Open Letter to the Darwin Festival 2015

Dear Darwin Festival,

We are writing to express our concern regarding the sponsorship of the Darwin Festival by the gas company Santos.

As people working in the cultural sector we understand that sponsorship of the arts is a common approach used by companies to build their public reputation and social license to operate and that Santos has in previous years provided sponsorship to the Darwin Festival.

We are particularly concerned about Santos sponsoring such a wonderful festival because Santos – along with a range of other gas companies – are now using fracking, a risky and unconventional gas mining technique to access shale gas deposits across the N.T.

There is strong internationally recognized evidence that demonstrates fracking poses significant contamination risks to groundwater and air by fracking chemicals and leaked methane, and to the health of people living in proximity to unconventional gasfields.

Santos’ exploration licenses in the NT cover tens of thousands of square kilometres, including the Amadeus Basin south of Alice Springs, putting at risk the town’s only water supply. Santos has not ruled out fracking in these tenements, some of which come as close as 75km to Uluru.

In addition to our strong opposition to fracking we are concerned with Santos’ extremely poor environmental record.
In its NSW operations in the Pilliga Forest, Santos has a long history of operational failure, with over 20 toxic waste water spills and major leaks from evaporation ponds and infrastructure including pipelines, waste-water treatment facilities and well sites.

Climate change and the need to protect our clean water and environment is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

We understand the pressures on arts and cultural events due to the recent Federal Arts funding changes, but we believe artists can be creative and principled in the funding relationships they choose and do not have to undermine their integrity by promoting the reckless actions of fossil fuel companies like Santos.

By withdrawing from its sponsorship arrangements with Santos the Darwin Festival would be joining other major festivals such as the Woodford Folk Festival and artists in the Sydney Festival who have taken a strong and principled stand against Santos for these reasons.

We love the Darwin Festival and we don’t want to see its integrity undermined or its good name used as a vehicle for ‘artwashing’ by fossil fuel companies which could do irreparable damage to the beautiful Northern Territory.

To ensure its continued support we are appealing to the NT community to join us in raising alternative sponsorship funds through clean energy companies and community organisations. So far we have pledged $10,000 towards this aim.

We strongly encourage the Darwin Festival to break from their sponsorship agreement with Santos – and not pursue similar agreements with other fossil fuel companies.


June Mills – Larrakia Artist and Musician, Darwin
Sandridge Band – NIMA Award recipients, Borroloola
Dan Murphy – Artist, Alice Springs
Rusty Stewart – Photographer, Alice Springs
Anna Cadden – Filmmaker, Alice Springs
Kelly Lee Hickey – Writer, Alice Springs
Kate Hodges, Documentary Producer, Sydney

Jason Quinn – Beanie Festival, Alice Springs
Kirsty Robertson – Artist, Alice Springs
Mike Gillam – Photographer, Alice Springs,
Stephanie Harrison – Musician, Alice Springs
Elliat Rich – Designer, Alice Springs
Liam Campbell – Filmmaker, Alice Springs
Beth Sometimes – Artist, Melbourne
Alex Kelly – Filmmaker, Alice Springs
Imogen Semmler – Creative Producer, Alice Springs
Franca Barraclough – Artist, Alice Springs
Alphius Meage – Musician, Darwin

Lisa Stefanoff, Creative Producer, Darwin

Zoe Nelson, Music Teacher, Darwin

Joshua Santispiriti, Artist, Hobart

Meri Davies, Creative Producer, Darwin

Alana Parrott-Jolly, Burlesque Performer, Darwin

Annaliese Constable, Writer, Sydney

Nadine Kessler, Designer, Alice Springs

Tarzan JungleQueen, Artist, Darwin

Phoenix Smith, Artist, Darwin

Starlady, Artist, Alice Springs

Svetlana Bunic, Musician, Alice Springs

David Collins, Artist, Darwin

Levin Diatschenko, Musician, Darwin

Nina Tzatziki, Artist, Darwin

David Bradbury, Filmmaker, Mullumbimby

Arthur Legs McArthur, Musician, Darwin

Caro McDonald – Filmmaker, Melbourne

Maxine Mellor, Playwright, Brisbane

Dave Nixon, Producer, Alice Springs

Basil Schild, Musician, Darwin

Samantha Morris, Editor Blank Space, Darwin

Bong, Artist, Darwin

Clare Woods, Event Manager, Alice Springs

Melissa Kerl, Artist, Alice Springs

Anna Weekes, Artist, Katherine

Emma Franklin, Artist, Alice Springs

Ashleigh Steel, Designer, Sydney

Timothy Parish, Filmmaker, Darwin

Anna Weekes, Artist, Katherine

Boronia Saggers, Textile Artist, Katherine

Christian Ramilo, Musician, Darwin

Christopher Baldwin, Bilbies against Fracking, Sydney

James Young – Shoemaker & Outfitter, Alice Springs