July 22, 2015

Message to Adani

It is bad enough that the Carmichael mega mine will industrialise pastoral land in the Galilee Basin; decimate the last remaining populations of Waxy Cabbage Palms and Black-throated Finches; run dry a unique spring system in an arid region; carve up floodplains and paddocks with its rail link to Abbot Point coal port; increase bulk carrier traffic through the precious, endangered Reef; and be responsible for enough carbon emissions to rank among the world's top ten emitters. But neither has the project's Indian proponent, Adani, adequately considered the native title rights of the Traditional Owners of regions affected.

Some of those Traditional Owners (TOs) came to Brisbane last week*, to deliver the pledges of thousands of Australians who are concerned about the development of the Galilee for a whole host of reasons but are united as Reef Defenders and protectors of country. Juru elder Aunty Carol Prior led the TOs, and she asked to deliver the pledges personally up to Adani's office. She was not allowed into the building at 10 Eagle Street, however, let alone up to the office. An Adani representative came down, instead. He was William Haseler, Adani's counsel. He explained that the CEO was out of state and that he would accept the pledges on the company's behalf. I recognised this man from the Carmichael case in the Land Court earlier in the year: he was there part of most days.

Aunty Carol explained that the mine's infrastructure would impact on four different tribal lands.
In some areas, it goes right through sacred sites, sacred waterholes. And in my country it's going through 30 metres away from a rock art that's thousands of years old. Our concern is that the dust will destroy that rock art.
Traditional Owners approach Adani HQ
Bill Haseler didn't invite Aunty Carol in
Other Traditional Owners, the Birri, performed traditional dances. In one, they symbolically cleaned the land; later, they performed the Eagle Dance: they were in Eagle Street.
I was introduced to Aunty Carol by a mutual friend. She gave me a hug: I was by now quite moved by the event. I am frequently angered by Australia's treatment of its indigenous peoples, past and present. Seeing these Traditional Owners out of context in Brisbane's alien CBD reinforced my belief that they should not have to lobby for their land rights.
One sign seemed to sum up the mood during this successful, strong yet peaceful protest. It said simply: 'Hey, Adani, we won't stop until you do.'

* The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners, whose land would be directly affected by the Carmichael mine excavation, have a Native Title claim to much of the Galilee Basin. They have submitted a Defence-of-Country Declaration to the Queensland government, opposing the mine, having failed to negotiate an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani. In May they appealed to the Federal Court, challenging Australia's National Native Title Tribunal's decision that the government of Queensland can issue a mining lease for the mine. Wangan and Jagalingou elder Adrian Burragubba has expressed an intention to take the case to the High Court if necessary.

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