MAC: Mines and Communities

Australia: Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners fight on

Published by MAC on 2019-05-30
Source: Australian Associated Press, Wangan and Jagalingou Statement

Adani back in court

As earlier reported, Australia's general elections  saw return of a pro-mining administration, despite many concerns expressed by citizens over adverse climate change [see: Australia heads "down under" ]

Nonetheless, the battle by an Aboriginal community to assert  territorial rights, continues apace - raising the prospect that Adani's long-chastised super-coal project may yet be halted.

Court battle between Adani and traditional owners hears 'slur' allegation

Some Wangan and Jagalingou people oppose an agreement to extinguish native title over the Carmichael coalmine area

Australian Associated Press -

27 May 2019

The federal court has heard allegations of “slurs” and “surreptitious”
tactics in the latest instalment of a legal battle by a small group of
traditional owners against mining giant Adani.

Some members of the Wangan and Jagalingou are appealing a federal court
decision, which last year rejected their objections to an Indigenous
land use agreement.

Under the ILUA, native title over the area would be extinguished for
Adani to build its Carmichael coalmine.

Following the trial, Justice John Reeves ruled the group’s objections to
the ILUA had “no merit”.

The group has appealed the decision on grounds including that “below
reasonable efforts” were made to verify whether participants were W&J
people at meetings held to make decisions on the proposed ILUA.

The appeal hearing comes just days after the Queensland premier,
Annastacia Palaszczuk, set a mid-June deadline for the completion of two
outstanding state approvals for the controversial mine in the Galilee

On Monday, the barrister Stephen Keim SC, for the W&J members, said the
organisers of meetings to determine the agreement were paid $2,500 to
“generate enthusiasm, if I can put it that way”.

Adani’s barrister, Tom Sullivan QC, objected to that, labelling it as a
“surreptitious way of bringing in a slur”.

Keim later said it was not submitted that the payments were improper.

Justice Steven David Rares said payments were normal in native title
cases to ensure those involved are able to attend meetings.

Representatives from both sides commented on the case outside the

Murrawah Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Wangun and Jagalingou Family
Council, said the group believed the ILUA process was flawed.

“We are deeply concerned by our experience of misconduct, corruption of
process, and stacking of a meeting to obtain a contract that signs away
our rights to the land without our free prior and informed consent,”
Johnson told media outside the court.

 “All along, the native title system has been allowed to play to
sectional interests within the Aboriginal community.

 “Only those who put their hands up to mining deals are favoured and
promoted but when we say no to the opening up of the Galilee Basin, our
traditional country, we are obstructed at every turn.”

Adani Mining issued a statement saying that in 2016 the W&J people
“voted 294 to one” in favour of the ILUA for the Carmichael project.

“This continuing court action has been pursued by a very small minority
of the W&J people,” the statement read.

“The majority of W&J people support the development of the mine and the
vote to accept the ILUA reflected this.”

The hearing will continue on Tuesday when Adani is expected to outline
its objections to the appeal.

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council Statement

27 May 2019

Federal Court, Brisbane - We are at the Federal Court again because we
are driven by a need for justice.

Whether our appeal against the Adani ILUA delivers that justice remains
with the members of the full bench.

We are using the means available to us to challenge the authority that
is being exercised over our lives and country by Governments,
corporations like Adani, and those who take the native title regime as
the upper limit of our rights or use it to their own advantage.

But there are aspects of the native title system that are not just, and
not in accord with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples. We have found deep flaws in the native title regime.

Ours is an important case. It is an important part of legal
accountability placed upon the powerful interests in society and the

It is also about more than our own circumstances - it’s about all
Aboriginal people who are denied the right to say no to mining, because
there is no veto and we lose any compensation if we don’t agree. That
element of the law is coercive.

Native title is meant to protect us in line with international standards
for the protection of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It is not about the skirmishes of majorities versus minorities of W&J
people, or the wider community. Our laws and customs don’t work that
way. Our land rights are not derived from voting.

We are deeply concerned by our experience of misconduct, abuse of
process and stacking a meeting to obtain a contract that signs away our
rights in the land without our free, prior and informed consent.

Much will be said about the technical and legal arguments. Our lawyers
will do their best to win those points.

We simply appeal for honesty and integrity. For recognition of the
absolute right to free prior informed consent, which on any fair measure
is not available to us.

And right now, the threat to our rights and country couldn’t be higher.
We are on alert as the Queensland Government buckles under political
pressure to deliver approvals to Adani. That means our lands and waters,
our culture and law, could be under assault within weeks.

We are wary the Government will now expedite land tenure arrangements
for Adani at our expense, before the conclusion of the court process.

All along, the native title system has been allowed to play to sectional
interests in the Aboriginal community. Only those putting their hands up
for mining deals are favoured and promoted, but when we assert our right
to say no to the opening up of the Galilee Basin – our traditional lands
- we are obstructed at every turn.

We have no option but to stand up for our rights. We will never accept
anything less than full recognition. And we are compelled to defend and
protect our country and heritage, and the right to practice our laws and

We will continue to look at all legal options available to us to gain
full recognition of our rights.


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