Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Founder, Captain Paul Watson, has been honoured with an Original Nation passport in a ceremony in Melbourne.
On Friday January 19th, Sea Shepherd representatives (Anna Gordon and Jordan Crooka) accepted the passport on behalf of Captain Watson who is currently aboard Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel, the SSS Steve Irwin. Having recently stepped down from Sea Shepherd U.S. and Sea Shepherd Australia, Captain Watson has remained on board the vessel to document Sea Shepherd’s whale campaign.
Coordinated by Jabbir Jabbir and Nyul Nyul man Rodney Augustine (from the Kimberley region), and signed-off by Tent Embassy Customs Officer Robbie Thorpe from the Krautungalung people of the Gunnai Nation, the traditional owners of Lake Tyers, the passport is a show of solidarity between the First Peoples of Australia and Captain Watson. At a time when leaders of many nations have left Captain Watson without assistance, it is an acknowledgement by the First Australians of the years he has spent looking after the planet and the creatures that call it home.
Mr. Thorpe said, “We appreciate what environmental warriors like Paul Watson do. Anyone out there defending our flora and fauna is welcome to Country. We look forward to welcoming Paul ashore with a Welcome to Country smoke ceremony, at which time we will give him an official indigenous name.”
Accepting the honour, Captain Watson made the following statement: “I am proud beyond measure to receive a passport from the First Australians, an indigenous community that continues to remain unbroken from the connection between the laws of nature and our species. When the Aboriginal people look upon the whales, they see a mind and a spirit akin to themselves and they feel that same relationship that has also guided me since 1975 when I first looked into the eye of a dying whale and saw another reality. There are very few within the anthropocentric society that truly understand what we do, and why we do what we do to defend the whales. But there are many amongst the bio-centric community who do see, listen, smell and feel the kinship between all of us who dwell on this planet within the continuum of life, from the past through the present into the future. I know the Krautungalung of the Gunnai Nation and all First Australian Nations know of what I speak. Thank you Rodney Augustine, Robbie Thorpe and all involved for your most honoured support.”
Captain Watson is the second high-profile activist to have received the honorary Original Nation passport, after WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who received the accolade in September last year.
Former Greens leader, and member of Sea Shepherd Australia’s Board of Directors, Bob Brown, said, "The Original Nation passport given to Paul Watson recognises this great conservationist's unparalleled contribution to saving Australia's whales. First Australians issuing this passport will be backed by most Australians who will want to see Watson in Australia and safe from harassment by Japanese political pressure.”
Last year, Sea Shepherd launched its first Australian based campaign, Operation Kimberley Miinimbi, to oppose the controversial gas-hub at James Price Point on the Western Australian Kimberley Coast. Led by Bob Brown and Sea Shepherd Australia Director, Jeff Hansen, under invitation from the Goolarabooloo people whose country the proposed gas hub would be built upon, the operation is raising awareness of the Kimberley coastline to show the world what we all stand to lose if the development goes ahead.
"The Indigenous peoples of Australia's connection to land and sea country is what Captain Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd is all about,” said Sea Shepherd Australia Director, Jeff Hansen. “Living in peace and harmony with the natural world and all its inhabitants. Any crime against nature is a crime against humanity, simply because we cannot sustain life on this planet without a healthy land and sea environment. Acknowledging Captain Paul Watson in this way further cements the notion that the majority of Australians are against whaling. We should all honour the man that has been leading the fight for Australia's whales in Australia's territory by granting him safe passage into Australia."
The passport will be delivered to Captain Watson on his return from the whale campaign.
(From Left to right) Anna Gordon – Sea Shepherd Australia Donor Relations Coordinator
Robbie Thorpe - is from the Krautungalung people of the Gunnai Nation, the traditional owners of Lake Tyers.
Jordan Crooka – Sea Shepherd Melbourne onshore crew