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Issue #1610      September 11, 2013

Quandamooka urge Newman to listen up

The Quandamooka people of North Stradbroke Island are asking Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to do one simple thing: walk with them on their country and listen.

Quandamooka Elders gather at Amity Point on North Stradbroke Island in support of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement. (Photo: Koori Mail)

Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) chair Cameron Costello has recently written to Mr Newman, extending to him another invitation to come to the island and seeking a commitment that he would not amend legislation to extend sandmining without consent from the Quandamooka people.

That followed a joint letter from Quandamooka organisations on World Indigenous Day, August 9, asking the Premier to consider this year’s theme of honouring treaties and agreements.

“We asked him to honour our Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) and said we wanted to work with him in good spirit and faith, so we can plan for our children’s children’s future,” Mr Costello said.

“We want him to come over to country and see what’s going on, because so far he’s only heard one side of the story and that’s the mining company’s.”

In 2011 the Bligh government passed legislation phasing sandmining out by 2019, ending nearly six decades of community division during which time the traditional owners had received no compensation.

QYAC also had their native title rights recognised by the Federal Court in 2011, and signed an ILUA that included compensation and the transition to joint management of Naree Budjong Djara National Park.

However, Mr Cameron Costello and QYAC Land and Sea manager Darren Burns told the Koori Mail that in November last year the government sent an email saying they were temporarily suspending the ILUA so that Premier Campbell Newman could honour his pre-election commitment to extend sand mining on the island.

Mr Costello said they were looking at their options, including legal action. “When Paul Keating launched our strategic plan to a sustainable future in February, he said if we were still standing here talking about sandmining in 20 years we would have failed, and we want to focus on sustainable industries like tourism, aquaculture and others,” he said.

Mr Burns said, unfortunately, one of the effects of the government trying to revisit the ILUA was that it was dividing the community.

“The mining company (Sibelco) has a very slick media campaign and there’s been a lot of lateral violence by mining company supporters,” he said. “People are too frightened to speak out.

“The majority of Quandamooka people accepted the Bligh Government’s offer and we’re sticking to that. We’re up for the fight. Murri people were born for the struggle. The State just seems to think Aboriginal people can be treated like idiots, and they have to stop.

“Our dignity’s intact; they should look at theirs.”

Recently, Quandamooka traditional owners, Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI), and environmentalists gathered on Main Beach to launch the “Stand up for Straddie” campaign.

A report, commissioned by FOSI and prepared by Dr Errol Stock, found the removal of sand and clearing of trees by Sibelco’s Enterprise Mine is likely to cause a substantial and measurable change in water flows into the 18 Mile Swamp, which is listed as a Ramsar conservation area.

Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry said the impact should trigger federal environment laws, something the mine has avoided until now.

“It is running the risk of seriously raising the water level in the wetland, which would threaten the health of the wetland and the vulnerable frogs,” he said. “It’s a nursery ground for the fish.”

Following the release of the report Mr Newman claimed locals wanted mining to continue. “If federal Labor, or the Greens, want to interfere and shut it down and stop jobs in Queensland, well, be it on their heads,” he said.

Sibelco said it operated in accordance with all state and federal legislative requirements and maintained an intensely monitored buffer zone between the Enterprise Mine and the wetland.

“Our mining operations have been closely regulated by successive Queensland governments and no concerns on impacts to matters of national significance have been raised,” the company said in a statement.

Koori Mail

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