Friday 21 December 2018
Adani’s insistence that its mine is commencing is turning into a Christmas pantomime that masks the full brunt of the corporate conglomerate’s destructive and divisive influence, say Traditional Owners.
W&J Traditional Owner and lead council spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, “We know first hand that Adani can’t be trusted and will cover their activities with clever PR. But we don’t buy it and we continue to defend our lands and waters from destruction and prevent them building their mine”.
Mine construction thwarted
Adani do not have several key approvals critical to them making any real progress on building the mine. In addition, the W&J Traditional Owners Federal Court full-bench appeal will now most likely be heard in May 2019, with a decision some time after that. Indications are that the Queensland Government will not extinguish native title at the Carmichael site before then, preventing Adani from building its critical mine infrastructure.
Mr Burragubba said: “On Tuesday, an application in the Federal Court by Adani to throw out our legal challenge against the mine, unless we paid $160,000 within two weeks, was not accepted by Justice Robertson.
“We beat back Adani and their high-priced legal team in the Federal Court. The judge ruled that Adani’s demand for $160,000 was “disproportionate and unpersuasive”. Instead, we have to put forward $50,000 by the end of January, which we are on track to do.
“Our court case to throw out Adani’s ‘rent-a-crowd ILUA’ will proceed. And our campaign to protect our ancestral lands and waters is as strong as ever”, he said.
Cato Galilee and Woongal Services reveal dubious conduct
Adani persists with it’s charade of benefits for Aboriginal people, but as exposed today, Adani employs a member of the W&J community who was central to overturning our decisions to reject Adani’s land use deal, and presided over the collapse of a million-dollar W&J trust fund belonging to our people.
Mr Burragubba said: “We have experienced first hand the breach of trust, and the way Adani divides our people. And now over $1m of W&J People’s assets stand to be wiped out while we face mounting costs defending our lands and waters.
“Cato Galilee was controlled by several members of the W&J Applicant who received unauthorised financial benefits. Adani, along with the Qld Coordinator General, worked with these people to undermine our traditional authority and decision making.
“Cato Galilee directors betrayed us and went into private, unauthorised discussions with Adani after the W&J claim group voted ‘no’ for the second time in October 2014.
“In 2015, under the direction of Ms Irene Simpson, and fellow director at the time, Mr Patrick Malone, Cato Galilee entered into an unauthorised Memorandum of Understanding with Adani on behalf of W&J.
“This occurred after the claim group had rejected the Adani ILUA, and the authorised Family Representative Group instructed the applicants to oppose the deal. The MoU was subsequently rejected by our people at an authorisation meeting in that year” he said.
Ms Simpson, is employed by Adani as an Indigenous engagement officer. Mr Malone heads a Western Kangalou company, while working with Adani on W&J’s cultural heritage. His son, Mr Jonathan Malone, has majority interests in the pop-up company, Woongal Environmental Services.
Woongal has been given a contract to monitor environmental outcomes on Wangan and Jagalingou country.
“We have condemned Adani’s recent announcement that Woongal Environmental Services is a ‘W&J certified business’. This ‘certification’ is false. This contract is not with the W&J people and its supposed benefits are typically meagre. Adani are taking ‘green washing’ and ‘black cladding’ to a new level.
“Companies like Cato Galilee and Woongal Services are being used as fronts. They undermine the foundations of our society and proper governance”, Mr Burragubba said.
Financial threats mount
This morning Justice Reeves confirmed his ruling on costs arising from the Federal Court hearing to strike out the ‘Adani ILUA’ in March. Both the judgement and the costs order are being appealed. If successful, the costs order will be reversed and Adani will have to meet the W&J appellants’ fees.
Mr Burragubba said: “Experience tells us that Adani’s cost demands are excessive. The threat of high cost orders is meant to stop us standing up to protect our human rights and our country. We have received threats of massive economic damages and bankruptcy.
“We are appealing to the full bench of the Federal Court against the decision of a single judge, and against these heavy cost orders. And we are alerting the UN Special Rapporteurs for Indigenous Peoples Rights and for Human Rights Defenders about the burdensome costs orders we face in Australia when using the judicial process to defend our rights, our lands and our sacred sites.
“These rulings will have a chilling effect on the willingness of Indigenous peoples around Australia to defend their rights from interference by government and private companies.
“High costs orders create a discriminatory court system that allows only wealthy people to bring claims and perpetuate the history of discrimination against Indigenous peoples in Australia.
“However, we will not be deterred in the face of grave personal threats. Our fundamental rights are at stake and the future of our people and country are on the line”, Mr Burragubba concluded.
For more information contact:
Saturday 15 December 2018
Adani’s claims that W&J have ‘certified’ Woongal are false, disrespectful and underhanded, say Traditional Owners
Adani’s announcement that Woongal Environmental Services has been given a contract to monitor environmental outcomes on Wangan and Jagalingou country has drawn condemnation from the W&J Council as false, and typical of the disrespectful and underhanded way in which Adani treats Traditional Owners.
W&J Traditional Owner and lead spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, “The claim that Woongul is a ‘Wangan and Jagalingou certified business’ is false. No decision of the native title party has ever been made to certify this company. This announcement is in breach of the terms of Adani’s own purported ILUA”.
A ‘Wangan and Jagalingou certified business’ is a reference to a business accredited in accordance with the process set out in the Adani ILUA. Mr Burragubba says this process has never been followed.
“We will seek legal advice on blocking this contract. We are tired of other people misrepresenting us and benefiting at our expense. Adani’s announcement is an insult. Other people have been given authority over our country and our environment, while many W&J Traditonal Owners and families have been deliberately excluded from any input into cultural heritage protection and environmental management.
“We know Adani must give the appearance of starting work, and they like to hide behind supposed Aboriginal employment benefits to withstand criticism of their destructive proposal and compromised ethics. Adani has bypassed the native title party, and it’s obligations to us under the law, and made another untrustworthy announcement.
“We can’t trust them to do business and we can’t trust them with our lands and waters. Adani say there is no threat to our sacred Doongmabulla Springs, yet they are paying mining industry outsiders to monitor them for damage.
“They say they are building long-term sustainable business opportunities with Traditional Owners of the land, yet the company they have contracted has no Wangan and Jagalingou people involved. And there is no guarantee of any Traditional Custodians with knowledge of our land and culture being engaged to protect the environment.
“They say they will bring cultural knowledge of ‘the Indigenous people’ into the Adani business and ‘learn from Traditional Owners’, while they breach all protocols under Aboriginal law and custom.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council call on Woongal – and the company’s Western Kangalou and Gurang Gurang directors – to stay off our country. This is a profound act of disrespect and allows Adani to divide Aboriginal people for their own gain.” he concluded.
For more information contact:
Thursday 29 November 2018
Adani’s announcement they are ‘ready to go’ must be reality tested
Brisbane, Australia: Galilee Basin Traditional Owners say today’s announcement by Adani Mining that it has decided to fund its massively scaled down Carmichael project must be reality tested. They say the Queensland Government has not extinguished their native title, which is crucial to the mine proceeding.
W&J Traditional Owner and lead spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, “Even if Adani’s announcement proves to be true, they do not have the final approvals or the financial close needed for the mine to proceed. They are also under investigation for environmental breaches on our country.
“It is a measure of Adani’s failure that they can’t obtain finance for the project they touted to our people. We rejected it when they first came to us and we reject it now, because Adani offers nothing of worth to our people and will destroy our country forever.
“We demand a guarantee from the Queensland Government they won’t now extinguish our native title for Adani. Queensland Labor has said they recognise that the registration of the Adani ILUA is contested and they acknowledge and respect our right to have our complaints considered and determined by a court.
“We have an appeal before the full bench of the Federal Court. To act before this concludes would be to deny our rights and open the way for a grave injustice. Without our consent, the mine is not ready to proceed”.
Media Release – 5 November 2018
BREAKING: Korea Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of Korea and KDB Infrastructure Asset Management rule out finance ahead of visit
Brisbane, Australia: With Adani claiming to be close to securing finance, and media reporting the miner is holding talks with Korean finance companies interested in buying a stake in their port, leading Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners are today travelling to Korea to urge investment banks there to shun the Adani coal project, pointing to the final violation of their rights that will occur if the mine proceeds. Three investment banks have ruled out finance in response to W&J’s tour (ABC today).
The heavyweight Korean lender Korea Development Bank (KDB) ruled out involvement last Wednesday, writing they “have no intent to provide finance”, as has the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) and KDB Infrastructure Asset Management, following meeting requests from the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council. Documentation here. Meetings with the The National Pension Service, Mirae Asset Daewoo and NH-Amundi have been requested and W&J will visit their offices to conduct media events. In 2015 a visit by W&J to Europe, the UK and United States saw major institutions, including UK’s largest investment bank Standard Chartered, publicly back away from financing the mine. Further background below.
W&J Traditional Owner and lead spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, “Whoever assists Adani financially at this crucial time will become complicit in a grave breach of our rights, and the destruction of our lands and waters and sacred places. They are also exposing themselves to financial risk because success in our Federal Court appeal due next year would deliver great uncertainty to investors.
“We will tell Korean financiers that we have never given our free, prior and informed consent for our rights to be extinguished, or for the development of the Carmichael mine on our traditional lands – a development that would destroy large parts of our ancestral homelands to which our law and culture is deeply connected.
“We will also tell these institutions we are in ongoing communication with United Nations human rights bodies about violations of our human rights arising from the development of the Carmichael mine.
“Korean financial institutions must rule out financing Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine or investing in the associated rail and port infrastructure. They have a corporate responsibility to withhold finance from projects that violate our human rights, in breach of international law”.
W&J Traditional Owner and spokesperson Murrawah Johnson, who is also making the trip to the Republic of Korea, said, “The development of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project without our consent will lead to a violation of our fundamental human rights. In these circumstances, any Korean institution or business that directly or indirectly provides financial support to Adani’s project will be complicit in these violations.
“Korean financial institutions have a binding responsibility to respect human rights and ensure that their actions do not endorse or contribute to any violation of our internationally recognised rights as Indigenous People.
“Thirty-two major financial institutions have ruled out financing all or part of Adani’s proposed project, either confirming this directly or changing their policies. The interest in Adani from Korean banks or potential equity financiers needs to be made clear after reports that Adani has held talks with Korean finance companies. We are seeking to close the door on this financing avenue.
“We have shown we are determined to stop this disastrous project, waging a legal, political and human rights campaign over four years that has held Adani back. We won’t let them slip through at this late stage as their desperation shows. We will advise Korean banks, and anyone who would consider supporting this project, that our lands and people, our culture, and the future of the environment and climate, are at stake.
“No financial institution in its right mind should back this unethical and destructive new coal mine.”
Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council
In Korea: Anthony Esposito, Adviser, W&J Council +61 (0) 418 152 743 Skype: aje_now
Australian contact for W&J: Karrina Nolan +61 (0) 403 920 195
Finance Assistant travelling with W&J representatives: Julian Vincent, Executive Director, Market Forces. Ph: +61 (0) 419 179 529 Skype: julien-vincent Market Forces works to shift finance away from activities that create severe environmental and social impacts. The W&J have previously enlisted the support of Market Forces to arrange meetings with financial institutions in the US and Europe and have done so again for this Korean visit.
Commentary on the Korean business landscape: Joojin Kim, Managing Director of Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC), a Seoul based environmental group focusing on climate finance, power market governance, carbon pricing and fossil fuel subsidies. +82 10-8788-1988
Vision: Opportunities for live crosses or recorded interviews from media events in Korea can be arranged. Phone / skype interviews available throughout. Media packages of images / footage can be made available on request.
From 7-9 November 2018 representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council (W&J) will visit Korea. The Traditional Owners have rejected an agreement with Adani and refused to allow the extinguishment of their rights for the Carmichael Mine on four occasions since 2012.
Adani has recently responded to years of failed attempts to secure finance by reducing the initial scale of the proposed mine and rail line, and deferring the expansion of the Abbot Point coal export terminal to enable a cheaper, “Phase 1” project. A key component of Adani’s recent strategy is to sell a stake in the existing Abbot Point coal export terminal, which could net hundreds of millions of dollars in equity that could then be redeployed to finance the mine and/or rail line.
The Courier Mail reported in September 2018 “It [Adani] is understood to be holding talks with Korean finance companies who are interested in buying a stake in the port. It could be done within months.”
In July 2018 Mirae Asset Daewoo refinanced $330 milion of Adani’s debt, acquired when it bought the coal port in 2011. This debt was then on-sold to insurance company NH-Amundi.
W&J’s US based attorneys – Earthjustice – have provided W&J with international law advice on the ‘business and human rights’ obligations of banks and organisations. The advice builds upon submissions from W&J to various UN human rights agencies and councils and calls for urgent UN action. This advice accompanied a letter sent by W&J to every Korean financial institution contacted. [The text of the letter sent to Korea Development Bank and others is here and Earthjustice advice is here.]
The W&J have had their rights breached under Australia’s coercive native title regime, and have never given their free, prior and informed consent to the forfeiting of their rights to their lands and waters for Adani, or for the development of the Carmichael mine on their traditional lands – a development that would destroy large parts of their ancestral homelands to which their law and culture is deeply connected.
The Queensland Government has now said it will would not extinguish the W&J’s native title rights until Adani has reached financial close for the Carmichael mine.
Creating further pressure on the Government and potential financiers is the W&J’s litigation before the Federal Court of Australia challenging the validity of an agreement that Adani purports to have made with the Traditional Owners.
W&J also has ongoing communication with United Nations human rights bodies about violations of their human rights arising from the development of the Carmichael mine.
Currently there is a an urgent action request before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been updated ahead of a session with the UN Human Rights Council.
If native title was extinguished by the Qld government this would open the way for funding for Adani’s port, rail or mine which would breach W&J’s rights under international law, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
Traditional Owners announce Adani court appeal
Call on Qld Government to never extinguish their native title
Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners opposing Adani’s Carmichael Mine have this week served notice of a Federal Court full bench appeal. (See ABC today: “Adani mine site to remain under native title until finance confirmed, Minister says”). The Traditional Owners strongly reject last month’s decision of a single Judge of the Federal Court and will seek to have the decision reversed and the Adani Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) thrown out.
Mr Adrian Burragubba, a Traditional Owner of W&J country, and W&J Council spokesperson says: “We will not abide a ruling that says it’s legal to have our ancient laws and culture, and our enduring rights in our lands and waters, merely voted away by a group of people who do not have the traditional authority to surrender our native title”.
In a new development, the Queensland Government has confirmed that it will only act to take W&J native title for the Adani project when it has the financial capacity to complete it. This follows a resolution of the Queensland ALP state conference in early September 2018.
Mr Adrian Burragubba says, “We are not conceding our rights under our laws and customs to this court decision. We are resolute in putting a stop to the pretense that the ‘Adani ILUA’ amounts to the consent of the Traditional Owners of Wangan and Jagalingou country to the extinguishment of our native title.
“Whilever we have this court case running in the higher courts, whether it takes many months or years, Adani has not achieved ‘conclusive registration’ of its ILUA. The Government should refuse to act on it, and banks should refuse to finance the project.
“Adani engineered this pretence, the Government chose not to side with us, and their lawyers and the Native Title services bureaucrats provided the paperwork for an act of betrayal. Nothing changes those facts for us. They refused to accept our original decisions and interfered in our business”, he said.
Ms Linda Bobongie, Chairperson of the W&J Council says: “The State ALP has gone some way in passing a resolution calling for financial close before they take our native title for Adani, but the Queensland Government must unequivocally rule out extinguishing our native title – now or ever.”
“Extinguishing our native title is a deeply troubling issue for us. The Government knows it does not have to extinguish our rights in the land for Adani, even if the Adani ILUA remains on the Tribunal register.
“The ILUA itself makes that clear. The Queensland Government has ‘unfettered discretion’ and is not obliged to extinguish native title. Its signing of the ILUA ‘does not constitute approval or endorsement of the project’.
“The problem with the ILUA is Adani and the State government failed to obtain our genuine consent and signed a sham agreement.
“We suffer under bad laws and processes. It is imperative that the Native Title Act be reformed in line with Australia’s obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, prior and informed consent.
“It’s time for Governments to stand up for our rights”, she concluded.
Media enquiries: Anthony Esposito, W&J Traditional Owners Council advisor – 0418 152 743
Traditional Owners disturbed by allegations of illegal works by Adani
Call on Qld Government to prosecute any unlawful activity by Adani’s coal operation
Revelations yesterday that Adani Mining may have breached environmental laws while operating on Wangan and Jagalingou country has deeply disturbed Traditional Owners.
The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council are calling on the Queensland Government to investigate and prosecute any illegal activity on their homelands.
Mr Adrian Burragubba, a traditional owner of W&J country and spokesperson for the Council says: “The Queensland Government has licensed this unscrupulous corporation and now they must take responsibility for any destruction that is occuring on our country. They must investigate and prosecute Adani for any unlawful activity.
“We are very concerned about the impacts on our cultural heritage and ancient story places from Adani’s land clearing and other industrial disturbance. It is a grave matter for us that their works could do permanent damage to our sacred Doongmabulla springs.
“We have been concerned about activity by Adani contractors on our country over some months now. We will be making our own investigations into what Adani have been doing there and will hold both the company and the Government to account.
“Adani have been camped on our country hoping to one day build their mine. Starting work illegally only adds insult to the injury that they are there without our consent. We will continue to pursue them through the courts, and with our demands on the Government.
“We have seen the report from the lawyers at the Environmental Defenders Office, and it appears that coal seam dewatering bores and other extensive groundwork is being done in breach of Adani’s environmental license, and that Adani may have lied to the Queensland Government about it.
“We have known all along that Adani can’t be trusted with our country, to respect our rights, or be custodians of the environment. The Government can restore some faith by interrogating Adani’s conduct and taking whatever action needed to safeguard our country and culture”, he concluded.
Media enquiries: Anthony Esposito, W&J Traditional Owners Council advisor – 0418 152 743
18 August 2018
Traditional Owners vow to continue to defend their land rights against Adani
~ W&J leaders say appeal pending against court decision favouring Adani’s land grab
~ Request no action from Queensland Government on extinguishment of native title
~ Senior Counsel advice says the State not obliged to wipe out land title
~ Appeal to UN for urgent action on failure of Australian law to protect the right to ‘free prior informed consent’
~ Adani ILUA proves Native Title system needs major reform
In the wake of yesterday’s adverse Federal Court decision against their challenge to Adani’s ILUA, Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners say yesterday’s judgement merely confirms the limitations of the native title system, and fails to address their right as Indigenous people to free, prior and informed consent, which is at the heart of their action.
Mr Adrian Burragubba, one of five applicants in the case, and W&J cultural leader says: “We are calling on the Queensland Government to rule out extinguishing our native title in any part of our land.
“Once native title is gone, it is gone forever. It would be a travesty for the Government to wipe out our title for Adani. If Queensland can stop them dredging the Reef before Adani has money, or pull the pin on $1 billion NAIF funding, they can surely protect our rights to our land. They must not hand a private corporation land title at our expense, based on discriminatory laws.
“The Queensland Government has a clear choice here, and yesterday’s ruling in no way forces them to proceed to extinguish our native title. Don’t be fooled, it is up to the Government what happens next.
“Adani can’t be trusted; how can they say they respect ‘the rights, history, future intentions and requests of the traditional owners’? We are Traditional Owners, we are the people from that land, and they have never respected our decisions, or our right to free prior informed consent, or our aspirations to care for our ancestral country. They split our people for their own ends and then try to claim they care. They should walk away in shame for all the damage they have done”.
Ms Linda Bobongie, another applicant and chairperson of the Traditional Owners Council, says: “While we respect the decisions of the courts, we aren’t satisfied by this judgement and will work with our legal team to prepare an appeal to a higher court.
“We know the Queensland Government has no obligation to act on extinguishment for Adani. They should wait until all our appeals are exhausted.”
“We held out hope for this legal avenue, but anticipated a conservative judgement within the Native Title system, and were prepared for the decision. Our Council has vowed to continue to defend our lands and waters from Adani’s destruction.
“We call on Adani to immediately withdraw from this damaging project on our land. No administrative decisions that block our rights will stop us standing our ground to defend and protect Wangan and Jagalingou Country and our connection to it. We do not consent to a mine that will destroy our culture and land, and rob our people of a sustainable future, so a rich company can get richer exploiting and burning the coal beneath our feet”.
Anthony Esposito, W&J Traditional Owners Council advisor – 0418 152 743
W&J website: http://wanganjagalingou.com.
W&J facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
Letter to the Premier of Queensland et al:
Re: Wangan Jagalingou people, the Adani Mining Project and native title extinguishment
Traditional Owners take land rights fight to U.N. to head off threat of native title extinguishment for Adani: http://wanganjagalingou.com.
Indigenous group takes anti-Adani fight to the United Nations claiming human rights violation:
MEDIA ALERT: FED CT BRIS FRI 4.15PM Trad Owners v Adani and others judgment
17 August 2018
Critical judgment in W&J Traditional Owners fight for their land rights against Adani
WHAT: Justice Reeves of the Federal Court delivers his decision in the case in which Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners have challenged the legitimacy of a meeting funded by Adani to ‘authorise’ an ILUA (Indigenous Land Use Agreement), the certification of that purported ILUA by Queensland South Native Title Services, and the subsequent registration of the ‘Adani ILUA’ by the National Native Title Tribunal. Further background to the case below.
WHEN: 4.15pm, Friday 17 August 2018.
WHERE: Federal Court, Court No. 2, Level 7, Cth Law Courts 119 North Quay (Tank St entry), Brisbane.
Adrian Burragubba, spokesperson for the five W&J applicants, and the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council, is available for comment before and after the decision.
Mr Adrian Burragubba says: “No matter what happens today, we are calling on the Queensland Government to rule out extinguishing our native title in any part of our land. No matter who wins, we expect an appeal.
“It would be a travesty for the Government to wipe out our title for Adani. If Queensland can stop them dredging the Reef before Adani has money, or pull the pin on $1 billion NAIF funding, they can surely protect our rights to our land. They must not hand a private corporation land title at our expense, based on discriminatory laws.
“We know it’s the Queensland Government’s choice. Enough is enough. We have called on the UN for international scrutiny of what’s happening here. The Government must bring itself into the modern era on our human rights and leave us to protect our country and chart a better future than coal mining.”
Media enquiries: Anthony Esposito, W&J Traditional Owner Council advisor – 0418 152 743
W&J website: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/
W&J facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WanganandJagalingou/fBackground to the case
W&J Traditional Owners have not given their free and informed consent to the Carmichael Mine, and at four authorisation meetings of the native title group since 2012 have voted to reject Adani’s land use agreement. On their behalf, five applicants have pursued a legal course to try to prevent the ‘Adani ILUA’ being used by the Queensland Government to justify extinguishment of their native title for Adani.
They make their argument on the basis that the Adani meeting in April 2016, which purportedly agreed to an ILUA, was “a sham” because it included large numbers who are not Wangan and Jagalingou people or primary members of the claim group, and who were given money to attend; while large numbers of people who are Wangan and Jagalingou and had already rejected the agreement, refused to participate and lend legitimacy to the meeting.
Some Adani supporters within the W&J Applicant were being compensated for getting people to attend. Evidence of the expert anthropologist for Queensland South Native Title Services (QSNTS), at trial, was that virtually nothing was done to ascertain that the people registered to attend were actually people who held or were likely to hold native title within the Wangan and Jagalingou claim area. It was left to the same Adani supporters who were rounding up people to attend and being paid compensation for doing so. The CEO of QSNTS who signed the certificate had no knowledge of what, if any, efforts had been made to identify the people attending as people who held or may hold native title.
People at the meeting were not given actual specifications of the area to be extinguished, so there is no prior informed consent and the Native Title registrar does not know what land is actually to be surrendered.
3 August 2018
Traditional Owners take land rights fight to U.N. to head off threat of native title extinguishment for Adani
Authorised representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson, have submitted a request to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for urgent action under the early warning and urgent action procedure.
The request to the CERD is in relation to Australia’s violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, for the Committee’s consideration during its upcoming 96th session in Geneva. The complaint raises six violations of Australia’s international obligations under the Convention. (Link to the CERD submission)
The complaint was also sent to the Queensland Premier and Ministers in the Queensland Government, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister and Federal Attorney General.
Adrian Burragubba, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council spokesperson and cultural leader said, “We are seeking the United Nations’ help to stop the destruction of our ancestral homelands, waters, and sacred sites by Adani’s massive Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project.
“The threatened extinguishment of our native title rights by the Queensland Government compels us to act. We have called upon the Queensland Government many times to rule out extinguishing our native title, a key measure in upholding our rights as Indigenous People. We have provided them with senior counsel advice that they do not have to extinguish our native title under any circumstances. The threat that W&J will lose our native title forever is real, we cannot wait around for a definitive position from them. This is why we have taken this urgent action,” Mr Burragubba said.
International lawyer Noni Austin, who assisted the Wangan and Jagalingou to prepare their request for urgent action, said, “The Wangan and Jagalingou are fighting for their very survival. If the Carmichael coal mine proceeds, the Wangan and Jagalingou face the permanent destruction of their ancestral homelands and culture, and the extinguishment of their native title rights in part of their lands.
“This is a violation of the Wangan and Jagalingou’s fundamental human rights, which Australia has an international obligation to protect. The actions of the Australian and Queensland governments and Adani Mining are responsible for this human rights violation.”
“The Wangan and Jagalingou have now been forced to ask the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to urgently protect their fundamental human rights because Australia has failed to meet its international responsibility to ensure that their culture and existence as a people can continue. Australia should be able to protect its peoples’ human rights without those people having to seek international protection.
“The Australian and Queensland governments are prioritizing a foreign company’s profits over the permanent loss of a people who have been connected to the land since time immemorial. Surely Australia is better than this,” Ms Austin said.
Linda Bobongie, Chairperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council said, “We have told Governments on many occasions of our profound grievance regarding the Adani Carmichael Mine and the manner in which a purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was obtained. We are especially concerned with the Queensland Government’s role in enabling and participating in this.
“The flawed and discriminatory Native Title Act provides the cover for their intended action and allows them to hide behind the pretence of the ‘Adani ILUA’ to claim that ‘a majority’ of the W&J people have given their consent to the mine.
“Our right to say no, our right to self-determination, is not upheld by the Native Title Act and we are being coerced into accepting a deal with Adani that we have rejected four times”, Ms Bobongie said.
Murrawah Johnson, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ youth spokesperson said, “We are calling upon the Queensland Government to refuse to extinguish any native title of the Wangan and Jagalingou People for the Carmichael coal mine. And we demand State and Commonwealth Governments update their laws and policies to ensure they are entirely consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including our right to free prior and informed consent.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou leaders uphold the four decisions since 2012 of the native title claim group to reject any deal with Adani. We have opposed them in the courts and are prosecuting a case against the purported authorisation of the ‘Adani ILUA’ and its subsequent certification by the Queensland South Native Title Services body, and its registration by the National Native Title Tribunal.
“We are expecting a decision any time, and expect that no matter who is successful in the primary judgement, it will be appealed. We are clear that under no circumstances is the Government obliged to extinguish our native title. The State retains the power to refuse to extinguish our native title if it chooses”, Ms Johnson said.
Media Contact: Anthony Esposito
W&J website: http://wanganjagalingou.com.a
W&J facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Wang