National Australia Bank chair Philip Chronican has pledged better engagement with Tiwi Islanders after traditional owners called on the bank to end its financial support for gas company Santos.
Pirrawayingi Puruntatameri and Simon Munkara travelled more than 3000 kilometres from their homelands in the Timor Sea to Sydney, to address the NAB board at its annual meeting on Friday.
They say the bank is breaching their human rights by participating in a $1.5 billion loan to Santos and they're asking it not to finance the proposed expansion of the Darwin LNG project that would be used to process gas from the $5.5 billion Barossa gas project.
Mr Puruntatameri said, as a Tiwi man, he had a responsibility to protect his family, country, culture and sea country.
“Are you saying to us that you don’t know how Santos is using NAB’s money?" he said.
"Surely this would be considered negligent, surely you would have to know how someone is going to spend $72 million of customers' money.”
Simon Munkara said earlier this year, he, Mr Puruntatameri and other Tiwi Islanders had filed a human rights grievance with NAB.
“The way your people have treated us is so disrespectful," he said.
"You haven’t tried to talk to us or meet with us, yet you say you’ll talk directly to Santos about Tiwi people.
“You say that a corporate loan to Santos doesn’t contribute to harming me or my family. How did you come to that conclusion?”
Mr Chronican thanked the Tiwi Islanders for their remarks at the AGM.
He said said the bank was in the difficult position of not being able to comment on a customer's activities but he was fully aware of the issues related to the pipeline.
"Our comments and our Reconcilation Action Plan are intended to be serious," he said, pledging that senior representatives from the bank would engage with the islanders.
Santos plans to extract natural gas from the Barossa field, located in waters about 285km northwest of Darwin and transport it through pipelines to an existing liquified natural gas facility in the Northern Territory.
Tiwi Islanders have been fighting Santos on several fronts, lobbying superannuation funds to stop investment, attending AGMs including Westpac's on Thursday, and in court.
In November, the Federal Court granted Mr Munkara a limited injunction to stop Santos laying pipe through an area close to the Tiwi Islands.
Senior Westpac executives have agreed to meet with traditional owners on country and the islanders are hoping NAB will make a similar agreement.