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:
Video: Wangan Jagalingou Council – “We will not surrender”

MEDIA RELEASE // QLD Mines Minister Lynham’s Adani mine approval shows gutless and morally bankrupt approach of Government to Traditional Owners’ rights


QLD Mines Minister Lynham’s Adani mine approval shows gutless and morally bankrupt approach of Government to Traditional Owners’ rights

Minister prefers Adani’s misleading and inflated jobs figures to respect for the law and human rights, say Wangan and Jagalingou people

The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people today responded to the announcement by QLD Mines Minister Anthony Lynham that he is issuing mining leases to Adani for the Carmichael coal mine. The coal mine is the biggest proposed in Australian history and if built will permanently destroy the W&J’s vast traditional homelands in the Galilee Basin.

W&J spokesperson and traditional owner Adrian Burragubba said, “This is a disgraceful new low in the exercise of Government power at the expense of Traditional Owners’ rights. Minister Lynham and Premier Palaszczuk should hang their heads in shame. History will condemn them. This is the wrong mine, at the wrong time, on the wrong side of history. Their actions are reckless and dishonourable.

“In October 2015 Minister Lynham confirmed in a letter to our legal counsel that he would await the outcome of our Federal Court action against the mine before considering issuing the leases. Late last year and again this year he said he would wait for the matters before the courts to be resolved so as not to run the risk of having his decision invalidated.”

Mr Burragubba’s legal representative and human rights lawyer, Benedict Coyne of law firm Boe Williams Anderson, said: “The granting of these leases by the Minister is a concern given that there is a judicial review proceeding for a related matter pending before the Federal Court of Australia. It is curious as to why the Minister was unable to wait for the proper legal processes to be concluded. We will be seeking a statement of reasons for the decision from the Minister and from there we will consider our client’s legal options”.

Mr Burragubba said, “Now, after being stitched up in the Qld Parliament by the LNP, and caving to pressure from foreign coal billionaire Adani and the coal lobby, the Minister has trashed our rights and pushed the leases out the door in one of the worst acts of bad faith towards Queensland’s Indigenous people in living memory”.

“For the third time, on 19 March this year, the W&J claim group met en masse and voted down the prospect of an indigenous land use agreement with Adani. We said it again, and we said it loud and clear: Wangan and Jagalingou do not consent to this mine and we never will.

Mr Burragubba said: “Our resolve is doubled. Minister Lynham can issue all the bits of paper he likes, hide behind false claims of jobs and benefits, and pander to big coal for an unviable project. These leases are issued by a Government that regards our people’s rights as expendable. We will not stand by while the Minister forces our people to give up our rights and heritage in our ancestral lands – and exposes the public to the massive risks this mine poses to land, water, to endangered plants and animals, and to a safe climate – just to appease industry lobbyists and political opponents.”

“This is a shameful day”, Mr Burragubba concluded. “This act of infamy will be challenged all the way to the High Court if necessary, and we will continue to pursue our rights under international law. The Minister may think this is the end of the matter, but for us it is just another chapter in the long struggle we have to get proper respect and protection for our rights under law, and ensure our sacred homelands are preserved for time immemorial.”

“We have said no to the Adani Carmichael mine. And when we say no, we mean no”.

For comment:
Adrian Burragubba 0428949115

For comment on legal matters:
Benedict Coyne  0434 915 713

For further information:
Anthony Esposito 0418 152 743

Wangan & Jagalingou leader in historic meeting with Kiribati president

MEDIA RELEASE – November 19, 2015

Wangan & Jagalingou leader in historic meeting with Kiribati president

Joins president’s call for no new coal mines; seeks support to defend W&J’s rights and country

Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owner, and senior spokesperson Adrian Burragubba, will this morning meet with President Anote Tong of Kiribati and offer support to his call for a global moratorium on new coal mines. The meeting will bring together for the first time two leaders of traditional peoples in the region vulnerable to the devastating impacts of coal mining and burning.

President Anote Tong has called for no new coal mines, as coal-driven climate change and resulting sea level rise present a grave existential threat to his people, and to continued life on his island nation.

Mr. Burragubba said “My people have heard the concerns of the President on behalf of the people of Kiribati and empathise with them. As traditional people, we too face devastation of our lands, our culture and our people by coal”.

Mr. Burragubba said the Federal and Queensland Governments must put  a halt to Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine on Wangan and Jagalingou traditional lands – the biggest mine in Australian history – which will destroy W&J’s ancestral Country, and escalate climate change.

“The W&J people have said No to Adani’s Carmichael mine, time and again, yet our Governments have overridden our rights and are giving it their approval. This mine  would obliterate our country and drain and poison our waters. It would destroy ancient and irreplaceable cultural landscapes and heritage sites. It would sever our deep and abiding connection to our ancestral lands. And it would play a massive part in detonating ‘a carbon bomb’, fueling run-away climate change and leading to the very thing President Tong fears for his nation”.

Mr. Burragubba will seek President Tong’s support in the struggle of the W&J people to stop this devastating project.

“As first nations people, Indigenous people, we have rights recognised under international law and the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People – including to withhold our consent to mining on our land. We ask President Tong to join us in our efforts to ensure this destructive mega-mine never goes ahead; to use his good offices to encourage Governments in Australia to respect our rights, and to consider the catastrophic global impacts of their support  for Carmichael, and for coal more generally”, he said.

“We welcome this dialogue with President Tong”, said Mr. Burragubba, “as an important first step in the collaborative efforts of our traditional peoples to draw a line in the sand, say “enough is enough”, and fight to preserve our homelands, our ways of life, and the very future of our children from the impacts of coal. ”.

President Tong will be joined by Mr. Burragubba and other guests — Professor Tim Flannery, Councilor at the Climate Council and former Australian of the Year and Blair Palese, CEO of – at the No New Coal Mines public talk at the Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne, from 6.30pm.

For further comment: Adrian Burragubba, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owner, and senior spokesperson for the W&J family council – 0428 949 115

For background: Anthony Esposito – 0418 152 743

EXPLAINER: Representation of W&J

WJ letterhead 1


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]:


  • 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.)


  • The Wangan and Jagalingou native title group AUTHORISED Adrian Burragubba as one of three members of the Native Title Applicant.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.)


  • 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.


  • 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.


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 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 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.


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.”
August 2015


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.

See: Backgrounder on W&J organisational structure, governance and representation

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

False media reports in The Australian and Financial Review – Our Response

Many people have a lot to say about the efforts of my people to defend ourselves against the massive destruction of Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mega-mine on our traditional lands in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – the biggest coal mine in Australian history, which enjoys the vocal support of the Queensland and Federal Governments. But often our voice is minimised in media coverage of environment groups and philanthropists willing to pitch in and provide support for our struggle.

There have been allegations that some conservation groups have offered us “cash for comment” to oppose the mine and paid us to continue a campaign. This is insulting as it implies we can be bought and sold. Adani offered us millions to consent to the ruination of our future. We stood firm on principle and told them to take their dollars and go home. We will not accept ‘shut up money’ so the mine can go ahead.

Most importantly, this is our fight. We are an independent group of Traditional Owners who determine our interests, actions and goals. For us, 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 Carmichael mine goes ahead it will tear the heart out of Country.

Our Country is an interconnected and living whole; a vital cultural landscape. It is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights. The scale of the mine means it would devastate our native title, ancestral lands and waters, our totemic plants and animals, and our environmental and cultural heritage. It would pollute and drain billions of litres of groundwater, and obliterate million year old spring systems. It would wipe out threatened and endangered species.

These effects are irreversible. Our country will be “disappeared”.

Nor would the direct 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. And the mine would cause damage to climate, propelling dangerous global warming, which poses such great risks to all peoples.

Let me be clear about this: we have not given our consent to this mine. We have said no to Adani. Contrary to reports, my community is not split on this point. The Wangan and Jagalingou Native Title Claim Group rejected a Land Use Agreement with Adani on 4 October 2014 by a decision of an authorised Claim Group meeting. This decision is final.

We are deeply dissatisfied with the way Adani is using its huge wealth and legal power against us, while pretending to support our interests. We object in the strongest terms to their aggressive action.

We don’t underestimate the scale of the battle we are taking on to stop this mine. We are up against the entrenched interests of the multibillion-dollar coal lobby, and a huge Indian conglomerate with a record of displacement of traditional communities and environmental violations in its home country.

Both the Queensland government and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt have enthusiastically backed this disastrous project, running roughshod over our rights and interests. Both flouted their obligations to us under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This requires our free, prior and informed consent to projects that impact us.

It is no wonder we have reached out to and established dialogue with numerous donors and supporters – big and small – amongst environment groups, amongst social justice circles, and elsewhere, to invite them to support our cause and to collaborate with us. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and our discussions are ongoing. We also have a broad base of support from the Australian community.

The Wangan and Jagalingou people will vigorously defend our interests in our land and waters, and our rights to practice and maintain culture. We will pursue all avenues at our disposal to stop the mine, including public campaigning, legal remedies, and engagement with investment banks who might be looking to fund the project. We will take our message from Australia to the world to ensure that our voice is heard, and that Adani and its supporters in government understand that when we say no, we mean no.

-Adrian Burragubba, traditional owner, and authorised spokesperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council