Letter to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

Stories / Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Dear Premier,

Respecting our People, Country and Rights – a meeting request re Wangan & Jagalingou concerns regarding the proposed Adani Carmichael Mine

Congratulations on your ascent to the Premiership. We wish you success in this important role and look forward to the possibility of a constructive new dialogue with you, and between your government and our fellow Traditional Owners in Queensland. We hope you are able to bring about lasting and just change and positive outcomes for Aboriginal people in the State.

The Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners, through their Family Representative Council, wish to express our grave concern about the push by Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) and the Queensland Government to open up the Carmichael Mine – the largest black coal mine in Australia, and one of the largest in the world, on our traditional lands.

We are seeking a meeting with you to present our concerns and request your consideration of and agreement to the following:

Respecting our People

We are the Traditional Owners of most of the area of the Galilee Basin, including the proposed Carmichael mine site. We have a registered native title claim on the area. The Queensland Government was prepared to consent to our native title claim when it was thought that an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with ourselves, the State and Adani would be entered into, in October last year.

Our people formerly rejected the ILUA. We could not in all conscience consent to the destruction of our ancestral lands, cultural heritage and the environment. Nor allow such a project to contribute to the unfolding and dire effects of climate change that pose such great risks to all peoples.

We now ask that:

The Queensland Government recognise and respect us as the original people of Wangan and Jagalingou country by agreeing to a consent determination of our Native Title Claim, irrespective of any ILUA.

Further, as you know, Adani has applied to the National Native Title Tribunal for a Future Acts Determination in relation to the mine. As you are aware, if approved by the Tribunal, this allows for Adani to seek from the State the issuing of mining leases and the compulsory acquisition of our Native Title on parts of our traditional lands.

We ask that:

The Queensland government upholds its fiduciary responsibilities to us by refusing to support Adani’s application for a Future Acts Determination in the Tribunal, and by asking the Tribunal to acknowledge and address the concerns we raised in our Statement to it (see attached).

Respecting our country

If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of our country – destroying our ancestral homelands, the cultural landscape and our heritage; causing irreversible and major damage to the environment; and unleashing a mass of carbon into the atmosphere, propelling dangerous climate change. Nor would the impacts be limited to our lands, they would have cascading effects on the neighbouring lands and waters of other Traditional Owners and other landholders in the region.

One of the major reasons we would not authorise an ILUA for the Carmichael mine was that there was insufficient honest explanation and acknowledgement of the adverse and irreversible impacts on the values of our country. It is not possible to give free, prior and informed consent to any developments without the major, cumulative and long-term effects of those projects on our natural and cultural values being properly identified.

We have no confidence in the Environmental Impact Statements prepared to date – and nor do they adequately cover the value of our country as an interconnected and living whole; as a vital cultural landscape. This is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights. We remain implacable in our opposition to the destruction that would befall our country if the mine were to proceed.

We therefore ask that:

The Queensland Government fund an independent expert assessment, to be conducted in cooperation with us as Traditional Owners, to properly identify the natural and cultural heritage and landscape values of our homelands; with a view to their protection and management, and to sustainable economic development. The Queensland Government should then look at opportunities to acquire leasehold lands, held currently by the proponent for the purposes of the mine, for return to Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners.

Respecting our rights

It is our recognised right under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to give or withhold our consent to developments on our lands. At no time has the State or Adani received our free, prior and informed consent for the issuing of mining leases and the development of the Carmichael mine.

Indeed, when we have said no, Adani has sought to override our decision and pursue their outcomes through the National Native Title Tribunal. If they are successful in their Future Acts Determination application they will then, as noted above, be able to seek from the State the issuing of mining leases and the compulsory acquisition of our Native Title on parts of our traditional lands.

If the Queensland Government agrees to this it will be overriding our rights in favour of securing the interests of a mining company. In addition, the previous State Government created a State Development Area under which it is seeking the compulsory acquisition of our native title for mine infrastructure, including Adani’s proposed rail line, with corresponding loss of connection to country and damage to our cultural heritage.

We respectfully request that you respect and uphold our internationally recognised rights to free, prior, informed consent; to our own economic development; and to protection of our country and culture. We therefore ask that:

The Queensland Government refuses to issue mining leases currently applied for by Adani – i.e. ML 70505 and ML 70506 – and rule out any compulsory acquisition of our native title with respect to the mining lease applications and the State Development Area.

It is also important that you support us to build our social and economic autonomy. We ask that:

The Queensland government provide direct assistance to Wangan and Jagalingou people through our own governing structures, so that we may engage on more equal terms with the State and development proponents, and undertake our own development for the benefit of our community.

Development will include opportunities for jobs and businesses in new and emerging industries that are sustainable, respect people, culture and our environment, and secure our capacity for self-determination.

We thank you in advance for considering our concerns. We hope that you are able to make a time to meet with a small delegation from the Family Council prior to the 25th March 2015, to address the requests we have made here.

It is important to us to know that your Government will act responsibly to respect us, our country and our rights; and give us a fair hearing and a substantial response on our concerns.

Of course, we are resolved to pursue our rights and interests in these matters. The Family Representative Council will maintain a position of no ILUA with Adani, and will publicly oppose the Adani Carmichael mine because of its devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and environment and cultural heritage. As first peoples, we will defend our rights as traditional owners and custodians, protect our ancestral land inheritance, and maintain our rights and interests in and on our Country.

Yours truly,

Adrian Burragubba

For the Wangan & Jagalingou Family Representative Council

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