"We are at the Federal Court again because we are driven by a need for justice"

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Monday, 27 may 2019 – Statement by the Wangan & Jagalingou council to the federal court in Brisbane on their struggle against the proposed Adani coalmine on their ancestral country in central Queensland:

We are at the Federal Court again because we are driven by a need for justice.
Whether our appeal against the Adani Indigenous Land Use Agreement (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 economy.

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 customs.

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

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