for action by the communities affected,” said Ms Mitchell.
In March, the Australian Lawyers Alliance provided a submission to the Senate
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into Australia’s overseas development
assistance program. It is available on the Inquiry website, and can also be accessed
on our website here: http://www.lawyersalliance.com.au/ourwork/montara-oil-spill