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