Traditional Owners slam passage of Native Title amendments
Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s proposed coal mine have expressed profound disappointment at the passage of Attorney General Brandis’ amendments to the Native Title Act, stressing that while Mabo’s legacy has been diminished they will continue to fight for their rights.
Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, says, “Adani’s problems with the Wangan and Jagalingou people are not solved this week. The trial to decide the fate of Adani’s supposed deal with the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners is scheduled for the Federal Court in March 2018.
“Our people are the last line of legal defence against this mine and its corrosive impact on our rights, and the destruction of country that would occur.
“Senator Brandis has been disingenuous in prosecuting his argument for these changes to native title laws, while the hands of native title bureaucrats and the mining lobby are all over the outcome.
“This swift overturning of a Federal Court decision, without adequate consultation with Indigenous people, was a significant move, not a mere technical consideration as the Turnbull Government has tried to make out.
“It is appalling and false for George Brandis to pretend that by holding a ‘workshop’ with the CEOs of the native title service bodies, he has the unanimous agreement of Traditional Owners across Australia. No amount of claimed ‘beseeching’ by the head of the Native Title Council, Glen Kelly, can disguise this.
“The public were not properly informed about the bill, and nor were Indigenous people around the country, who were not consulted and did not consent to these changes.
“We draw the line today. We declare our right to our land. There is no surrender. There is no land use agreement. We are the people from that land. We’re the rightful Traditional Owners of Wangan and Jagalingou country, and we are in court to prove that others are usurping our rights”, he said.
Spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, says, “Whatever else this change does, we know that the Turnbull Government went into overdrive for Adani’s interests.
“Brandis’ intervention in our court case challenging the sham ILUA was about Adani. Most of what Senator Matt Canavan had to say in argueing his ill-informed case for native title changes was about Adani. The Chairman of Senate Committee inquiring into the bill, Senator Ian McFarlane, referring to the native title amendments as “the Adani bill” was about Adani. And the PM telling Chairman Gautam Adani that he’d fix native title was about Adani”.
“We are continuing to fight Adani in court and our grounds are strong. If anyone tells you this is settled because the bill was passed, they are lying”, she said.
Adrian Burragubba says, “The Labor Opposition seems to understand this, even though they supported passage of the bill. Senator Pat Dodson went so far as to say this bill does not provide some kind of green light for the Adani mine, as some suggest.
“Pat Dodson acknowledged that W&J have several legal actions afoot against Adani and we are glad that in the midst of this dismal response to the rights of Indigenous people some MPs, including the Greens who voted against the bill, recognise the serious claim we have to justice.
Mr Dodson said in the Senate that: “most of this litigation will be entirely unaffected by the passage of this bill. In particular, there are very serious allegations of fraud that have been made against Adani regarding the processes under which agreements with the Wangan and Jagalingou people were purportedly reached. And those proceedings, which may impact on the validity of any ILUA, will only commence hearings in March next year. Other legal action is also underway, including a case challenging the validity of the licences issued by the Queensland government.”
This week researchers from the University of Queensland released a report titled ‘Unfinished Business: Adani, the state, and the Indigenous rights struggle of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council‘.
For more information and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743.