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 Our people, the Australian community, and the world deserve better than this cavalier, unjust and outdated approach to our shared future”.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

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