Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Native Title, the Wangan and Jagalingou people, and Adani Coal Mine Project

Killing Country (Part 5): Native Title Colonialism, Racism And Mining For Manufactured Consent, New Matilda By Morgan Brigg on

In the final of a five-part series on the battle by the Wangan and Jagalingou people of Central Queensland to halt the construction of the Carmichael coal mine by Indian mining giant Adani, Dr Morgan Brigg explains the problems with a native title system that continues to dispossess and disempower Australia’s First Peoples.

Wangan and Jagalingou people are the traditional owners of a vast swathe of Central-Western Queensland that is critical for the proposed Adani Carmichael mine, including a 2,750-hectare area over which native title rights must be extinguished for Adani to convert the land to freehold tenure for the infrastructure for mine operations.

The Wangan and Jagalingou are native title applicants with a prima facie claim to their lands, but the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council (W&J) are not following the establishment script of playing along with mining interests. Instead, they are vehemently resisting the proposed Adani Carmichael mine, including through native title law.

The fact that their rejection of Adani through four claim group meetings is not an open-and-shut case which sends the miners packing goes to the heart of what native title is and how it works in Australia

……… At the heart of the matter is that the native title regime is not a strong vehicle for the pursuit of Indigenous rights, including because it does not enable a veto, the possibility of which is the only true test of whether it can be said that free, prior and informed consent has been given. As W&J say, ‘no means no’.

Instead, native title facilitates the interests of state and capital by manufacturing consent through processes stacked against Indigenous people and backed up by the option of compulsory state acquisition of land.

The Australian establishment is accustomed to a highly inequitable approach to race politics. But the immorality of such legal deprivation is readily recognised on the world stage. The racially discriminatory nature of native title has previously been called out by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and as the W&J’s recent submission to the CERD states, “a consultation process that conforms to international law is almost impossible under Australian law”.

Despite having the odds stacked against them, W&J are challenging Australia’s native title system and the notion that compliance with colonial-derived law and the imperatives of industrial projects is the way forward for Indigenous people……..

Manufacturing Consent, Denying Traditional Owners

Wangan and Jagalingou people rejected Adani’s proposals in December 2012 and October 2014. However, Adani went to the NNTT in 2013 and 2015, the Tribunal allowed the mining leases to be granted over the rejections of the claim group, and the Queensland Government duly complied. This is the most direct way in which native title facilitates the denial rather than the protection of Aboriginal rights.

There was no consent, and no requirement on Adani to continue to negotiate, or to accept a refusal.

In addition, and against Wangan and Jagalingou decisions in 2012 and 2014, QSNTS has continued to facilitate Adani’s ongoing efforts to seek agreement, through an ILUA, to the surrender of native title rights in up to 2,750 hectares of land that are necessary for infrastructure critical to the mine. QSNTS declined to in any way facilitate a ‘self-determined’ meeting of the claim group that was run in March 2016 – a meeting that once again rejected an ILUA with Adani, as well as any further dealings with them. They also refused to attend, or share the notice of the most recent claim group meetings in December 2017 – meetings to address the progress of the native title claim. These meetings also revisited, and as it turned out, de-authorised the ILUA that Adani was seeking to have registered………..

Meanwhile, the Queensland Government has remained silent in public while consistently joining court actions on the side of Adani, and actively facilitating the mine through the actions of the Coordinator-General. In this way, they prosecute an out-dated resource-intensive developmentalism at the expense of Indigenous rights, without publically saying that they oppose Indigenous rights.

As noted in a previous article in this series, “The ILUA process, in effect, enables the State Government to abrogate its responsibilities to mining companies in negotiations with Traditional Owners, despite the obvious unequal access to power and information that shapes both negotiation processes and their outcomes”.

However, depending on the outcome of the upcoming court case, the Queensland Government may be called upon to more explicitly deny the rights of Indigenous people as enabled by the native title regime.

Compulsory Acquisition and the Continuation of Colonial Violence

Should the objections of the W&J to the Adani ILUA process be upheld in the March 2018 court case, and if potential further Adani efforts to seek an ILUA are unsuccessful, the Queensland Government can compulsorily acquire the 2,750 hectares that Adani seeks. This action, which would be initiated through the Coordinator-General and require a decision of the Governor in Council, would see the state extinguish the native title rights of Wangan and Jagalingou people.

………W&J stand on the conflict-ridden frontier of these issues in real time where powerful forces – the state, miners, big money, and the established media – seek to overcome Aboriginal resistance that operates through the ‘right to say no’ that inspires older and rising generations of Aboriginal rights leaders.The W&J are pushing the limits of native title to prosecute their rights while opposing Adani’s proposed mine and making claims through Aboriginal law on their own terms. In doing so they are helping to show how native title is manifestly inadequate.

They are also helping all of us to ask questions of native title, and requiring us to ask what might be an alternative meaningful step in advancing Indigenous rights in Australia.  https://newmatilda.com/2018/01/30/native-title-colonialism-racism-adani-and-the-manufacture-of-consent-for-mining/

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January 31, 2018 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, Queensland

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