Senate Inquiry told Native Title amendments will disenfranchise Traditional Owners

 

MEDIA RELEASE – 13 March 2017

Brandis’ changes support ‘divide and conquer’ tactics of unscrupulous companies like Adani

Brisbane. Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s Carmichael mine will today tell a Senate Inquiry into the Federal Native Title Bill that the kind of dubious tactics Adani has used to try secure a land use agreement with Traditional Owners will become even more prevalent if the Bill becomes law.

The Turnbull Government is attempting to rush the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 through Federal Parliament. The bill is designed to overturn the recent McGlade decision that upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all applicants are needed to sign a land use agreement, after members of the Noongar peoples went to the Federal Court over failures in the process involving a $1.3B land use agreement with the WA government.

The delegation are calling for the Inquiry to be extended to allow proper negotiation with Aboriginal communities around Australia. They will tell the Inquiry that the the motives for the Bill are ill-founded, and that the mining lobby and the Attorney General have presented no evidence or argument for such hurried and destabilising changes.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council Mr Adrian Burragubba said, “The Government has manufactured a false urgency so it can slip legislation through to defeat Aboriginal peoples’ rights without the necessary public scrutiny or Indigenous participation.

“A key driver for the changes is pressure from the Queensland Resources Council and other pro-mining interests to protect Adani, which fears opposition from W&J to any land use agreement will topple the project.

“We have experienced first hand in our dealings with Adani Mining how the Native Title Act can allow reprehensible tactics from proponents. This Bill will ensure miners and other rich developers will have even better tools to divide and conquer us.

“There is a real risk that the unprincipled and possibly unlawful divide and conquer tactics deployed by some unscrupulous mining companies like Adani may become standard operating procedure”.

Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council Ms Murrawah Johnson said, ““There is no doubt that what Adani is holding up as a land use agreement is invalid. Adani’s purported ILUA is the subject of an objection before the Native Title Tribunal, and is now proceeding to the Federal Court on various grounds.

“Adani exemplifies the way in which these Native Title Act ‘reforms’ would be exploited by unscrupulous, self-serving and wealthy proponents. Companies like Adani are already able to hijack Aboriginal decision making and divide us. They are using willing accomplices to get their way and present a veneer of consent for their project.

“The bill would alter the fundamentals of our traditional decision processes. The integrity of Traditional Owner decision making and rights to speak for country must be protected. The inalienability of our rights in land must be respected. It is the ground on which we seek to protect our country and heritage from the mass destruction that would ensue from the Carmichael mine.”

Mr Colin Hardie, Lawyer for the W&J native title claimants objecting to Adani’s purported ILUA said, “Adani continues to work with only those that provide the answers and support they require. These people are disenfranchising large parts of the W&J claim group and the Applicant.

“Senators need to understand how decision making in Traditional Owner groups work. Adani thinks they only need a majority of the Applicant group to sign agreements or do business. We are informed that right now Adani are meeting with a minority of the native title party to advance their agenda.

“Adani and the signatories to the ILUA have completely disregarded the rights and interests of the majority of the families and attempted to subvert the proper processes of the Applicant. The W&J put 12 applicants in place to represent all the families, and to make sure that the interest of all the group is recognised”.

Mr Burragubba said,“The Turnbull and Palaszczuk Governments are working hand in glove with this Indian company, which is actively trying to divide our community and trample our rights.

“The consequences of this bill will be profound, affecting not just us, but Aboriginal people around the country and our future generations. We have a right to say no”, he said.

Ms Johnson said, “We are calling on Senators to extend the Inquiry and its consultation period. One Brisbane hearing and a two week submission period is ridiculously inadequate to expose the real intent and failures of the bill, and to set about genuine Native Title Act reform.

“The integrity of our decision making, especially regarding our laws and customs, and our rights to self-determination and to withhold our consent to the destruction of our country and heritage, are at stake. The Senate needs to put the brakes on this move by the miners and their Government backers”, she said.

The Senate Committee is due to report on 17 March.

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

W&J Traditional Owners’ Council Senate Inquiry Submission here

Website  Videos: No Means No & No Surrender

 

 

Traditional Owners say Native Title Bill needs more time, proper negotiation

 

MEDIA RELEASE – 2 March 2017

CANBERRA. Traditional owners fighting Indian miner Adani’s mine are demanding the Government act fairly and allow more time for proper consideration by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia who will be affected by the Government’s proposed changes to native title laws.

Spokespeople for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) are currently in Canberra meeting with Labor, the Greens and the Crossbench – key to the Bill’s future.

The recent WA McGlade court decision upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all Applicants sign a land use agreement. The Government’s bill to overturn the decision was rushed through the House of Representatives on 16 February and is now before a truncated Senate Inquiry.

Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, says, “The Federal government moved to amend the Native Title Act as if there was a state of emergency, but without any evidence of a real problem or justification for the rush. The Bill appears to be rammed through to meet the calls of the mining lobby, and in particular Adani and its backers from the Queensland Resources Council.

“The Senate Committee inquiring into the Bill set a ridiculously short period for submissions and is holding just one public hearing in Brisbane. This very truncated inquiry should be extended so real and meaningful input from Traditional Owners around the country can be gathered to inform the Senate on the Bill.

“We have experienced first hand in our dealings with Adani how the Native Title Act can allow underhand and dishonest tactics from proponents. Brandis’ amendments will ensure miners and other rich developers have even better tools to divide and conquer us.

“Former Resources Minister and now CEO of the Queensland Resources Council Ian MacFarlane has openly boasted about having the ear of his Canberra mates to make the changes to protect Adani.

“The Senate must take care with any changes to the Native Title Act and not be railroaded by the Government into amendments that will create more uncertainty and injustice.

“We have been meeting with members of Parliament to explain how the native title regime fails to support Traditional Owners’ rights to self-determination, and undermines the integrity of our decision making. Amendments in 1998 failed to honour the spirit of the Mabo and Wik decisions, and eroded our land rights. These changes would further strip back Indigenous rights,” Mr Burragubba said.

Murrawah Johnson, youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council says, “Fundamental changes to native title laws, which impact every Indigenous person in Australia, should not be rushed and deserve our full and proper consideration. The process is entirely inadequate and disrespectful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by the changes, many of whom have not been notified about the amendments, let alone consulted.

“Talking to some hand-picked peak bodies is not real consultation, and denies our people the right to determine for ourselves our view on these changes.

“The Government has massively failed if it thinks this rush job is a just response to the Federal Court decision in McGlade. The Bill should not be passed in its current form,” Ms Johnson said.

The Senate Committee is due to report on 17 March. Submissions close tomorrow, Friday 3 March.

The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is designed to overturn the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade v Native Title Register that upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all applicants are needed to sign a land use agreement, after members of the Noongar peoples took the Native Title Registrar to the Federal Court over a $1.3B land use agreement with the Western Australian government.

For more information:  Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743. Website Videos: No Means No +  No Surrender

Traditional Owners v Adani in Federal Court today then to Canberra to discuss Native Title Amendments

Traditional owners fighting the Carmichael megamine are on the front foot this week, challenging in court the native title process which allowed the Qld Government to issue a mining lease without their consent, and meeting with Federal MPs to present arguments why the Government’s amendments to the Native Title Act threaten the rights of Traditional Owners and fail to deal with the real issues arising from the recent McGlade decision.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, says, “The W&J Family Council have voted three times since 2012 to reject Adani’s sham deal, while the National Native Title Tribunal gave the green light to the Qld Government to issue Adani with a mining lease, after the mining company applied to have our decision overridden. This is the crux of our appeal before the full bench of the Federal Court on Monday”.

Spokespeople for W&J, Mr Burragubba and Ms Murrawah Johnson, will also visit Canberra this week to meet with key Federal MPs about the Government’s Native Title Act Amendment Bill and explain the failures of the native title process. Labor and The Greens voted against rushing the Bill through the House of Representatives last week. The Bill is now being scrutinised by a Senate committee which is due to report on 17 March 2017.

“The Federal government rammed amendments through, without any evidence of a real problem. The changes follow pressure by the Queensland mining lobby, supported by the Queensland government, because  Adani saw that its dodgy deal was threatened,” Mr Burragubba said.

“Adani has ridden roughshod over our rights, lied about job creation and lied about the mine’s economic benefits – all for an insulting compensation package for the destruction of our lands and heritage.

“The company engineered sham meetings and bussed in large numbers of people, including people who aren’t part of our claim group, and who had no authority to make decisions about our country, to give a veneer of consent for their destructive mine.

“In Canberra we will meet with MPs to demonstrate how the Native Title Act allows underhand and dishonest tactics from Adani and other mining corporations. Brandis’ amendments will ensure miners and other rich developers have even better tools to divide and conquer.

“It is clear from my discussions with other Traditional Owners that many share our concerns.

“The native title regime fails to support Traditional Owners’ rights to self-determination and undermines the integrity of our decision making. Amendments in 1998 failed to honour the spirit of the Mabo and Wik decisions, and further eroded  our land rights. The current system allows companies like Adani to use dirty tactics to divide and manipulate our people.

“The Senate must take care with any changes to the Native Title Act and not be railroaded by the Government and their industry backers into amendments that will create more uncertainty and injustice.  

“These native title amendments won’t save Adani’s fake ILUA. Irrespective of changes that may arise from the McGlade decision, we are taking legal action to overturn this scam,” Mr Burragubba said.

About the Federal court hearing – Monday 27 February 2017
The appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court of Australia challenges a decision of Justice Reeves in relation the National Native Title Tribunal’s decision to allow the Queensland government’s issuing of mining leases for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, handed down on 19th August 2016. The appeal is being run by Sydney Senior Counsel Craig James Leggatt SC  and Barrister David Yarrow. The appeal proceeds 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.

About W&J’s objection to Adani’s proposed Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
A legal action is proceeding to the Federal Court to prevent the registration by the NNTT of Adani’s supposed ILUA. In the case of the purported Adani ILUA, the claim group at an authorisation meeting held in March 2016 expressed the view that the majority of applicants should not execute the ILUA and removed those applicants who were in favour of doing so. The claim group had twice before rejected an ILUA with Adani.

The Adani meeting in April 2016 was not an authorisation meeting of the Wangan and Jagalingou people. It was a meeting organised and paid for by Adani at a cost estimated to be in excess of half a million dollars to get its ILUA approved. At that meeting, Adani paid for Aboriginal people to attend who had never identified as Wangan and Jagalingou people before, and had never claimed native title on Wangan and Jagalingou traditional country where Adani’s proposed mine would be located.

For more information, and to arrange an interview with Mr Burragubba and lawyer for Mr Burragubba in the Federal Court action, Mr Benedict CoyneAnderson Fredericks Turner and lawyer in the ILUA matter, Colin Hardie, Just Us Lawyers:  Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor, 0418 152 743.

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

Native Title Act amendments face uncertain future

Traditional Owners welcome extra time for consultation

With proposed changes to the Native Title Act being moved off to a Senate Committee for scrutiny, members of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council today welcomed the additional opportunity for dialogue.

The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is due to report on the Bill on 17 March.

Spokesperson for W&J Traditional Owner Council Mr. Adrian Burragubba said, “It’s clear the Government is hell bent on getting these amendments through to please the mining lobby and advantage miners like Indian conglomerate Adani.

“The Government’s task of negotiating this amendment through the Senate is fraught, with Labor and the Greens voting against the Bill in the House of Representatives.

“We welcome the extra space, created by Labor and The Greens, for the Aboriginal community to consider the impact of the changes, designed to ride roughshod over our rights.

“We are deeply concerned by this Bill and other Indigenous leaders we are speaking to have not even had time to learn of the proposals.

“We will use this period to obtain further advice from senior counsel and get our serious concerns about the Bill across to the Parliament.

“The Senate Committee scrutinising the Bill will be hearing from us, along with the rest of the Aboriginal community.

“If the amendment passes in its current form the Government will hand miners like Adani one more tool to divide and conquer Aboriginal people,” Mr Burragubba said.

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

W&J website:  http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/
Video: Wangan Jagalingou Council – “We will not surrender”

Traditional Owners condemn Brandis’ ‘Adani Amendment’ to Native Title Act as a con on the public

MEDIA RELEASE

13 February 2017

Say it won’t head off Court action to stop Adani’s fake land use agreement

Members of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council today condemned the Turnbull government for pandering to the interests of Indian miner Adani and the wealthy mining industry at the expense of the rights of Traditional Owners, by proposing rushed and ill-considered amendments to the Native Title Act. The W&J Council has called on Federal Labor not to roll over and support this unjust and premature manoeuvre by the Government.

Spokesperson for W&J Traditional Owner Council, Mr. Adrian Burragubba, says, “As always, the Liberal and National Parties will look for any means to override our rights and pander to their mates in the resources sector. Today they announced fast-tracked, knee-jerk amendments to the Native Title Act in an attempt to grease the wheels for the controversial Carmichael mine proposal, over our persistent objections and our rights.

“It’s clear Turnbull is willing to ride roughshod over Indigenous land rights for the sake of Adani and this dirty project. This move is a con on the public and part of a manufactured crisis. There is no commercial uncertainty. There is no wholesale threat to Indigenous Land Use Agreements and business interests in the country.

“We know this is all about Adani and that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in the pocket of Indian billionaire Adani and the mining lobby. Turnbull is blind to Indigenous communities’ right to say ‘no’ to projects which will destroy our lands, waters and culture. These amendments, designed to head off our legal actions because Adani was losing, won’t stop us.

“The registration of Adani’s sham land use agreement is not being held up because of the decision in Western Australia this month. It’s being challenged by us because it was engineered through rent-a-crowds, deceit and dishonest tactics. We will continue our action in the Federal Court to have it struck out, regardless of what dodgy deals are tried on in Canberra to prevent justice.

“The Labor Opposition should make a stand for proper consideration of Native Title reform and not be railroaded by the mining lobby and the coal-obsessed Liberal and National Parties.

“We call on Labor to see this ‘Adani amendment’ for what it is – a response to a political panic created by the head of the Queensland Resources Council, Ian MacFarlane, in the wake of a court decision, because plans for Adani’s proposed mine are unravelling. Labor should do the decent thing and block this move before it gets going.

“The Native Title system needs an overhaul for failing to give due consideration to the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Any reform should involve full consultation, not occur in a piecemeal and chaotic way because of a panic generated by the mining industry,” Mr Burragubba said.  
For information & to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor –  0418 152 743

W&J resist mining industry push to amend Native Title Act to secure Carmichael mine proposal

MEDIA RELEASE – 12 February 2017

Traditional Owners resist industry push for amended Native Title Act to secure Carmichael mine proposal
Seek court order Monday to ‘strike out’ Adani’s fake land use agreement

Members of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council will on Monday ask the Federal Court to knock out Adani’s claim that it has the consent of the W&J Traditional Owners for its proposed Carmichael mine, calling it is a sham agreement which Adani engineered through rent-a-crowds, dishonest tactics and attempts to exclude their voices.

The W&J Council say any attempt by the Federal government to do the bidding of Adani and the mining industry to engineer an amendment to Native Title laws, will be vigorously challenged by them and other Traditional Owner groups and supporters.

Spokesperson for W&J Traditional Owner Council, Mr. Adrian Burragubba, says, “The document Adani is trying to pass off as an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with our people is illegitimate. We launched action last year to defeat this dodgy deal and  we are now taking decisive action in the Federal Court to have this fake agreement struck out”. [Details of the legal action are set out below.]

“We have already put evidence before the National Native Title Tribunal to prove that Adani does not have an agreement with the W&J Traditional Owners for its mine of mass destruction, which will destroy our ancestral homelands and waters, the cultural landscape and our heritage.

“Adani’s proposed land use agreement has always been a sham. Three times we have rejected any deal with the Indian mining conglomerate. Now Adani are on the back foot and have run crying to the Queensland Resources Council and the Federal Attorney General, asking them to do their bidding by pushing through an ‘Adani amendment’ to the Native Title Act.

“New chief of the Queensland Resources Council, former Federal Resources Minister Ian MacFarlane, boasted at a Townsville business breakfast last week that he has spoken to his ‘good mates in Canberra’ about amending native title laws, in the wake of the Noongar decision in the Federal Court. This is just additional proof that the Turnbull government is in bed with the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani and the Queensland mining industry.

“Any move by the Federal Attorney General to introduce an ‘Adani amendment’ to the Act, to hand the tools to the mining sector to further divide and conquer Aboriginal people, will be actively resisted.

“Adani and the Federal and Queensland Governments will never get our consent to this mine on our country. No means no, and we will fight this proposal until it is defeated. There will be no surrender of our land rights,” Mr Burragubba said.

W&J youth leader and Council spokesperson, Ms. Murrawah Johnson, says, “In April last year, there was a meeting organised and paid for by Adani, at a cost estimated to be in excess of half a million dollars. Adani paid for Aboriginal people to attend who had never claimed native title on Wangan and Jagalingou traditional country. There were hundreds of people who aren’t direct descendents of our W&J ancestors in attendance, to sign up to an ILUA. This meeting was a sham, stacked with a rent a crowd.

The Traditional Owners have spoken decisively on three occasions since 2012 to reject a deal with Adani, and the majority of our people did not show up to Adani’s meeting to participate in their fraud. Adani claim they have overwhelming support for their deal, but they are lying. Should Adani’s ILUA ever see the light of day, we stand ready to take further action to prove our case”, she said.

Lawyer for the ILUA objection and other matters, Mr. Colin Hardie, says, “Adani and the mining industry are trying to manufacture a sense of crisis around the Federal Court Noongar decision, and appear desperate to force the Federal government to rush through changes to the Native Title Act to suit their interests.

“The Turnbull Government should make it clear to the Australian community that there is no crisis or urgency, and leave the National Native Title Tribunal to do its job of assessing the ramifications of the Federal Court decision, which appear to be minimal.

“The native title system already works in favour of the interests of mining companies and governments bent on enabling resource projects over Traditional Owners who who value their traditional relationship with the land and oppose its destruction in return for cash and promises of future jobs. If the Native Title Act is to be reformed it should occur in a considered manner after careful consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples whose land rights could be adversely impacted.

“It would be manifestly unjust to change the rules just because Adani could not attain the free prior informed consent of the Traditional Owners it needs to get its mine financed and built,” Mr Hardie said.  

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

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

Background to ILUA action

Last Tuesday 7 February 2017, lawyers for the W&J Council wrote to Adani demanding it withdraw its purported agreement for its proposed Carmichael mine, and put the company on notice that should they refuse, a declaration would be sought in the Federal Court to have the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) struck out. Letter here.  

On Friday 10 February, lawyers for Adani advised the W&J council that they would not withdraw their application. The NNTT also confirmed that any decision to register the agreement was on hold as a result of the Federal Court decision in McGlade v Native Title Registrar. See NNTT notice of a moratorium.

Members of the W&J Council lodged a formal objection last year to the purported ILUA, on several grounds —

  • That the meeting called by Adani to authorise an ILUA was not a proper meeting for the purpose
  • That over two hundred of those in attendance were people not previously identified as Wangan and Jagalingou people
  • That 5 members of the Registered Native Title Claimant (the RNTC) had refused to sign the purported ILUA – and that a decision should not be made to register any ILUA “until all the persons who constitute the RNTC have signed the ILUA or the challenge to ratio decidendi of Bygrave No2 is dismissed”.

The five Applicants, in conformity with the Claim group authorisation meeting of 19th March 2016, and previous authorisation meetings of W&J which rejected an ILUA, continue to refuse to sign.

The Federal Court confirmed that the Native Title Act requires the signatures of all RNTCs and overturned a previous Judgement by Reeves J.

The declaration the W&J Applicants are seeking is that Adani was not entitled to lodge an application to register its purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), and that the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) is not entitled to register the document on the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements.

The NNTT’s moratorium does not affect the ability of the the W&J RNTCs to take this action in the Federal Courts. The NNTT will now be joined to the application.  

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

Background to the other 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 matter is now appealed to Queensland Court of Appeal and is awaiting a hearing date. 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. W&J interlocutory applicants are seeking to reopen the matter to make additional in light of the McGlade decision. Instructing solicitor: Colin Hardie, Justus Lawyers.

NOTE: 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.

ENDS

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