3 August 2018
Traditional Owners take land rights fight to U.N. to head off threat of native title extinguishment for Adani
Authorised representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson, have submitted a request to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for urgent action under the early warning and urgent action procedure.
The request to the CERD is in relation to Australia’s violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, for the Committee’s consideration during its upcoming 96th session in Geneva. The complaint raises six violations of Australia’s international obligations under the Convention. (Link to the CERD submission)
The complaint was also sent to the Queensland Premier and Ministers in the Queensland Government, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister and Federal Attorney General.
Adrian Burragubba, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council spokesperson and cultural leader said, “We are seeking the United Nations’ help to stop the destruction of our ancestral homelands, waters, and sacred sites by Adani’s massive Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project.
“The threatened extinguishment of our native title rights by the Queensland Government compels us to act. We have called upon the Queensland Government many times to rule out extinguishing our native title, a key measure in upholding our rights as Indigenous People. We have provided them with senior counsel advice that they do not have to extinguish our native title under any circumstances. The threat that W&J will lose our native title forever is real, we cannot wait around for a definitive position from them. This is why we have taken this urgent action,” Mr Burragubba said.
International lawyer Noni Austin, who assisted the Wangan and Jagalingou to prepare their request for urgent action, said, “The Wangan and Jagalingou are fighting for their very survival. If the Carmichael coal mine proceeds, the Wangan and Jagalingou face the permanent destruction of their ancestral homelands and culture, and the extinguishment of their native title rights in part of their lands.
“This is a violation of the Wangan and Jagalingou’s fundamental human rights, which Australia has an international obligation to protect. The actions of the Australian and Queensland governments and Adani Mining are responsible for this human rights violation.”
“The Wangan and Jagalingou have now been forced to ask the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to urgently protect their fundamental human rights because Australia has failed to meet its international responsibility to ensure that their culture and existence as a people can continue. Australia should be able to protect its peoples’ human rights without those people having to seek international protection.
“The Australian and Queensland governments are prioritizing a foreign company’s profits over the permanent loss of a people who have been connected to the land since time immemorial. Surely Australia is better than this,” Ms Austin said.
Linda Bobongie, Chairperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council said, “We have told Governments on many occasions of our profound grievance regarding the Adani Carmichael Mine and the manner in which a purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was obtained. We are especially concerned with the Queensland Government’s role in enabling and participating in this.
“The flawed and discriminatory Native Title Act provides the cover for their intended action and allows them to hide behind the pretence of the ‘Adani ILUA’ to claim that ‘a majority’ of the W&J people have given their consent to the mine.
“Our right to say no, our right to self-determination, is not upheld by the Native Title Act and we are being coerced into accepting a deal with Adani that we have rejected four times”, Ms Bobongie said.
Murrawah Johnson, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ youth spokesperson said, “We are calling upon the Queensland Government to refuse to extinguish any native title of the Wangan and Jagalingou People for the Carmichael coal mine. And we demand State and Commonwealth Governments update their laws and policies to ensure they are entirely consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including our right to free prior and informed consent.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou leaders uphold the four decisions since 2012 of the native title claim group to reject any deal with Adani. We have opposed them in the courts and are prosecuting a case against the purported authorisation of the ‘Adani ILUA’ and its subsequent certification by the Queensland South Native Title Services body, and its registration by the National Native Title Tribunal.
“We are expecting a decision any time, and expect that no matter who is successful in the primary judgement, it will be appealed. We are clear that under no circumstances is the Government obliged to extinguish our native title. The State retains the power to refuse to extinguish our native title if it chooses”, Ms Johnson said.
Media Contact: Anthony Esposito
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