W & J PEOPLE AUTHORISATION MEETING: THE FACTS
This statement corrects the record in relation to a false and misleading media report in The Australian newspaper of 12 March 2016 by Michael McKenna on a forthcoming Authorisation meeting of the Wangan and Jagalingou People:
An Authorisation meeting relating to current dealings with Adani on the Carmichael coal mine has been called of the Wangan and Jagalingou Native Title Claim Group for 19 March, and was publicly advertised in the Courier Mail on Saturday 27 February and the Koori Mail on Wednesday 9 March.
The Wangan and Jagalingou People are the traditional owners of their ancestral lands in central Queensland, which are slated for the Carmichael mine. They have twice formally rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani for Carmichael – in 2012 and 2014 – on the grounds that the mine, the biggest in Australian history, would destroy their ancestral homelands; irreversibly devastate their cultural heritage; and offer little in return for such a massive loss.
The meeting has been called by five members of the Native Title Applicant group because of concerns that recent negotiations with Adani Mining have proceeded without the authority of the W&J people, and that some Applicants have received sitting fees for disclosing those negotiations without disclosing the benefits they have received.
The meeting is a valid and legal meeting. It is open to any member of the Claim Group to call a meeting of the people. No one has challenged this, irrespective of the fact that pro-mining interests are trying to cast doubt on it.
Karrina Nolan, who is egregiously misrepresented in the story, was engaged by the conveners of the meeting solely in her capacity as an independent contractor to provide an attendance registration service in relation to the Authorisation Meeting. Ms Nolan is Yorta Yorta, an independent consultant, and is an advisor to young Indigenous group SEED.
A detailed response to the inaccurate claims in The Australian article follows:
1.Green activists are behind an 11th-hour bid to to scuttle a land-use agreement between the W&J and Adani.
This claim has no basis in fact. A group of W&J Traditional Owners are convening a meeting of their own people on their own behalf in accordance with the rules. No land use agreement exists – and any suggestion that one does pre-empts the rightful decision of the Claim Group.
- The Wangan and Jagalingou people were set to finalise the lucrative [indigenous land use agreement] deal on Monday.
The meeting of the applicant planned for Monday has no authority to enter into an ILUA. The proposed ILUA is not lucrative – W&J people get little out of this deal – the jobs are few and low paid. Most of the benefits are illusory especially if the coal mine never goes ahead; and it appears there is a pitiful payment for the surrender of native title. At any rate, this is a matter for the Claim Group who have twice previously rejected this ILUA.
- [The Monday meeting] follows a vote of the group’s 12 registered native title applicants last December.
The vote in December was not a valid decision and was falsely represented as such in the Australian newspaper at the time. Minutes of the meeting prove the decision was not carried. In any case, the vote is immaterial as the Applicant does not have authority to commit to a land use agreement.
- [A previous land use agreement] fell apart after anti-coal activists bankrolled Adani opponents within the indigenous group, who then voted against supporting the mine.
Factually incorrect – the W&J people voted down the deal and then appealed for support to defend their decision. This support is widespread, the bulk of it from the community of supporters, pro bono lawyers, and a range of donors.
- Elder Irene White…
Irene White is not an elder.
- The group faces a new challenge over its authority to negotiate a deal with Adani from a Victorian-based green campaigner.
Factually incorrect and misleading. The contact person on a public notice, in this case Karrina Nolan, is not responsible for the convening of the meeting – which is called by five applicants and traditional owners who have the right to convene a Claim Group meeting.
- The meeting [is] to be held in inner Brisbane — hundreds of kilometres away from [the W&J’s] traditional country and where many of them live.
This is factually incorrect. W&J people are dispersed throughout Queensland with the largest concentration of the community in and around Brisbane. In addition, it is a matter of record that the many previous Claim Group meetings take place in Brisbane or otherwise not on W&J country. The ILUA meetings being proposed by Adani for either Bundaberg or Maryborough would not happen anywhere near the W&J traditional lands.
- Ms White said she was “disgusted that outsiders’’ were again trying to sabotage widespread support for the mine within the indigenous group.
The Traditional Owners calling the meeting of their own group are not outsiders. Support is untested – that’s what the Claim Group meeting on 19 March will do and it is proposed to reject all dealings with Adani.
- “Last year, there was majority support in a vote of the native title applicants to go ahead with the negotiations. It was legal and there is huge support in the mob because it will bring our people jobs”, Irene White said.
This is an assertion unsupported by evidence. The Claim Group meeting of October 2014 voted down a land use agreement with Adani by majority, as it had previously done in 2012. The only evidence of the people’s view on Adani and its ILUA are these two meetings of the claim group.
- “Last month, this public notice appears from another greenie, an Aboriginal woman from Victoria, to stop the agreement. Our legal advice is that it has no legal standing”, [said Ms White].
The public notice was from the five members who are calling the meeting, not from Ms Nolan who is simply a contact point for registering interest in the meeting. The members are aware of their legal rights to hold the meeting, which is valid.
- Ms Nolan did not respond to calls or emails.
Completely untrue. Ms Nolan replied to the reporter by email, confirming that she was engaged by the five members of the W&J Applicant as an independent contractor to provide an attendance registration service for the Authorisation Meeting.
- Seven of the 12 native title applicants voted last year to negotiate with Adani and are expected to finalise an in-principle agreement on Monday. The agreement will then be presented to a meeting of the 12 families of the indigenous group within the next few weeks for final approval.
As noted previously, the vote was not valid. Only six members voted at the time and the resolution was not passed. This statement also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the land use agreement process. First and foremost, it pre-empts any decision of the Claim Group meeting, the group with the authority to enter into or reject an land use agreement, which will take place on Saturday 19 March.
- Adrian Burragubba awaits a decision on his challenge to the mine in the Federal Court in a case that challenges a decision of the National Native Title Tribunal to allow the granting of a mining lease … Last year, a Federal Court judge described the case as “shambolic’’.
The case has attracted legal representation including Senior Counsel acting pro bono for Mr Burragubba. It has been the subject of four days of hearing in the Federal Court. A matter relating to the status of the Native Title party was referred to the Attorney General. Adani invested its senior legal resources in two full days of legal argument. Mr Burragubba’s Senior Counsel made a substantial summing up on the fraudulent nature of Adani’s conduct, which is now before the judge for consideration.
Adrian Burragubba; Linda Bobongie; Lester Barnard; Delia Kemppie; Lyndell Turbane
W&J Traditional Owners and Native Title Applicants