Santos ends festival sponsorship

Adelaide-based energy firm Santos has ended its long-term sponsorship of a Northern Territory arts festival following a prolonged campaign by environmental activists and traditional owners.

Photo supplied

Photo supplied

Santos had supported the public arts event for almost 30 years, but with its contract up for renewal after the 2022 event in August, the company told festival organisers at a meeting on Tuesday that it would end the deal.

“We feel this is a natural conclusion point for the partnership. We are very proud of our commitment to the Northern Territory and our contribution to the community,” Santos said in a letter to festival board chair Ian Kew supplied to AAP.

The board has issued a statement thanking the company, “particularly for supporting the Opening Night Concert which has helped showcase local Australian artists and provide Territorians with a free night of entertainment to kick off the Festival each year”.

It met with traditional owners and activist group Fossil Free Arts NT to discuss a $200,000 philanthropic sponsorship offer, made on the condition the board cut ties with Santos and transfer naming rights for the opening night concert to Larrakia Nation.

Fracking in the NT’s Beetaloo Basin, 600 kilometres south of Darwin, is among Santos’ large scale projects, which include fossil fuel extraction in Queensland, Western Australia, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea, and the proposed Narrabri Gas Project in NSW.

The push to end the sponsorship deal included an open letter from 300 artists and producers, with Yothu Yindi also joining the campaign.

Chair of the Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation Johnny Wilson said Santos’ fracking project in the Beetaloo Basin was heartbreaking for traditional owners.

“It’s our responsibility to look after our country but Santos is doing the wrong thing and breaking our hearts with their fracking,” he said in a statement.

“The things Santos wants to do will ruin our sacred sites, our songlines, our water and our future. We live in grave danger and our future is in the hands of companies such as Santos.”

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Fossil Free Arts NT spokeswoman Anna Weekes welcomed the deal ending, saying it was proof that corporate greenwashing no longer worked.

“This is a huge win for traditional owners impacted by Santos projects and local communities which have fought hard to expose Santos’ climate wrecking projects,” she said.

The move comes as other festivals and sports teams cut ties with sponsorship money from fossil fuel companies.

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