No surrender – Traditional Owners move to defeat Adani’s ‘fake ILUA’

MEDIA RELEASE
7 February 2017

Traditional Owners act to defeat Adani’s invalid Indigenous Land Use Agreement in the wake of Noongar ruling

W&J Council will seek a declaration to knock out ‘fake ILUA’

Lawyers for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council have today written to Adani demanding it withdraw its application to have an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for its proposed Carmichael mine registered by the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT). Should Adani refuse, a declaration will be sought in the Federal Court to have the ILUA struck out. See the Letter.

Members of the W&J Council lodged a formal objection last year to the purported ILUA. The NNTT was due to make its decision this Friday, however the Federal Court in the matter of McGlade v Native Title Registrar [2017] throws doubt on whether Adani’s agreement is a valid ILUA.

Leading Aboriginal rights advocate, a primary W&J Traditional Owner and Council spokesperson, Mr. Adrian Burragubba, says, “We make it plain to the Queensland and Federal Governments that we will not surrender our ancestral homelands for Adani’s mine of mass destruction. We will defeat this company’s attempts to divide and conquer us and continue our legal battles to remove the leases issued by the Queensland Government.

“Our fight is far from over. Anyone who wants to bankroll Adani, and the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, are on notice that we will not stand by if attempts are made, in response to the Noongar decision, to put our rights and interests, and our laws and customs, on the chopping block for the mining lobby,” he said.

Lawyer for the ILUA objection and other matters, Mr. Colin Hardie, says, “The attempt to portray the ruling in the Noongar case as the native title system in crisis is a beat-up designed to take the focus away from controversial ILUAs, such as Adani’s, which seek to exchange cash and other incentives for the surrender of the rights of Traditional Owners of country.

“It is not the case that many ILUAs will be affected by the Noongar decision, or that there is now some type of systemic crisis that requires the urgent amendment of the Native Title Act.

“The submissions of our clients regarding the purported ILUA that Adani was attempting to register show the meeting called to authorise the agreement was ‘a sham’. Our client provided evidence that the meeting was composed of a ‘rent a crowd’ of persons who had never previously identified as Wangan and Jagalingou.

“Our clients stand on strong grounds in their claim to W&J country and their refusal to consent to the mine,” he said.

W&J youth leader and Council spokesperson, Ms. Murrawah Johnson, says, “We have maintained all along that Adani does not have the consent of the rightful Traditional Owners. Our Traditional Owners group have rejected an ILUA with Adani three times. We will defeat Adani’s fake ILUA and continue to fight for our land and culture until the company and Governments respect our rights and abandon this disastrous proposal”.

In seeking Adani’s withdrawal, W&J Council has not removed its objection to the registration of the Adani ILUA by the NNTT.

 

For information & to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor –  0418 152 743

 

Traditional Owners construct ‘legal line of defence’ against Adani and Qld Govt

Announce Full Bench Supreme Court Appeal – natural justice sought

Express Anger at Gautam Adani’s Failure to Meet

The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council have today announced a further action in their legal line of defence of their lands and rights against the imposition of Adani’s “mine of mass destruction”. They have also expressed offence at multi-billionaire Mr Gautam Adani’s failure to meet with them during his visit to Australia to spruik the Carmichael project.

Leading Aboriginal rights advocate, primary W&J Traditional Owner and Council spokesperson, Mr. Adrian Burragubba, says, “We are constructing a legal line of defence because the Queensland Government and Adani are trying to bulldoze us aside. We will not stand by while they sing from the same song sheet about their grandiose but hollow plans. We are acting in the courts to stop this destructive project. Our people, the Australian community, and the world deserve better than this cavalier, unjust and outdated approach to our shared future”.

The move comes after the W&J Traditional Owners Council sought an urgent meeting with the Chairman of the Adani Group, Mr Gautam Adani, to raise directly with him their concerns about the conduct of his company during his sudden visit to Australia. No response from the Adani Group was received.

Mr. Burragubba says, “We are offended that Mr Adani failed to even acknowledge our concerns. But the offence is minor compared to the way Adani Mining and the Queensland Government have treated us and our rights. Not once have they had the decency to speak to us as they plan their take-over and destruction of our ancestral lands and waters. Every step of the way they have undermined us, opposed us, and attempted to coerce us into accepting a pittance for relinquishing our native title”.

The five Applicants in Burragubba & Ors v Minister for Natural Resources and Mines [2016] will appeal from the judgment of Justice Bond to the Queensland Court of Appeal. Their grounds will be that it was wrong to conclude that the mining lease objection provisions in the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) exclude the principles of natural justice. When granting mining leases to Adani Mining over W&J country, Minister Lynham obtained information outside the objection process but did not give W&J People an opportunity to comment on the information.

Adani Mining’s planned Carmichael mega-coal mine – the biggest in Australian history – is sited on W&J’s traditional lands in the Galilee Basin. The mining project would extinguish or impair native title on a vast area of W&J lands.

W&J youth leader and council spokesperson, Ms. Murrawah Johnson, says, “It is our obligation as Traditional Owners to safeguard the future for our people and secure our lands and waters against this ‘mine of mass destruction’. The W&J Council members have vowed to do everything in our power to stop the mine proceeding, and we will take our concerns to the High Court if necessary.

“We are not easily intimidated. We will fight this mine until Mr Adani and his people pack their bags and head home”, she said.

Lawyer for the Supreme Court Appeal and other matters, Mr. Colin Hardie says, “There are  reasonable grounds for my clients to argue that they were denied natural justice by the Minister for Mines in the issuing of the mining leases for the Carmichael Mine. The denial of natural justice can create significant costs and cause distress to Traditional Owners, leading to a profound devaluing of their native title to land and waters.

“We are also very concerned about the conduct of Adani Mining and their disregard for the rights of Traditional Owners. There appears to be a very deliberate attempt to engineer an ‘agreement’ to promote their interests at the expense of the rights and land of the Traditional Owners. This week my clients announced that they have filed documents objecting to registration of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement which purports to authorise the Adani mine, and underlined their readiness to make a Federal Court application for an injunction”, he said.

Lawyer for the Appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court, Mr. Benedict Coyne says, “This appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court is being taken on behalf of Mr Burragubba, who stands as the leader of the Traditional Owners who oppose Adani’s mine. The matter will test what we see as profound deficiencies in the way the native title system can allow companies and governments to force Traditional Owners to accept outcomes they do not want.

“Too often the native title process works to dispossess Aboriginal people of their land and rights, rather than deliver a just settlement. The native title regime appears to be failing to meet the demands of equality before the law. In this regard Mr. Burragubba’s efforts on behalf of Traditional Owners who speak for their country represents a necessary and timely challenge in the public interest”, he said.

Background to W&J legal actions

  1. The first case is a Federal Court Judicial Review of the decision of the NNTT (National Native Title Tribunal) to allow the Queensland Government to issue the mining leases on the application of Adani over the rejection of the W&J claim group in October 2014. The case is taken by Adrian Burragubba with the endorsement of the majority of the W&J Family Representative Group (and now W&J Traditional Owners Council). The decision from Reeves J went against Mr Burragubba. The matter has been appealed and a Full Bench of the Federal Court is set for hearings in late February 2017. Instructing solicitor: Benedict Coyne, Anderson Fredericks Turner.
  2. The second case is a Qld Supreme Court Judicial Review of the decision of Minister Lynham to issue the mining leases to Adani (before the Federal Court Judicial Review decision and before any purported ILUA). This was taken by five members of the current W&J Native Title Applicant. The decision went against them. The Queensland Court of Appeal is to be announced today. Instructing solicitor: Colin Hardie, Justus Lawyers.
  3. The third case is the Native Title Act s66B Application to the Federal Court, to have the W&J Native Title Applicant recomposed based on the decision of the March 2016 W&J claim group meeting, which saw four families remove their applicants because of their dealings with Adani, including receiving payments, and loss of trust and confidence. It is taken by nine members of the W&J Interlocutory Applicant.  This matter was heard on the 29th November 2016 and is awaiting a decision. Instructing solicitor: Colin Hardie, Justus Lawyers.
  4. The fourth legal action is the Objection to the Registration of the Adani ILUA by the NNTT. This alleges a serious failure by QSNTS (Queensland South Native Title Services) in certifying the agreement. Submissions and evidence were put forward on 2 December 2016 and describe “the meeting that purported to authorise the agreement as ‘a sham’”. The materials submitted show that the meeting was “composed of a ‘rent a crowd’ of persons who had never previously identified as Wangan and Jagalingou”. The NNTT has been further advised that if they intend to register the ILUA an injunction will be sought to prevent it. This matter is yet to be determined. Instructing solicitor: Colin Hardie, Justus Lawyers.

All cases are supported by contributions from independent lawyers. Some legal costs are paid for, but are capped. Funds for this and all other actions by the W&J Traditional Owners Council are raised through the donations of many thousands of supporters. There is no control by any outside group over these proceedings.

For information & to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor –  0418 152 743

“We stand in the way” of Adani mine say Traditional Owners

Traditional Owners Seek urgent meeting with Gautam Adani after filing objection to Carmichael mine Land Use Agreement. 

Injunction will be used to block any attempt to impose a deal

The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council have sought an urgent meeting with the Chairman of the Adani Group, Mr Gautam Adani during his sudden visit to Australia to meet the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier. They have also announced that last Friday they filed documents contesting registration of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement which purports to authorise the Adani mine.

This morning W&J rejected the choreographed excitement of an announcement declaring Adani is at ‘final approval stage’, reminding the company and Mining Minister Lynham that they oppose the project. They also slammed the Turnbull government for earmarking $1 billion in Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) funding for rail to facilitate the mine.

Leading Aboriginal rights advocate, senior W&J Traditional Owner and Council spokesperson, Mr Adrian Burragubba, speaking from his country in Clermont says, “The Queensland and Federal governments have knowingly overlooked that we stand in the way of this mine and when we say ‘no’ we mean no. Through our legal actions we are intent on stopping this massive and destructive project from moving forward.”

A letter sent on behalf of the W&J Council by Mr Burragubba and youth leader and spokesperson, Ms Murrawah Johnson, told Mr Adani that the W&J had rejected an agreement with Adani Mining Pty Ltd and the State in authorisation meetings on three occasions and that Adani Mining had “engaged in divisive and dubious conduct to secure approval from our people – going so far as to purport to have gained our consent from a meeting you funded in April this year.”

Members of the W&J Council filed evidence and statements on Friday with the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) opposing any attempt to register Adani Mining’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) which the company claims to have made with the W&J people to allow the Carmichael coal and rail project.

Mr Burragubba says, “The Council has confirmed their position of rejecting this sham land deal with the local subsidiary of the Indian corporate giant Adani, and taken appropriate legal action to prevent the agreement from taking effect. Three times since 2012 our people have voted to reject Adani’s deal which will destroy our ancestral lands and culture. We are acting on our resolution to say no to this dangerous coal mining project”.

In their objection to the ILUA, submitted to the NNTT, lawyers for members of the W&J claim group described the meeting that purported to authorise the agreement as “a sham” and put forward detailed materials to show that the meeting was “composed of a ‘rent a crowd’ of persons who had never previously identified as Wangan and Jagalingou”.

Lawyer for the objectors, Mr Colin Hardie says, “The ‘agreement’ was produced by Adani Mining Pty Ltd and signed by the Queensland Government following what appears to be a stacked meeting, which Adani Mining organised and paid for in April this year. My clients will fight registration of this dubious ILUA every step of the way, including seeking an injunction to stop its registration”.

In March, the W&J held a claim group meeting at which they resolved to reject all dealings with Adani Mining, and replace several members of the native title applicant who took payments from Adani Mining to attend meetings designed to engineer a land deal, over the previous rejection of the W&J claim group. See Guardian story for background.

Ms Murrawah Johnson says, “Adani Mining has attempted, with State government backing, to divide our community and force a land use deal on the W&J people, working behind the scenes to buy us off using empty promises about the jobs and economic benefits the project will bring”.

Further background to legal action afoot
The objection to the ILUA follows a hearing in the Federal Court before his Honour Justice Reeves last Tuesday, 29th November.  The application was for new W&J representatives to be appointed by the court as Applicants to replace the present Applicant in the W&J native title claim on behalf of the W&J claim group.

In argument and affidavits before the court, W&J lawyers established that the meeting paid for and arranged by Adani Mining on April 16 could not rescind the decisions of the community controlled W&J meeting held on March 19, which voted to remove members of the Applicant who had received payments from Adani Mining, and rejected further dealings with the company.

Justice Reeves reserved his decision in the matter.

The judicial review in the matter of the NNTT’s approval of the issuing of mining leases by Minister Lynham is set for a hearing in the Full Bench of the Federal Court in February 2017.

Announcement of further legal actions will be made on Wednesday.

For more information and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor –  0418 152 743

W&J website:  http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/

Adani mine leases – Qld Supreme Court Judicial Review decision

MEDIA RELEASE  25 November 2016  

We will not be halted in our fight to protect our land and water, say Traditional Owners

Further appeal being considered, full bench of the Federal Court still to rule

Today’s decision in the Supreme Court to dismiss Traditional Owners’ challenge to the issuing of the mining leases to Adani by Mines Minister Anthony Lynham only strengthens our resolve and proves how worthless the State considers our common law native title rights to be, said leading Aboriginal rights advocate, senior Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owner and W&J Council spokesperson, Adrian Burragubba.

Mr Burragubba and four other members of the W&J Council sought a judicial review in the Queensland Supreme Court of the Mines Minister’s decision to issue mining leases for the Carmichael Coal Mine.

Mr Burragubba says, “Although the scope for the review was narrow, we are disappointed the decision went against us. We remind the Queensland government that the matter doesn’t end here. The validity of the decision making of the National Native Title Tribunal, prior to the Minister for Mining issuing the leases, is still the subject of an appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court to be heard in February 2017”.

“Our resolve is only strengthened by this decision. We know we have a long way to go to establish our rights to land and waters, and the continuity of our laws and customs, in the face of a State that treats us as nothing more than an obstacle on their path to destroying our ancestral country and ripping up coal”.

“We will not be halted in our determination by the constant political and media attempts to shame us into compliance, or to reduce us to a footnote in Adani’s scheme to destroy our country and culture”, Mr Burragubba said.

Mr Burragubba and other members of the W&J council have several cases still running that will challenge the legal basis of the leases and defend the rights of Traditional Owners to speak for their country and say no to the destruction the mine will bring.

“Adani is not in the clear, and the State and Commonwealth governments will be held to account by us for their abject failure to uphold our rights as Indigenous people, and to lead in a time of climate crisis,” Mr Burragubba said.

“We will fight on the legal and political frontline for our rights and the protection of country against big miners, and governments that are in a frenzy to do their bidding. We will take our cause to the High Court if necessary,” Mr Burragubba concluded.

Lawyer for the five applicants to the Judicial Review, Mr Colin Hardie says, “My clients will review the decision and consider their grounds for an appeal, looking especially at the way in which they believe they were denied natural justice before the Minister granted the mining leases”.

“We are concerned with the way in which the Minister has failed to consider the native title rights of our clients, and their obvious and plain rejection of the Adani project. The fully informed and prior consent of traditional owners for mining projects is increasingly being recognised in international law and it should not be any different in Queensland”, Mr Hardie said.

For more information and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council adviser: 0418 152 743

Naomi Klein commends new UQ Traditional Owners Flagship Project

Exciting UQ Global Change Institute collaboration

MEDIA RELEASE  9 November 2016 |

Leaders of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council (W&J) will tonight announce, on a panel with Naomi Klein, a new flagship project with the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, collaborating with UQ researchers and Australian human rights lawyers.

The project – We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous peoples’ rights in the transition to a sustainable, low carbon future – will explore the international Indigenous movement that is reimagining human rights and social and economic development in the global era of scarce water resources, climate change and energy transition. The initiative is backed by a major supporter of the Global Change Institute, Mr Graeme Wood.

Aboriginal youth leader and spokesperson for the W&J Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, will announce the project tonight in Sydney, as a panelist with acclaimed journalist, author and international activist Naomi Klein, who is this year’s Sydney Peace Prize recipient. The panel features some of Australia’s most powerful voices from frontline communities working for climate justice.

Murrawah Johnson says, “Our project in the Global Change Institute is recognition from leading researchers that the W&J story is a powerful one that deserves to be told for the important contribution it makes to our understanding of critical global change issues.

“This is a great opportunity for the Wangan and Jagalingou people to chart a new path to justice and sustainability, and to social and economic opportunities in the transition to a low carbon world.

“The project will help shape a shared understanding of how to sustain our lands and waters and enrich our culture, and build our futures on this. It will address Indigenous rights in the context of domestic and International human rights law.

Naomi Klein says, “Murrawah Johnson is a powerful spokesperson and organiser who is on the front line of holding back one of the largest proposed coal mines in the world. With her elders and Council, she is shining a light on the urgent need for a justice-based transition in the face of the climate crisis. The W&J Traditional Owners standing up for their internationally recognised rights are at the forefront of fossil fuel resistance and protecting their land, water and culture”.

The panel discussion will be attended by leading Aboriginal rights advocate, senior W&J Traditional Owner and Council spokesperson, Adrian Burragubba.

Adrian Burragubba says, “We need to protect the traditional lands and waters of our peoples, as well as safeguard the future for all of us. We want to share our knowledge and give the world an appreciation of the significance of our culture and the way in which the protection of lands and waters is a matter of Indigenous law and environmental sustainability”.

Major supporter of the Global Change Institute and advocate for the W&J Council’s challenge to the Carmichael coal mine, Mr Graeme Wood, will also attend.

Graeme Wood says, “Through their work, Wangan and Jagalingou council leaders are forging new ground in our understanding of Indigenous rights in Australia in the transition to a low carbon and just future”.

The legal analysis for the project will be led by Benedict Coyne, international human rights lawyer and Senior Associate of Anderson Fredericks Turner.

Benedict Coyne says, “This project will greatly enhance our understanding of the intersection of the important issues at play in contemporary Australia and internationally regarding climate change, natural resource conservation and human rights – particularly the rights of Indigenous peoples”.

ENDS

For more information: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council adviser: 0418 152 743

Canavan doing foreign miner Adani’s bidding

MEDIA RELEASE  23 October 2016  |  

Rockhampton-based Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Matt Canavan “is feigning concern for Aboriginal people while relying on misleading media stories this weekend which attempt to discredit the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners council and our rejection of the proposed Adani Carmichael mine”, said Adrian Burragubba, senior Traditional Owner and spokesperson for the W&J council.

Mr Adrian Burragubba said, “We are self-determined and stand independently – and we have said ‘no’ to Adani and their Government backers more times than we should have to and Canavan is using us to serve his own self-interest.

“Hiding behind one W&J applicant, who is named as one of seven who received funds from Adani in a deal to attempt to overturn our decisions, shows nothing but contempt for our concerns. We have taken our concerns to the courts in a series of current cases, to the public, and to the United Nations.

“Minister Canavan pretends that there are loads of jobs or money in a deal with Adani that would benefit our people. The fact is Adani’s offers have always been insulting and meagre compensation for the total destruction of our land, waters and heritage. And we have rejected them and will fight their imposition.

“Adani’s much touted Indigenous Participation Plan talks in big headline numbers but would deliver the equivalent to Aboriginal people in the region of about $5000 a person per year. And their grossly inflated jobs numbers would amount to no more than 30 minimum wage, dead-end, jobs for our people if the mine ever got to full production.

“This is not a future for Aboriginal people, it’s a scam,” Mr Burragubba said.

Just last week, in his ‘End of Mission Statement’ on his visit to Australia, Michel Forst, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that Indigenous rights defenders “face lack of cooperation or severe pressure from the mining industry with regard to project activities, as has been exemplified in the case of the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine in central-western Queensland.”

Mr Forst identifies a pattern of the business and resource industry “portraying landowners, environmental human rights defenders and watchdogs as activists who obstruct economic development of the country. Mining and extractive industry has been reported as the most aggressive, sometimes exerting excessive pressure against indigenous peoples trying to protect their land, environment or cultural heritage”.


The Rapporteur said that “many indigenous human rights defenders still experience severe disadvantages compared with non-indigenous defenders. They are marginalised and unsupported by state and territory governments” and the Commonwealth government uses “the federal system as limitation on its ability to exercise responsibility for supporting indigenous rights defenders”. 
He said that our “right to free, prior and informed consent is not protected under Australian law, and government officials frequently fail to meaningfully consult and cooperate with indigenous and community leaders”.

“Minister Canavan continues to prosecute an argument which has been made against us for nearly two years now, that we are in the pocket of the environment movement. It is baseless and false and we have said so in evidence and statements submitted to the Federal Court,” Mr Burragubba said.

“We prefer to have these matters dealt with in the Courts where a factual and objective account can be made and not in the media where the conspiratorial minds of those who look to discredit us, and would defeat our rights and see our country smashed for the profits of a foreign coal mining company, are given voice.

“We welcome all those who genuinely support us in our long struggle to defend our human rights and protect our country from Governments and rapacious resource companies. We are a stand-alone group of people who are holding firm against a mine that is going to destroy our traditional homelands. This is why we look to the United Nations and others who will respect our self-determination and our right to protect our country,” Mr Burragubba said.

Available for interview: Adrian Burragubba, Senior spokesperson

For more information and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor –  0418 152 743

W&J website:  http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/

 

Traditional owners fighting Adani mine meet UN Rapporteur

MEDIA RELEASE  13 October 2016  |  

Traditional owners fighting Adani mine meet UN Rapporteur today:
Raise ‘egregious failure’ of Qld Mines Minister & Coordinator General to respect Indigenous rights

The declaration of Adani’s Carmichael coal project as “critical infrastructure” by Qld Government Mines Minister, Anthony Lynham, is “a political absurdity, and continues the egregious failure of the Queensland Government to respect our rights”, said Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council senior spokesperson, Adrian Burragubba today, before a meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.

Mr. Burragubba confirmed he would today raise this new development with Mr. Michel Forst, who is currently conducting an official visit to Australia. More detail about his visit is provided below.

Mr Burragubba said, “Minister Lynham’s declaration is like calling a state of emergency for coal mining. Giving Adani this advantage provides cover for the abuse of the rights of Traditional Owners who have stood firm in the face of the destruction that would befall their lands, waters and culture if this massive, inappropriate project were to ever proceed.

“Adani and the Queensland government have used coercive powers under Native Title and State Development legislation, and the threat of compulsory acquisition of our land rights, to drive the development of the mine forward, over our vehement objections. The Coordinator General, Mr Barry Broe, has been instrumental in making this happen and this week Minister Lynham handed him even more power to override our legitimate concerns about the destruction of our environment and the disregard of our rights”, Mr Burragubba said.

Mr. Burragubba, and W&J youth spokesperson, Ms. Murrawah Johnson, said the meeting today will build on a previous submission W&J made to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in which they sought assistance to deal with the failure of both State and Federal Governments to properly respect the human rights of W&J Traditional Owners, as both Governments fell over themselves in obscene haste to get Adani’s coal mine approvals out the door.

In a letter already provided to Mr. Forst, the W&J council told the Special Rapporteur that they have three times rejected a land use agreement with Adani Mining, “but neither the government nor the mining company respect our position”.

“Earlier this year, and without our consent, the Queensland government issued the mining leases for the mine, and Adani Mining claims to have reached a land use agreement allowing it to proceed. But we are currently fighting these moves in the Courts and will continue to defend our rights and stand in defense of our country and culture”, said Mr. Burragubba.

“The system is neither free nor fair for Aboriginal people. We were subject to legal coercion and inducements while our internal decision-making processes were actively undermined by the Government and the mining company”, he said.

“We are forced to fight for our survival because state and federal legislation does not assure our rights to our traditional lands and to our culture. Our international legal right to free, prior and informed consent is not protected under Australian law, and Adani has actively exploited this.  

“In the end, this is about the State Government’s ‘dig it up and ship it out’ mentality that is as redundant as it is destructive. Minister Lynham this week invoked draconian powers over the rights of the community because he was feeling the heat from the extractive industry lobby and their political and media mates.

“There is nothing ‘critical’ about Adani’s Carmichael mine for the Traditional Owners, for the Australian community, or for a world confronting the dilemma of global climate change – just political panic in the face of opposition to it.

“We will tell Mr Forst today that when we say no, we mean no. We will seek his consideration of the circumstances in which our rights in refusing this mine are being obstructed. We have said all along we will fight this imposition. We are currently pursuing four cases within the courts, and we will defend our right to say no to this project and to highlight its complete disregard for our future as a people, and the destruction of our ancestral lands and waters that would follow.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst is visiting Australia from 4 to 18 October 2016 to assess the overall environment for human rights defenders and civil society in the country.

The UN Rapporteur is mandated to conduct official visits to States. These visits provide an opportunity to examine in detail the role and situation of human rights defenders in the country, to identify particular problems and to make recommendations on how these could be resolved.

The Special Rapporteur is required to look critically at the situation of human rights defenders in a country. The process is intended to provide an independent and impartial assessment, which will be of use to all actors in strengthening both the contribution of defenders to human rights and their protection.

During the two-week visit, at the invitation of the Australian Government, the Special Rapporteur will meet with both federal and state level officials, parliamentarians, various rights commissioners and ombudsman, as well as human rights defenders and a broad range of civil society representatives from various parts of the country.

The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary findings and recommendations at a press conference on Tuesday, 18 October 2016, at 11.30 am, at the UN Information Center, Level 1, 7 National Circuit, Barton, ACT 2600 Australia. Access to the press conference is limited to journalists.

The Special Rapporteur’s final report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in a future session.

Background brief to be provided to the Special Rapporteur is available on request.

Available for interview: Adrian Burragubba, Senior spokesperson and Murrawah Johnson.

For more information and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor –  0418 152 743

W&J website can be found here

 

Traditional Owners fight on: appeal Carmichael mine Federal Court decision

An appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court of Australia was filed today by senior Traditional Owner and spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) family council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, challenging a decision of Justice Reeves in relation to the Queensland government’s issuing of mining leases for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, handed down on 19th August 2016.

Further background to the case can be found below.

Mr Burragubba said: “We said ‘no means no’ and so we will continue to resist this damaging coal mine that will tear the heart out of our Country. The stakes are huge. In the spirit of our ancestors, we will continue to fight for justice until the project falls over.

“The decision of the Native Title Tribunal in April 2015 to allow the issuing of the mining leases by the Queensland government took away our right to free, prior and informed consent. It effectively allowed the government to override the decision that we made nearly two years ago to reject Adani’s ‘deal’,” Mr Burragubba said.

The appeal, being run by Sydney Senior Counsel Craig James Leggatt SC and other barristers working pro bono, will make two arguments: that the matters Mr Burragubba put before the National Native Title Tribunal should have been taken into account by the Tribunal member when granting the Future Act mining rights to Adani and that Justice Reeves should have found that Adani was misleading before the Tribunal.

The appeal will proceed alongside a challenge brought by Mr Burragubba and other W&J Traditional Owners in the Qld Supreme Court against the mining leases that have been issued by Queensland Minister for Mines, the Hon Dr Andrew Lynham and the Queensland government for the Carmichael mine. That case will be heard by the Qld Supreme Court in November 2016.  Further legal actions are also underway in relation to Native Title matters.

Mr Burragubba said: “This is our fight as Traditional Owners and cultural custodians. We will not be talked down to by industry or government and their lackeys, and we will challenge any decision that threatens our life, culture and traditions and the social, cultural and economic structures of our group,” said Mr Burragubba.

“This is about our ancient connection to the place of our ancestors. It is a defense of our lands and waters, plants and animals against the destruction wrought by coal mining, and a demand to have our rights as the Traditional Owners respected and our voices heard.

“We are Traditional Owners who assert our right to self-determination and a future without dependency on mining. We have determined to oppose the Carmichael Mine, and to use all appropriate means to stop the destruction of our Country and culture,” Mr Burragubba said

Lawyer for Mr Burragubba, Mr Benedict Coyne, said: “My client has reviewed Justice Reeves’ reasons for the judgment, taken advice from his legal team and considered his options. Mr Burragubba brings this appeal on strong public interest grounds and in the context of other legal avenues he is pursuing for justice for his people, both domestically and internationally.

“The case raises very important issues for indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in the context of the native title system and Indigenous Peoples’ rights.  There are important legal principles and principles of human rights and justice at stake,” Mr Coyne said.

For more information, and to arrange an interview with Mr Burragubba and Mr Coyne:  
Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor, 0418 152 743.
W&J website: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/

Overview of case

W&J Traditional Owner’s Federal Court Judicial Review and Appeal
Burragubba -v- The State of Queensland, Adani Mining and the National Native Title Tribunal

Background

The National Native Title Tribunal determined in April 2015 that mining leases could be issued by the Queensland government for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, on the traditional lands of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people in the Galilee Basin, without further regard to the rights and interests of the Traditional Owners. It came after Adani had sought and gained the approval of the National Native Title Tribunal for the Qld Government to override the decision of the traditional owners made in October 2014 to reject the mine.

The W&J had rejected a Land Use Agreement with Adani in October 2014. Six days later, Adani took legal action against the decision of the W&J in the Native Title Tribunal. The Queensland Government supported that action and the submission made by Adani.

The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council opposed Adani’s application and the subsequent decision of Member McNamara, and moved to file for a judicial review in the Federal Court. The Council authorised senior Traditional Owner, Adrian Burragubba, in his own right, and on their behalf, to file the applications and represent the group.

The Judicial Review was heard by the Federal Court in November 2015 and further in February 2016. The respondents were the Queensland Government, Adani Mining and the National Native Title Tribunal.

Counsel for Mr Burragubba are: Mr C Leggat SC with Barristers Mr D Yarrow and Mr M Steele. The Instructing Solicitor for the Applicant is: Benedict Coyne: Anderson Fredericks Turner Lawyers & Advocates

Amended application

Queensland Mines Minister, Anthony Lynham had said in a letter to Mr Burragubba’s legal counsel in October 2015, and again this year, that he intended to await the outcome of the Federal Court Judicial Review before issuing any leases.

Lawyers for Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) council spokesperson and traditional owner Adrian Burragubba filed an interlocutory application in the Federal Court on 15 April 2016 seeking to reopen the Judicial Review after the mining leases were granted by the State on 3 April 2016. Federal Court Justice John Reeves granted leave to reopen and to amend the original application of a judicial review to to seek declaratory relief from the Court against the issuing of the mining leases.

Basis of Judicial Review – originating application

  1. The Decision was induced or affected by fraud – Adani engaged in dishonestly misleading conduct which is conduct analogous to fraud within s.5(1)(g) of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth).
  2. The Tribunal failed to observe the rules of natural justice, or constructively failed to exercise its jurisdiction.
  3. The Tribunal’s decision was an improper exercise of power reposed in it, in that when making the Decision it failed to take into account a relevant consideration being material related to the matters.
  4. The Tribunal’s decision involved an error of law, being that it erroneously concluded that the reference to ‘native title party’ was a reference to the persons comprising the applicant when the Tribunal should have concluded that the term was a reference to the members of the native title claim group.

Interlocutory application

  1. Mining leases ML 70505 and ML 70506, granted on 3 April 2016, are not acts that satisfy the requirements of any of the subparagraphs of s.28(1) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)

Remedies

Remedies sought were:

  • Orders setting aside the Tribunal’s decision, and remitting the matter to the Tribunal for decision according to law.
  • A declaration that mining leases ML 70505 and ML 70506, granted on 3 April 2016, are not acts that satisfy the requirements of any of the subparagraphs of s.28(1) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

Outcome

On 19 August 2016 Mr Burragubba’s Application was dismissed by Justice Reeves. Arguments about costs are ensuing. Mr Burragubba’s legal counsel reviewed the reasons for the judgment and have provided Mr Burragubba with advice.

Appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court

The Appellant appeals from the whole of the judgment of the Federal Court given on 19 August 2016 at Brisbane.

ENDS

CORRECTION: QLD Resources Council Lies re Carmichael Court Decision

MEDIA STATEMENT  19 August 2016   

CORRECTION: QLD RESOURCES COUNCIL LIES RE CARMICHAEL COURT CHALLENGE

Senior Traditional Owner and spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) family council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, today criticised the head of the Queensland Resources Council for blatantly lying about Mr Burragubba’s legal representation, and questioning of W&J’s independence, to suit his own agenda. (See QRC full statement below).

“Mr Roche wrongly claims we were represented by the Environmental Defenders Office. In fact, Wangan and Jagalingou people are proud to be represented by lawyers and barristers, generously acting on a pro bono basis in the public interest, and in defence of our rights,” Mr Burragubba said.

“If Mr Roche acquainted himself with the facts, instead of concocting stories to suit his own purposes, he’d know this is the case.

For details of W&J legal representation see below.

“This is our fight and it will go on, with or without the campaign of lies being run against us by the Queensland Resources Council.  We are an independent group of Traditional Owners who determine our interests, and this means self-determination without dependency on mining. We have autonomously and for our own reasons determined to campaign against Carmichael, and to use all appropriate means to stop it.”

“The stakes are huge for my people. If the Carmichael mine goes ahead it will tear the heart out of Country. We will continue to fight it until the project falls over,” Mr Burragubba said.

For further information:  Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor, 0418 152 743

W&J website “No means no” video.

Legal Representation:

Counsel for the Applicant: Mr C Leggat SC with Barristers Mr D Yarrow and Mr M Steele
Instructing Solicitor for the Applicant: Benedict Coyne: Anderson Fredericks Turner Lawyers

QRC Statement: Federal court dismisses activist claim – 19 August 2016

The opening of the rich coal deposits in the Galilee Basin edged forward today with the dismissal of an activist’s native title claim in Federal Court.

The proceedings were brought against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine project from a member of the Wangan and Jagalingou people earlier this year.

Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said he was not surprised by the dismissal as it was just another in the long line of green activist legal suits that were designed to hold up development in Queensland.

‘The appeal by Adrian Burragubba, represented by the taxpayer-funded Environmental Defenders Office, is merely a tactic of the anti-coal brigade,’ Mr Roche said.

‘The never-ending flow of legal challenges is straight out of the activists’ playbook. It’s about disrupting and delaying new projects in the hope that the investor will give up and walk away and in so doing denying regional Queensland thousands of desperately needed jobs.

‘The QRC once again calls on state and federal governments to urgently overhaul the process and prevent the blatant abuse of the court system that enables green activists to continuously and blatantly disrupt and delay projects.’

Mr Roche said the ink was barely dry on the court’s decision when activist groups took to social media announcing there were more challenges ahead.

‘Market Forces, an affiliate of taxpayer-subsidised Friends of the Earth, were tweeting within minutes “Head up @burragubba we’re not done yet #endofcoal”, Mr Roche said.

‘And if we go by past form, the green activist groups will also be calling for donations before the ink is dry on the Federal Court’s decision.’

The Carmichael coal mine and rail project, which is a huge job-generating project for Queensland, has been in caught up in the Queensland Federal project approvals systems for nearly 70 months.

With growing evidence of green shoots in the coal sector, we need to get this project out of the courts and into construction.

Media contact: Angela Harper 07 3295 9560

Adani court decision: Traditional Owners say fight to stop QLD’s Carmichael mine continues

MEDIA RELEASE  19 August 2016  |  

Court decision: Traditional Owners say govt acted shamefully, fight to stop Adani’s Carmichael mine continues
Defence of rights and country still has a long way to run

Senior Traditional Owner and spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners family council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, says he is not surprised  by the decision handed down in the Federal Court in Brisbane today, while reiterating that they stand strong together and will continue to defend their human rights, and protect their traditional lands from Adani’s destructive Carmichael mine. (Further background to the case below).

“The issuing by the Palaszczuk government of the mining leases, in support of Adani running roughshod over our right to say ‘no’ to this mine, was a shameful episode. We will continue to pursue all legal avenues, Australian and international, to defend our rights and stop this massive coal mine going ahead,” Mr Burragubba said.

Wangan and Jagalingou council representatives, including Mr Burragubba, are currently challenging the leases that have been issued by the Palaszczuk government for the Adani Carmichael coal mine in a Judicial Review in the Queensland Supreme Court. The matter will be heard in November; and further legal actions are underway.

“Acting in complete bad faith, the Queensland Minister for Mining Mr Lynham pre-empted the decision of the Federal Court in today’s judgement and issued the mine leases to Adani in April this year, in the complete absence of the consent of the Traditional Owners. We had made it clear that we oppose this mine at a self-determined meeting of the W&J claim group in March, and at two prior meetings of the W&J people in 2012 and 2014,” Mr Burragubba said.

“The decision of the Native Title Tribunal in April 2015 to allow the issuing of the mining leases, on the application of Adani Mining, effectively allowed the State government to override the decision of the W&J traditional owners to reject the mine made in October 2014, greenlighting the complete destruction of our country and cultural heritage.

“Adani sought to have our decisions overridden and, with the help of the State, to bring pressure to bear on the Wangan and Jagalingou people. At that point they effectively took away our right to free, prior, informed consent”, said Mr Burragubba.

This Federal Court challenge was brought by Mr. Burragubba who filed his statement of claim with the Tribunal in his own right as a senior W&J Traditional Owner, and on behalf of the W&J traditional owners family council he represents.

Mr Burragubba’s application sought to demonstrate that the administration of the native title system is unfairly restrictive on the rights of Traditional Owners, effectively ignoring their decisions. He also argued that Adani had acted in a way ‘analogous to fraud’ before the Tribunal because of its misrepresentation of the supposed economic benefits of the mine, as demonstrated in the QLD Land and Environment Court earlier this year.

“While I respect the judgement of Justice Reeves, we will seek advice from our legal team on an appeal,” said Mr Burragubba.

“It is clear however that my submissions to the court and our concern to protect our “life, culture and traditions” and “the social, cultural and economic structures” of our group were dismissed and overridden. We continue to be restricted in the full expression of our laws and customs, in service to the machinery of mining development and the destruction of our country and culture.

“The discriminatory system underlying the Native Title Act, and the compulsory extinguishment powers of the State government, sanctions this kind of coercive force by the Palaszczuk Government and a mining corporation in their bid to rip open our country for the benefit of a foreign coal billionaire. Recognition of the rights of Indigenous people in legislation in Australia today falls well short of the rights afforded to us as first nations people under International law.

“We have said we will continue to pursue all legal avenues, Australian and international, and test the limitations on our rights by the Governments of this country, and we will. Further legal action is underway or in planning”, said Mr Burragubba.

“These actions show we are standing strong. We simply will not stand by while the QLD government licences the destruction of our homelands. The future of our people and culture, of our lands and waters and plants and animals, and our sacred sites and stories that connect our homelands together into our spiritual home, will not be based on coal mining.

“A pittance from compensation agreements signed under duress, and a few minimum-wage jobs in a dying industry, are not what our people, especially our young people, deserve. The crumbs thrown by Adani are not worth sacrificing our dignity, our freedom and our ancient legacy for. Nothing Adani offers up will ever be worth the damage this mine will inflict on laws and customs, and on our fellow Australians and the world community in an era of dangerous climate change.

“If the State and Adani want their leases to take effect, they will have to forcefully take our rights away in the full view of the world. Our family council stands strong together. We will not be deterred.

“The Queensland government and Adani still do not have everything they need to go ahead with this destructive coalmine, least of all investment capital. We will stand in their way for as long as it takes, until they understand that when those Traditional Owners who speak for country say no, it means no,” concluded Mr Burragubba.

Lawyer for Mr Burragubba, Mr Benedict Coyne said: “My client will take some time to review the reasons for judgment, and consider his appeal options in the context of numerous other legal avenues he is pursuing for justice for his people, both domestically and internationally.”

For information, and to arrange interviews with Murrawah Johnson, spokesperson for Adrian Burragubba:  Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor, 0418 152 743

W&J website.    “No means no” video.

Media briefing / Background to case, August 2016

W&J Traditional Owner’s Federal Court Judicial Review:  Burragubba -v- The State of Queensland, Adani Mining and the National Native Title Tribunal

Background

The National Native Title Tribunal determined in April 2015 that mining leases could be issued by the Queensland government for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, on the traditional lands of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people in the Galilee Basin, without further regard to the rights and interests of the Traditional Owners. It came after Adani had sought and gained the approval of the National Native Title Tribunal for the Qld Government to override the decision of the traditional owners made in October 2014 to reject the mine.

The W&J had rejected a Land Use Agreement with Adani in October 2014. Six days later, Adani took legal action against the decision of the W&J in the Native Title Tribunal. The Queensland Government supported that action and the submission made by Adani.

The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council opposed Adani’s application and the subsequent decision of Member McNamara, and moved to file for a judicial review in the Federal Court. The Council authorised senior Traditional Owner, Adrian Burragubba, in his own right, and on their behalf, to file the applications and represent the group.

The Judicial Review was heard by the Federal Court in November 2015 and further in February 2016. The respondents were the Queensland Government, Adani Mining and the National Native Title Tribunal.

Amended application

Queensland Mines Minister, Anthony Lynham had said in a letter to Mr Burragubba’s legal counsel in October 2015, and again this year, that he intended to await the outcome of the Federal Court Judicial Review before issuing any leases.

Lawyers for Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) council spokesperson and traditional owner Adrian Burragubba filed an interlocutory application in the Federal Court on 15 April 2016 seeking to reopen the Judicial Review after the mining leases were granted by the State on 3 April 2016. Federal Court Justice John Reeves granted leave to reopen and to amend the original application of a judicial review to to seek declaratory relief from the Court against the issuing of the mining leases.

Basis of appeal – originating application

  1. The Decision was induced or affected by fraud – Adani engaged in dishonestly misleading conduct which is conduct analogous to fraud within s.5(1)(g) of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth).
  2. The Tribunal failed to observe the rules of natural justice, or constructively failed to exercise its jurisdiction.
  3. The Tribunal’s decision was an improper exercise of power reposed in it, in that when making the Decision it failed to take into account a relevant consideration being material related to the matters.
  4. The Tribunal’s decision involved an error of law, being that it erroneously concluded that the reference to ‘native title party’ was a reference to the persons comprising the applicant when the Tribunal should have concluded that the term was a reference to the members of the native title claim group.

Interlocutory application

  1. Mining leases ML 70505 and ML 70506, granted on 3 April 2016, are not acts that satisfy the requirements of any of the subparagraphs of s.28(1) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)

Remedies

Remedies sought were –

  • Orders setting aside the Tribunal’s decision, and remitting the matter to the Tribunal for decision according to law.
  • A declaration that mining leases ML 70505 and ML 70506, granted on 3 April 2016, are not acts that satisfy the requirements of any of the subparagraphs of s.28(1) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

Outcome

The Application has been dismissed. Mr Burragubba’s legal counsel will review the reasons for judgment, and consider his appeal options in the context of numerous other legal avenues he is pursuing.

ENDS