Great Australian Bight is a large oceanic bight, or open bay, and a home to a unique array of marine life. Whales, sea lions, birds, turtles, fish and sponge gardens all depend on its pristine waters . The Indigenous people of the Nullarbor and Western Eyre Peninsula have been its custodians for tens of thousands of years - and remain so today .
In 2016, however, a deepwater oil-drilling plan in the Bight was developed by Norwegian oil company Equinor (Norwegian state-owned multinational energy company). Yet thousands of people protested the decision . The protests took place all over the Country; namely in Perth, at Sydney’s Manly Beach, in Byron Bay, Wollongong, in Torquay and Warrnambool in Victoria, and at Alexandra Headland on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast . In total fifteen councils opposed drilling in the Bight .
The same year, environmental organisations came together to create the Great Australian Bight Alliance. The founding members of the Alliance included: Mirning Traditional Owners, Clean Bight Alliance Australia (West Coast SA), Oil Free Seas - Australia, Sea Shepherd Australia, Sea Shepherd Adelaide Chapter, Surfrider Foundation Australia and The Wilderness Society South Australia .
The goal of the Alliance was to protect marine environment. "Our unspoiled waters must be valued and celebrated. We cannot accept the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in our waters and along our coastline. Oil spills are irreversible", the Alliance stated on their official website .
Furthermore, the Wilderness Society launched a legal action opposing the decision for drilling, arguing opponents had not been properly consulted  . The Wilderness Society argued how the company did not formally consult potentially affected groups as required by Australian law . On the site, for instance, there are Indigenous custodians with cultural values threatened by offshore drilling. An elder of the Mirning people, the traditional owners of the bight, said drilling would lead to oil spills that poisoned the sea and affect traditional way of living .
“It is patently clear that Equinor has refused to undertake best practice consultation, and it is our view [Wilderness Society] that it didn’t even meet the basic regulatory requirements. Our view is that Nopsema [Australian National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority] made an important legal error in accepting Equinor’s substandard consultation.” .
After almost 4 years of protests, in 2020, the Norwegian oil giant Equinor abandoned plans, and decided not to drill for oil in the Bight, declaring the controversial project did not make commercial sense . The decision has been welcomed by the activists and lawmakers who had argued that oil and gas extraction would threaten wildlife, traditional culture, and the climate .
Equinor is the third major oil company to abandon plans to drill in the Bight, following BP and Chevron .