Adrian’s statement for today… because you won’t read about it in the newspapers —
TRADITIONAL OWNER’S LAND RIGHTS FIGHT RESUMES IN FEDERAL COURT AGAINST ADANI’S “FRACTURING AND FRAUD”
Adrian Burragubba, cultural leader and senior spokesperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council, will be in the Federal Court in Brisbane again today as his Judicial Review hearing continues.
Mr Burragubba is defending his rights and that of other Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin against a decision of the National Native Title Tribunal, in an application commenced by Adani in October 2014, and supported by the Queensland government. The decision of the Tribunal was that the mining leases for the Carmichael coal mine may be issued without regard to the fact that the proposed mine did not have the consent of the Traditional Owners.
Mr Burragubba said, “Adani justified its mine in the Native Title Tribunal with false claims that it will create 7,000 jobs and generate huge economic benefits. We say that these claims mislead the Tribunal and amount to ‘conduct analogous to fraud’. The Tribunal accepted Adani’s claims without proper investigation, and put these lies ahead of our rights as traditional owners.
“Further, we were denied natural justice and due process in the Tribunal. My submissions were ignored and proper inquiry into our refusal to consent and our concerns for the protection of our traditional lands and heritage, did not take place.
“The reason I am in the Federal Court, seeking my legal right within the Native Title Party, is to achieve some redress to this Native Title process that nearly always favours mining over Aboriginal people’s rights.
“But while we are defending our rights in the court and holding Adani and the State to account, Adani is attempting to fracture and divide our Native Title Applicant group in an attempt to undermine our people’s previous decision. This was a decision of my people, on two occasions, to reject an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani for the Carmichael coal mine on our lands, and this decision stands.
Mr Burragubba said, “If Adani was confident of winning in this case before the Federal Court they would not be coming through the backdoor, interfering in our self-determined decision making processes and attempting to engineer an agreement with my people using every unscrupulous and devious tactic in the book. The Tribunal gave them what they wanted and the State threatened compulsory acquisition of our land.
“Any new agreement cannot now be freely given consent. We said no to Adani, twice already, and here they are again dividing our people and misrepresenting our position, because they can’t afford to be seen trampling on our native title rights and smashing our cultural heritage and our environment to get to the dirty coal underneath.
Wangan and Jagalingou may be just months away from achieving their Native Title determination as the legal Native Title holders of the Galilee Basin and surrounding areas. It’s been a very long wait of over 12 years.
“We will not allow Adani to intrude and cause divisions amongst our people, and force us to relinquish our rights before we can gain proper recognition for them”, he said.
“Our Traditional Owners will fight Adani’s interference and reject their inducements. Their offers of money and concern for our welfare are hollow. They have no money and they are never likely to build this mine. The jobs they propose cannot be guaranteed and are meager in any event. If they build the mine, then they can employ our people – we will not sign away our rights forever and agree to our country being smashed on the basis of their promises. We won’t be giving them the appearance of having done the right thing. The Traditional Owners of the mine area will stand and fight with the backing of our Council.
“We will not trade away our human rights for the false promises of a foreign-owned mining company. We will not be manipulated by this company which is acting in blatant contempt of the court arguing on one hand that they have the right already to build the mine, while dividing our group in the hope of securing an agreement that they still don’t have.
“They are acting in violation of our right to self-determination. They will never get consent from me and the other Traditional Owners in Wangan Jagalingou country where they vainly hope to build their mine.
“It is up to Wangan and Jagalingou people first, without pressure from Adani or the Queensland Coordinator General, to decide whether we should even entertain such a proposal.
“We will ensure that our native title rights and interests remain intact while we demonstrate our continued connection to our ancestral lands and waters. We have maintained those rights and interests in our country from time immemorial.
“Our purpose in saving the Doongmabulla Springs, the Carmichael river and the Moray Downs area is to protect the vitally important evidence of our history and connection in the land. My intention is to build a foundation on that ancient knowledge and connection to support a Determination of our Native Title, and to protect what is significant to our existence as Wangan and Jagalingou people for our future generations.
“The significance of the totemic beings, rituals, ceremonies and ancestor dreaming associated with the Carmichael mine area is essential to our identity and to our claim for our rights in land.
“Our ancestors are still alive in the land. We did not consent, we have not consented, we will not consent to Adani’s Carmichael coal mine on our ancestral lands”, he said.
REPRESENTATION OF THE WANGAN AND JAGALINGOU PEOPLE (W&J)
Note: There has been considerable misinformation about “disunity” within the W&J , purposefully amplified by Adani to serve the company’s interests, and questions raised about Adrian Burragubba’s authority to act and speak on the W&J’s behalf by Adani and others.
This briefer clarifies this – and provides explanatory background to the fact that a clear majority of the W&J oppose Adani’s Carmichael mine and reject any agreement with Adani for the mine to proceed. Of particular note [see timeline immediately below]:
21 JUNE 2015 CLAIM GROUP MEETING REPLACES PRO-ADANI APPLICANT WITH NEW REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 12 FAMILIES
- The majority of the new applicant group, acting on behalf of the claim group, are opposed to the Carmichael Mine and support all previous decisions of the claim group rejecting any agreements with Adani Mining.
To have their native title recognised, the Claim Group authorises what is known as an ‘Applicant’ for their claim under the Native Title Act, to act on their behalf. The Applicant is now composed of representatives of the 12 original families of the Claim Group – the group that REJECTED a Land Use Agreement with Adani for Carmichael. The new Applicant was appointed by the claim group on June 21, 2015.
(NB: The terms Native Title Claim Group, Native Title Applicant, Family Representative Council and Traditional Owners Council are defined over page.)
June 2014 W&J AUTHORISE ADRIAN BURRAGUBBA
- The Wangan and Jagalingou native title group AUTHORISED Adrian Burragubba as one of three members of the Native Title Applicant.
October 2014 W&J REJECT LAND USE AGREEMENT WITH ADANI FOR CARMICHAEL
- In October 2014, and previously in December 2012, the W&J native title Claim Group REJECTED Indigenous Land Use Agreements on offer to the W&J from Adani for the Carmichael mine. These agreements would require the W&J to consent to the mine going ahead.
November 2014 W&J OBJECT TO ADANI APPLICATION TO NATIVE TITLE TRIBUNAL
- The W&J Family Representative Council voted to OBJECT to Adani’s application for a “Future Acts Determination” to the National Native Title Tribunal. Adani was seeking a decision that Queensland could issue mining leases for Carmichael, overriding W&J’s rejection of the Land Use Agreement.
January 2014 W&J AUTHORISE ADRIAN BURRAGUBBA TO REPRESENT THEM IN THE TRIBUNAL
- The Family Representative Council directed the native title Applicant (a 3- member group of the W&J) to make the objection in the Native Title Tribunal and AUTHORISED Adrian Burragubba to represent them.
February 2015 W&J AUTHORISE ADRIAN BURRAGUBBA
- The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council AUTHORISED Adrian Burragubba as its spokesperson and cultural leader to lead their campaign for self-determination and in opposition to Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine
April 2015 TRIBUNAL RECOGNISES W&J DO NOT CONSENT TO CARMICHAEL
- In its ruling allowing the state of Queensland to issue mining leases the Tribunal recognises that W&J have NOT CONSENTED to a grant of mining leases to Adani by the Queensland Government.
May 2015 FEDERAL COURT ACCEPTS W&J APPEAL AND JUDICIAL REVIEW APPLICATION
- In May, the Federal Court registrar ACCEPTED applications for an Appeal and the Judicial review of the Native Title Tribunal decision lodged by Adrian Burragubba and AUTHORISED by the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council. (The W&J are being represented in their legal action by senior counsel who came forward to offer their support pro bono.)
21 JUNE 2015 CLAIM GROUP MEETING REPLACES PRO-ADANI APPLICANT WITH NEW REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 12 FAMILIES
- The majority of the new applicant group, acting on behalf of the claim group, are opposed to the Carmichael Mine and support all previous decisions of the claim group rejecting any agreements with Adani Mining.
25 JUNE 2015 FEDERAL COURT ACTION COMMENCES
- Proceedings commence in the Federal Court with the first directions hearing. A second directions hearing to be held on 9th September. The amended pleadings for the judicial review submitted on 24th July.
W&J DECISION-MAKING & GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES
The W&J people make their decisions and represent themselves through their own governance structures. Decisions of the Claim Group, the Family Representative Council, and the Traditional Owners Council described below are democratic, ie, by consensus or a majority, and are final. It is not true to say that the group is divided in its opposition to Carmichael mine.
THE CLAIM GROUP
The native title ‘Claim Group’ is all the members of the community who are the descendants of heads of the 12 clans that composed the Traditional Owners at the time of British arrival. They are the first people and their country – Wangan and Jagalingou country – in what is now called the Galilee Basin.
To have their native title recognised, the Claim Group authorises what is known as an ‘Applicant’ for their claim under the Native Title Act, to act on their behalf. The Applicant is now composed composed of representatives of the 12 original families of the Claim Group – the group that REJECTED a Land Use Agreement with Adani for Carmichael. The new Applicant was appointed by the claim group on June 21, 2015.
THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS’ FAMILY REPRESENTATIVE COUNCIL
The W&J also have a family representative body to decide upon matters outside of the native title claim. This is the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council. The Traditional Owners’ Council has AUTHORISED Adrian Burragubba as its spokesperson and cultural leader, along with emerging leader Murrawah Johnson, and continues to meet to provide direction in the affairs of the Wangan and Jagalingou people.
THE ABORIGINAL CORPORATION
There is also the Wangan Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Aboriginal Corporation, with a Board of Directors similarly composed of family representatives, to conduct business and administration on behalf of the W&J people.
Together, all of these bodies compose the governance arrangements of the W&J people. It is in accord with the right of the W&J people as described in Article 18 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples –
“Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.”
MEDIA STATEMENT – 21 August 2015
The Wangan and Jagalingou people, traditional owners of Queensland’s Galilee Basin, today announce we have formally reconstituted the group representing our native title claim, and now stand together stronger than ever for our imminent fight in the Federal Court to stop Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, the biggest in Australian history.
As a people, we have voted down deals with Adani twice now. Our Family Council has continued to oppose Adani’s moves against us. And now our native title claim ‘Applicant’ properly reflects our people and our decisions.
We look forward now to moving onto our challenge in the Federal Court, which is set for a directions hearing on 9th September 2015.
Adrian Burragubba, senior traditional owner and spokesperson, said, “Today, the Federal Court registered our new Applicant, ending the fabricated myth that the majority of Wangan and Jagalingou do not oppose Adani’s mine. This dispels the malicious disinformation spread by Adani, which has always tried to paint our community as terminally divided.
“In any group, there are a variety of views. But a clear majority of our people said no to the Carmichael mine. Twice. This decision is final. What part of our “democracy” do they not understand?
“Adani is dishonestly seeking to divide and conquer; a tactic that mining companies have used against indigenous peoples standing up for their rights the world over.
“Once and for all: my people do not consent to this mine and never will. We have consistently fought the Carmichael mine and will do so until this Indian mining giant packs its bags and goes home.
“We have had a gutful of Adani and its dirty tactics used against our people. These were revealed in a shocking expose of the devious lengths this corporate rogue will go to in its attempt to crush us, and override our decision to formally reject Carmichael.
“Nor will we stand by while the media mouthpieces of Adani and the government insult us, representing us in story after story as simple, gullible patsies bought off by greenies. We are calling this out for what it is: a colonial attitude, and a repugnant mischaracterisation of us as a people. It is just the latest version of our dispossession. These misrepresentations do us serious harm.
“Let’s set the record straight, again, and for the last time. We are an independent group of traditional owners. We cannot be bought and sold by anyone, including outsiders like Adani. They offered us millions to consent to the ruination of our future. We rejected a Land Use Agreement with them – twice. We told them to take their shut up money and go home. We told them we autonomously determine our own interests. This means self-determination without dependency on mining.”
“Adani’s proposed Carmichael project would be an unmitigated disaster, for my people, my culture, and for the environment, as we told the world’s biggest investment banks on our recent world tour. It seems they agree. Standard Chartered, the mine’s premier financier, walked away from the mine last month soon after our meeting, following an exodus of its peers.
“The tide of history is on our side. We are heartened by the huge groundswell of community support behind us. 100,000 Australians have signed our petition to tell Adani to get their hands off our land.
“We know that our many supporters – in the environment movement, social justice groups and elsewhere – will continue to stand with us as we take our case to the Federal Court, and, if necessary, all the way to the highest court in the land.
“When we say no, we mean no,” Mr Burragubba said.
Background to Wangan and Jagalingou people, Adani and the Carmichael coal mine.
Background to Carmichael coal mine and rail project
Spokesperson: Adrian Burragubba 0417 607 053
Background: Anthony Esposito 0418 152 743
THE WANGAN & JAGALINGOU DECLARATION TO BANKS
WE, THE WANGAN & JAGALINGOU PEOPLE, INDIGENOUS TRADITIONAL OWNERS OF THE GALILEE BASIN IN THE CENTRAL REGION OF THE AUSTRALIAN STATE OF QUEENSLAND:
1.1 The Adani Group, an Indian conglomerate, propose to build the AUD$16.5bn Carmichael coal mine and rail project, one of the largest in the world, on our land – land that our people have held sacred for as long as anyone can remember. The mine will have a footprint of over 28,000 hectares, seven times the size of Sydney Harbour. The project will also include rail infrastructure to the coast, where a new port will be established, risking damage to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.
1.2 The mine will tear out the heart of our country, permanently destroying our ancestral homelands, as well as sites and species we have held sacred for generations. This threatens the survival of our culture, and our ability to pass that culture onto our future generations.
1.3. We have not given our consent to the Adani Group or the state of Queensland for the development of the mine. Nor will we ever give consent, as we simply cannot consent to the destruction of our ancestral lands, cultural heritage and the environment. Nor can we allow a project that will contribute so substantially to the unfolding and direct effects of climate change that pose such great risks to all people. We formally rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement under Australia’s native title legislation that would have given our permission to the grant of mining leases for the mine. And we are currently appealing a decision of the Australian Native Title Tribunal that mining leases could be issued for the mine on our land.
1.4 Under international law, including as reflected in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we have the right to decide whether the Carmichael mine may be developed on our land. This is because harm caused by the mine is so significant that it will violate our rights to culture, physical and spiritual well-being, and self-determination – all of which are protected by international law.
1.5 Private entities, such as banks, have a responsibility to respect human rights that are protected under international law. They must also conform their behaviour to international human rights norms and ensure they do not ratify or contribute to any infringement of human rights. This responsibility is clearly enumerated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
1.6 The Equator Principles, adopted by 80 financial institutions worldwide, also require that projects with adverse impacts on Indigenous peoples as significant as the impacts of the Carmichael mine must have their free, prior and informed consent. Any signatory bank to the Equator Principles that commits to funding Carmichael will be in direct breach of those principles.
1.7 The Carmichael mine project presents a significant financial risk, due to its high infrastructure requirements and transportation costs against a low thermal coal price. The illegality of development of the mine in the absence of our consent also creates an uncertainty as to the viability of the mine project, which creates additional financial risk for any investors in the mine.
2.1 We request that Banks recognise and respect that the Wangan & Jagalingou do not consent to the development of the Carmichael mine on our traditional lands.
2.2. We request that Banks recognise that the determination of how our ancestral lands and waters are treated is a human right protected under international law.
2.3 We request that Bank honour the Equator Principles and commit to not fund the Carmichael coal mine project, or other proposed coal mines in the Galilee Basin.
- PROMISE: We will do whatever it takes to protect our sacred ancestral lands and waters, our rights and our interests, and to stop the financing of this mine and to see that the Carmichael mine does not go ahead.
Adrian Burragubba, senior representative of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council, for the Wangan and Jagalingou people. May 2015
Adrian Burragubba is the authorised spokesperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Representative Council. He is a member of the Wangan and Jagalingou Native Title applicant and a senior Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owner.
The Wangan and Jagalingou Claim Group rejected the proposed Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani Mining in 4th October 2014 by a decision of an authorised Claim Group meeting.
The Family Representative Group at a meeting convened by the Native Title Representative Body – Queensland South Native Title Services – on 22nd November 2014, resolved to object to Adani’s application to the National Native Title Tribunal.
The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Representative Council exercises its right to meet independently as a Traditional Owner council and have authorised Adrian Burragubba to speak on their behalf about their opposition to the mine and their determination to protect their land and culture.
At no time has the Wangan and Jagalingou people consented to a mining lease or the surrender of their native title to Adani Mining.
It is not for Adani to say who should speak on behalf of W&J. Article 18 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says –
Article 18 – Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision- making institutions.
-March 26th, 2015
THE Wangan and Jagalingou people are the common law holders of the Carmichael Mine land. We wish to speak about the damage this mine will do to our people and our culture. We will tell you something about our culture and sacred beliefs so that you can understand our frustration with the legal processes and the unwillingness of government and Adani to listen to us and respect us.
We have made our position clear – Wangan and Jagalingou Families Representative Council are resolved to maintain the claim group’s position of no ILUA with Adani; and to publicly oppose Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine because of its devastating impacts on the group’s native title, ancestral lands and environment and cultural heritage.
We state that, as first nations people, we will defend our rights as sovereign owners and custodians, protect our ancestral land inheritance, and maintain our rights and interests in and on our Country. We will take necessary actions to protect our rights and interests.
Adrian Burragubba speaks on behalf of Wangan and Jagalingou Families Representative Council. He has knowledge that was passed on to him through the elders of his father’s people from when he was a small boy. They taught him the law. The land teaches him and the Wangan and Jagalingou people how to belong, when to sing or dance or practice culture. This is what the Wangan and Jagalingou people say about the mine.
This mine will forever damage Wangan and Jagalingou sacred country. The sacred beliefs of our culture, our religion, is based on where the song lines run through our country. These song lines connect us to Mother Earth. Trees, plants, shrubs, medicines we know are on country, waterholes, animals, habitats, aquifers – all have a special religious place in our land and culture and are connected to it. Our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors travel above through and under the ground of our country. They dwell there indefinitely.
Harming the environment, the country, the landscape, the ecosystems, the dependent species, is harming our sacred beliefs and spiritual connections.
The Carmichael Mine site is part of a large number of sacred and archaeological sites that exist in the country of the Wangan and Jagalingou people. The Queensland government knows about this but will not help protect our sacred lands and it does not speak of what it knows. Adani is only interested in the mine and does not respect our culture and religion. Adani’s leader will not show us the respect of talking with our elders and law men.
We will say something about our sacred beliefs and land.
Many sites in Wangan and Jagalingou country are associated with Ancestor Dreaming Totems and other totemic beings that manifest through certain natural species for the Wangan “babbing bura” (Bottletree people) the Possum, Bee and Sand Goanna are said to own fire and the (kidji)tree.
The Jagalingou “Woccullabura” (Eel people) are said to own the Sandalwood tree for ceremony and the ownership of water are associated with Carpet Snake, Scrub Turkey and Echidna. These are moiety classifications throughout Wangan and Jagalingou. All people, animals and plants are classified into moieties, the classification defining rights to land and resources, and defining kin relations. The term bigun relates to totems. Every bigun relates to land interests and associated decision-making and ceremonial responsibilities derived from relationship to land through either Mother’s Father or Father’s Mother.
We the Wangan and Jagalingou people believe that any damage to the integrity of our moiety dreaming would have catastrophic consequences for all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the region. Any damage, regardless of the perpetrator, attracts sanctions from other members of the regional Aboriginal societies. The law is you don’t kill your totem whether it is an animal or a tree. Our law protects us and maintains social order. Offences against our law and custom are offences of strict liability. They are serious, but remain unrecognized in Australian law. The forms of customary punishments included death, corporal punishment (including spearing), shaming and banishment. Because such punishments no longer exist does not mean the offences are no longer serious.
Our sacred connection starts at our place of birth. There, the child is given a representative animal, bird or reptile totem, either a social totem, or a dreaming totem they are forbidden to eat such creatures or their eggs as this would infringe our Law as you could die from eating your totem in most cases our people would go hunger for this reason. The Jagalingou (Woccullabura) belonging to the Gummoo Gummoo (Rain) Totem. The rain totem is connected to a tree totem. The tree totem for the Jagalingou (Wakeelbuhra) people is the Waxy Cabbage Palm and the Melaleuca – rain trees. They only come to life and flower in water. The dreaming totem Mundunjudra lives in the water, resides and moves and travels in and through the land. The dreaming totem comes from Gurri (the sun). In the Jagalingou country, spiritual ancestors who come up from under the ground and travel in and through the land at sacred sites associated with the Rainbow Serpent known as the Mundunjudra. The Rainbow Serpent has power to control Wangan &Jagalingou sites where our people are born into their bigan (Totem) this has been so since the beginning of the creation period. We have ceremony near these trees to pay respect to our water Totem the (Eel). When we marry we are betrothed to a different moiety than our own. Even before birth we are promised to someone close to our estate but not within. Death signifies a return to the spirit dreaming so from birth you are connected to that tree. You are also buried with that tree. It is the totemic spirit being that can take you back to your dreaming.
Wangan & Jagalingou ceremonies and rituals are performed at sacred places like the Doongmabulla Springs and along the Carmichael River. They are performed to obtain access to the Ancestral Beings for example Mundunjudra (water spirit) and to spiritual powers that come from our Totemic beings. The ceremonies and rituals give access to animal spirit beings that go through your body at birth and connect you to your Moiety under our law of the Wangan & Jagalingou. Our people are responsible for protecting these birthing sites in accordance with our systems of law.
The djala ceremony or (Yangaru), red Kangaroo was the last in the sacred ritual series of the Wangan & Jagalingou region and its ceremonies in terms of the sequence. By those ceremonies, those born to that skin Banbari/Kargilah and their totem tree and animal totem carry the terms on which the owner clans are defined. An owner clan member is any person who was a member by local descent and is responsible to protect the trees, animals and water under our law and our group. The group has a common spiritual affiliation to a site on the land and the owner clan has primary spiritual responsibility for that site. Group members are entitled by tradition to forage upon the land associated with the local descent group..
This ancient connection, through to the present, endows us with the knowledge of our traditional ownership and of our distinct identity as Wangan & Jagalingou peoples – the Weirdi speaking people – the Aboriginal peoples of the area covered by the proposed Carmichael mine.
Wangan & Jagalingou have in the past exercised and enjoyed our customary laws and practices in our lands including the area of the Carmichael Mine. We still do so to this day. We want to in the future but this Mine will damage our rights and offend our spiritual beliefs because of the destruction it will cause to the land and the waters on the mine site and around it and also the wider region.
The impacts of the mine and the various leases are not limited to the places on which they sit; especially because of the way water flows through and connects vast interlocking landscapes and our neighboring peoples’ lands. Our neighbouring tribes also have similar stories of their connection through the Water Spirit, referred to regularly as Moonagudda or Mundunjuda. We will not subject our Country and that of others to ‘death by a thousand cuts’. Our law (and lore) embodies a ‘seamless web of cultural landscape’ – this is our Country; and it must be cared for and managed.
This mine will forever interfere with our way of life and culture and traditions. It will have negative impacts on our social, cultural and economic structures. We know this because of the way Adani has treated us. We know this because of what is proposed for the future. It has not listened to us and does not respect our views. We have seen damage already in country under cultural heritage management plans. Adani and the State Government have not offered anything meaningful to protect and secure the future of our country and our sacred connection. The price Adani is asking us to pay includes silence in the future – not being able to object to anything they do.
This runs against our rights as Aboriginal people – rights described in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Australia is a signatory.
We assert our right to free, prior, informed consent; to our own economic development; to protection of our country and culture – and object to the way in which our rights are systematically over-ridden in the process by which the State grants mining interests, and the Tribunal is restricted by the law; and in the way Adani negotiates with us. While the legal system may weigh against us – when we say No, we mean No.
We realise we are up against the power and wealth of a massive global corporation and a State government. We realise that the Tribunal is influenced in its decision by the idea that the public interest is in having an expanding mining industry and therefore other interests don’t get a look in. We cannot afford to continue a case where we do not have the resources to put our objection to the Tribunal and the cards are already stacked against us. It is better not to participate at all. Adani has the benefit of a system that does not respect our rights as Aboriginal peoples – the right to our lands and resources; the right to conservation and protection of the environment; the right to practice our law and customs; the right to live in freedom, peace and security.
The association of Wangan & Jagalingou with the Rainbow Serpent (the Water Spirit) promotes the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples with our own cultural values. The Wangan & Jagalingou people have reluctantly decided that we are unable to continue to participate in the Tribunal proceedings. These proceedings and the legislation under which they are held do not advance our right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples with our own cultural values.
For these reasons our lawyers were asked to tell the tribunal that we can no longer participate in these proceedings.
Adrian Burragubba, Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owner
On Behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou Families Representative Council
Monday, 2 February 2015
Respecting our People, Country and Rights – a meeting request re Wangan & Jagalingou concerns regarding the proposed Adani Carmichael Mine
Congratulations on your ascent to the Premiership. We wish you success in this important role and look forward to the possibility of a constructive new dialogue with you, and between your government and our fellow Traditional Owners in Queensland. We hope you are able to bring about lasting and just change and positive outcomes for Aboriginal people in the State.
The Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners, through their Family Representative Council, wish to express our grave concern about the push by Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) and the Queensland Government to open up the Carmichael Mine – the largest black coal mine in Australia, and one of the largest in the world, on our traditional lands.
We are seeking a meeting with you to present our concerns and request your consideration of and agreement to the following:
Respecting our People
We are the Traditional Owners of most of the area of the Galilee Basin, including the proposed Carmichael mine site. We have a registered native title claim on the area. The Queensland Government was prepared to consent to our native title claim when it was thought that an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with ourselves, the State and Adani would be entered into, in October last year.
Our people formerly rejected the ILUA. We could not in all conscience consent to the destruction of our ancestral lands, cultural heritage and the environment. Nor allow such a project to contribute to the unfolding and dire effects of climate change that pose such great risks to all peoples.
We now ask that:
The Queensland Government recognise and respect us as the original people of Wangan and Jagalingou country by agreeing to a consent determination of our Native Title Claim, irrespective of any ILUA.
Further, as you know, Adani has applied to the National Native Title Tribunal for a Future Acts Determination in relation to the mine. As you are aware, if approved by the Tribunal, this allows for Adani to seek from the State the issuing of mining leases and the compulsory acquisition of our Native Title on parts of our traditional lands.
We ask that:
The Queensland government upholds its fiduciary responsibilities to us by refusing to support Adani’s application for a Future Acts Determination in the Tribunal, and by asking the Tribunal to acknowledge and address the concerns we raised in our Statement to it (see attached).
Respecting our country
If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of our country – destroying our ancestral homelands, the cultural landscape and our heritage; causing irreversible and major damage to the environment; and unleashing a mass of carbon into the atmosphere, propelling dangerous climate change. Nor would the impacts be limited to our lands, they would have cascading effects on the neighbouring lands and waters of other Traditional Owners and other landholders in the region.
One of the major reasons we would not authorise an ILUA for the Carmichael mine was that there was insufficient honest explanation and acknowledgement of the adverse and irreversible impacts on the values of our country. It is not possible to give free, prior and informed consent to any developments without the major, cumulative and long-term effects of those projects on our natural and cultural values being properly identified.
We have no confidence in the Environmental Impact Statements prepared to date – and nor do they adequately cover the value of our country as an interconnected and living whole; as a vital cultural landscape. This is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights. We remain implacable in our opposition to the destruction that would befall our country if the mine were to proceed.
We therefore ask that:
The Queensland Government fund an independent expert assessment, to be conducted in cooperation with us as Traditional Owners, to properly identify the natural and cultural heritage and landscape values of our homelands; with a view to their protection and management, and to sustainable economic development. The Queensland Government should then look at opportunities to acquire leasehold lands, held currently by the proponent for the purposes of the mine, for return to Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners.
Respecting our rights
It is our recognised right under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to give or withhold our consent to developments on our lands. At no time has the State or Adani received our free, prior and informed consent for the issuing of mining leases and the development of the Carmichael mine.
Indeed, when we have said no, Adani has sought to override our decision and pursue their outcomes through the National Native Title Tribunal. If they are successful in their Future Acts Determination application they will then, as noted above, be able to seek from the State the issuing of mining leases and the compulsory acquisition of our Native Title on parts of our traditional lands.
If the Queensland Government agrees to this it will be overriding our rights in favour of securing the interests of a mining company. In addition, the previous State Government created a State Development Area under which it is seeking the compulsory acquisition of our native title for mine infrastructure, including Adani’s proposed rail line, with corresponding loss of connection to country and damage to our cultural heritage.
We respectfully request that you respect and uphold our internationally recognised rights to free, prior, informed consent; to our own economic development; and to protection of our country and culture. We therefore ask that:
The Queensland Government refuses to issue mining leases currently applied for by Adani – i.e. ML 70505 and ML 70506 – and rule out any compulsory acquisition of our native title with respect to the mining lease applications and the State Development Area.
It is also important that you support us to build our social and economic autonomy. We ask that:
The Queensland government provide direct assistance to Wangan and Jagalingou people through our own governing structures, so that we may engage on more equal terms with the State and development proponents, and undertake our own development for the benefit of our community.
Development will include opportunities for jobs and businesses in new and emerging industries that are sustainable, respect people, culture and our environment, and secure our capacity for self-determination.
We thank you in advance for considering our concerns. We hope that you are able to make a time to meet with a small delegation from the Family Council prior to the 25th March 2015, to address the requests we have made here.
It is important to us to know that your Government will act responsibly to respect us, our country and our rights; and give us a fair hearing and a substantial response on our concerns.
Of course, we are resolved to pursue our rights and interests in these matters. The Family Representative Council will maintain a position of no ILUA with Adani, and will publicly oppose the Adani Carmichael mine because of its devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and environment and cultural heritage. As first peoples, we will defend our rights as traditional owners and custodians, protect our ancestral land inheritance, and maintain our rights and interests in and on our Country.
For the Wangan & Jagalingou Family Representative Council