Traditional owners fighting Adani mine meet UN Rapporteur

MEDIA RELEASE  13 October 2016  |  

Traditional owners fighting Adani mine meet UN Rapporteur today:
Raise ‘egregious failure’ of Qld Mines Minister & Coordinator General to respect Indigenous rights

The declaration of Adani’s Carmichael coal project as “critical infrastructure” by Qld Government Mines Minister, Anthony Lynham, is “a political absurdity, and continues the egregious failure of the Queensland Government to respect our rights”, said Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council senior spokesperson, Adrian Burragubba today, before a meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.

Mr. Burragubba confirmed he would today raise this new development with Mr. Michel Forst, who is currently conducting an official visit to Australia. More detail about his visit is provided below.

Mr Burragubba said, “Minister Lynham’s declaration is like calling a state of emergency for coal mining. Giving Adani this advantage provides cover for the abuse of the rights of Traditional Owners who have stood firm in the face of the destruction that would befall their lands, waters and culture if this massive, inappropriate project were to ever proceed.

“Adani and the Queensland government have used coercive powers under Native Title and State Development legislation, and the threat of compulsory acquisition of our land rights, to drive the development of the mine forward, over our vehement objections. The Coordinator General, Mr Barry Broe, has been instrumental in making this happen and this week Minister Lynham handed him even more power to override our legitimate concerns about the destruction of our environment and the disregard of our rights”, Mr Burragubba said.

Mr. Burragubba, and W&J youth spokesperson, Ms. Murrawah Johnson, said the meeting today will build on a previous submission W&J made to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in which they sought assistance to deal with the failure of both State and Federal Governments to properly respect the human rights of W&J Traditional Owners, as both Governments fell over themselves in obscene haste to get Adani’s coal mine approvals out the door.

In a letter already provided to Mr. Forst, the W&J council told the Special Rapporteur that they have three times rejected a land use agreement with Adani Mining, “but neither the government nor the mining company respect our position”.

“Earlier this year, and without our consent, the Queensland government issued the mining leases for the mine, and Adani Mining claims to have reached a land use agreement allowing it to proceed. But we are currently fighting these moves in the Courts and will continue to defend our rights and stand in defense of our country and culture”, said Mr. Burragubba.

“The system is neither free nor fair for Aboriginal people. We were subject to legal coercion and inducements while our internal decision-making processes were actively undermined by the Government and the mining company”, he said.

“We are forced to fight for our survival because state and federal legislation does not assure our rights to our traditional lands and to our culture. Our international legal right to free, prior and informed consent is not protected under Australian law, and Adani has actively exploited this.  

“In the end, this is about the State Government’s ‘dig it up and ship it out’ mentality that is as redundant as it is destructive. Minister Lynham this week invoked draconian powers over the rights of the community because he was feeling the heat from the extractive industry lobby and their political and media mates.

“There is nothing ‘critical’ about Adani’s Carmichael mine for the Traditional Owners, for the Australian community, or for a world confronting the dilemma of global climate change – just political panic in the face of opposition to it.

“We will tell Mr Forst today that when we say no, we mean no. We will seek his consideration of the circumstances in which our rights in refusing this mine are being obstructed. We have said all along we will fight this imposition. We are currently pursuing four cases within the courts, and we will defend our right to say no to this project and to highlight its complete disregard for our future as a people, and the destruction of our ancestral lands and waters that would follow.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst is visiting Australia from 4 to 18 October 2016 to assess the overall environment for human rights defenders and civil society in the country.

The UN Rapporteur is mandated to conduct official visits to States. These visits provide an opportunity to examine in detail the role and situation of human rights defenders in the country, to identify particular problems and to make recommendations on how these could be resolved.

The Special Rapporteur is required to look critically at the situation of human rights defenders in a country. The process is intended to provide an independent and impartial assessment, which will be of use to all actors in strengthening both the contribution of defenders to human rights and their protection.

During the two-week visit, at the invitation of the Australian Government, the Special Rapporteur will meet with both federal and state level officials, parliamentarians, various rights commissioners and ombudsman, as well as human rights defenders and a broad range of civil society representatives from various parts of the country.

The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary findings and recommendations at a press conference on Tuesday, 18 October 2016, at 11.30 am, at the UN Information Center, Level 1, 7 National Circuit, Barton, ACT 2600 Australia. Access to the press conference is limited to journalists.

The Special Rapporteur’s final report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in a future session.

Background brief to be provided to the Special Rapporteur is available on request.

Available for interview: Adrian Burragubba, Senior spokesperson and Murrawah Johnson.

For more information and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor –  0418 152 743

W&J website can be found here

 

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