Vow to fight mine
Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners were blindsided last week by revelations that Queensland Coordinator-General Barry Broe was proposing to extinguish native title on parts of their traditional lands in the Galilee Basin in order to enable Indian company Adani to develop infrastructure for its $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine.
The day after the W&J Traditional Owners’ Council began making its case in the Federal Court last week against the mine, the ABC revealed documents detailing the plan to acquire part of W&J’s land and convert it to freehold title.
W&J Traditional Owners Council spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said the first he had heard of the proposal was a phone call from an ABC reporter.
He called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to immediately rule out compulsorily acquiring their land.
“It is beyond comprehension that the government would consider such a shameful and absurd proposal in an era when our rights are sanctioned under international law and when we are already in the Federal Court contesting the state government and Adani’s attempts to override our rights,” Burragubba said.
“I assure the Premier she will be bringing on one of the biggest human rights battles we’ve seen in Queensland in a long time. If destroying our rights and handing our lands to a foreign mining company is on her agenda, she had better think again.”
Burragubba vowed to fight any proposal to extinguish native title on the W&J people’s land. “This proposal won’t stand,” he said. “Not here, not now, not this time. We will fight this all the way to the High Court if need be.
“Never have, never will”
“We do not consent to Carmichael mine, and we never will.
“We have twice rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani. This week, we took on Adani and the Queensland government in the Federal Court, and our case resumes in February. It would be pre-empting the outcome of those proceedings for the government to attempt to compulsorily acquire our native title.
“It would be a shocking precedent for a government in Australia to extinguish title over land against the express opposition of traditional owners, and to hand that land to a private business interest – in this case a massive foreign miner with a disgraceful record of destroying environments and disrupting traditional communities overseas.”
Burragubba said that all native title holders should be aware of the implications if the Queensland government decided to follow the proposal.
“These revelations that our rights in land could be stolen away from us by Mines Minister Anthony Lynham and the Queensland government are an ugly new low in violating the rights of Indigenous peoples of this country,” he said.
“I’m very taken aback, gobsmacked. The things happening to Wangan and Jagalingou people are unbelievable and the process is causing a lot of lateral violence.
“Adani’s disastrous mega-mine threatens to devastate my people’s lands and waters. It will annihilate the ancient, spiritual connection to country that makes us who we are. Its scale and impacts mean our country would literally disappear.
“My people’s future is in self-determination without dependency on mining. Let us be clear again: When we refuse our consent, no means no.”
Earlier in the week, W&J laid out their case in the Federal Court for a judicial review of a decision by the Native Title Tribunal. Lawyer Anthony Esposito said their case relied on several arguments, including that Adani had put information in front of the tribunal, which it relied upon, that was misleading.
Two sets of numbers
“We’re basically saying that Adani had a whole lot of new information regarding the numbers of jobs that the mine would create that it chose not to give the tribunal,” he said.
“And we know that because of expert evidence in the Queensland Land Court revealed exaggeration of numbers and showed there were at least two sets.
“There’s an issue of conduct because the information that the tribunal relied on exaggerated the benefits of the mine, therefore the public interest overriding the rights of traditional owners is also misleading.”
The case will continue in February.