Montara oil spill crusaders win national legal award
23rd Oct 2017
Two people who spent months in a remote Indonesian province while seeking justice for victims of an Australian oil spill have been presented with the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) 2017 Civil Justice Award.
Freya Mulvey and Thomas Neal, who worked to sign up victims of the Montara oil spill to a class action seeking justice and compensation, were presented with the CJA during the Australian Lawyers Alliance national conference in Darwin.
ALA National President Laura Neil said that Ms Mulvey and Mr Neal , had gone above and beyond in their pursuit of justice for Montara victims.
“Freya Mulvey and Thomas Neal are truly deserving recipients of the Civil Justice Award,” Mrs Neil said.
“More than eight years ago, the Montara oil spill spewed oil and gas into waters of the Timor Sea for 74 days. Millions of litres of oil polluted the ocean, before hitting the beaches of the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur,” Mrs Neil said.
“Since then, local economies in Nusa Tenggara Timur, have reported losses totalling billions of Australian dollars, with communities also reporting widespread sickness and health conditions they claim are caused by the oil spill.
“The oil company behind the spill ignored them, while the Australian government claimed its hands were tied as the victims of the spill were in Indonesia,” Mrs Neil said.
“The villagers had nowhere to turn for justice. However Freya and Thomas gave these people hope by signing up 15,483 impoverished victims to the Montara class action,” Mrs Neil said.
Mrs Neil said that the pair’s work was instrumental in the pursuit of justice for the victims of the oil spill, and that they succeeded despite facing great obstacles and hardships.
“Freya and Tom were at the pointy end of the operation, travelling across the affected Indonesian province to seek justice for victims of the oil spill,” Mrs Neil said.
“They had to overcome everything from the hot and harsh tropical climate, mosquitoes, regular illnesses, terrible roads, sometimes dubious food quality and poor to non-existent telephone and internet communications and electricity.”
“Tom even contracted Dengue Fever during the project,” Mrs Neil said.
“But the work was important, they believed in their cause, and Freya, Tom and their team persisted.”
Mrs Neil said the impact of Freya and Tom’s work on the lives of their villagers was palpable.
“It was not about the prospect of winning damages, but that they came to share the villagers’ problems and to fight for them. They had not been forgotten,” Mrs Neil said.
“The remarkable nature of the work done by Freya and Tom is a testament to their strength of character, demonstrating a maturity well beyond their years and an empathy and unparalleled dedication to the interests of their clients.”
“Freya and Tom have already made a great difference to the lives of thousands of people and have put them in a position where justice finally becomes a least a real possibility,” Mrs Neil said.