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Issue #1872      June 12, 2019

Traditional Owners: last line to stop Adani

With Indian mining giant Adani receiving public support from both the federal Coalition government and the Queensland Labor government, it looks like the only impediment to the massive coal mine is the full bench of the Federal Court.

Black-throated Finch.

Last month the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council was back in court, appealing against the mining company’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) and the extinguishment of their native title.

The Council, including spokespeople Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson, say that after four meetings where W&J people voted against the proposed ILUA, a fifth meeting was a sham.

They say the process of checking whether those who voted in an ILUA had legitimate native title claims “lacked rigour”.

The agreement, which Adani requires to develop the mine, extinguished the group’s land rights.

Their barrister Stephen Keim provided examples of what he said were lax processes in identifying a group of unregistered people who turned up to the meeting. Mr Keim said his clients contended checks did not take place as required by law.

Justice Steven Rares made the point to Mr Keim that “the fact is, your clients knew all about” the meeting but they did not turn up.

The parties considered a complex administrative issue brought up in submissions from Adani, which could have seen the appeal thrown out.

But the hearing carried on with submissions from the Queensland South Native Title Services and the Native Title Registrar, who are also parties in the case.

Ms Johnson, who has been involved in the campaign against the mine for more than five years, told the Koori Mail that it was fundamental to their people that they continue to resist the mine.

“It’s very interesting to see the lengths that the federal government is willing to go to for this mine,” she said. “The Attorney-General’s office intervened in our court case in 2017, the native title amendments after the McGlade decision. Throughout the history of mining in this country it’s unprecedented.

“This newcomer gets to dictate Commonwealth legislation and has forever tainted the Native Title Act. I cannot understand it, the length that they’re willing to go to for empty promises.

“It would be different if Adani stacked up financially.”

Ms Johnson said the fact that the federal government, with Labor support, changed the Native Title Act so that only a majority of claimants were required to support an ILUA, rather than all of them, showed that the native title system is stacked against Aboriginal people.

“If we were ever to win it would turn this country on its head,” she said. “Aboriginal people are on the bottom rung, in terms of power, respect given to us.

“When Adani approached us initially they expected us poor, dumb blackfellas to take pocket change.

“We’ve had mines on our country for 50 years and our people are no better off. Not to have our culture destroyed – that’s what this is about. We have given up more to this country than anyone else. But we have not said we are happy for everyone else to prosper and our people to continue to be pushed down.

“This is the last line. It’s 230 years of colonisation and there are things that we have to hold onto now or we will lose them forever, they can’t be rebuilt and if we lose them our future generations will have nothing to refer back to or understand how they should navigate this world.”

Adani has said it is confident of getting the last state approval it needs to begin construction on the mine.

The firm won state-government approval for its plan to protect the endangered black-throated finch, which lives on its proposed central Queensland mine site.

Academics condemned the decision, saying Adani’s Black-throated Finch Management Plan fell a long way short of a plan that could conserve the Black-throated Finch.

It’s now waiting on one last state approval, with the Department of Environment and Science due to decide on its groundwater management plan by June 13.

Koori Mail

Next article – Wharfies in struggle

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