Australian Senate has just sold out indigenous land rights to help Adani

Land rights, not mining rights

If there was ever a more blatant example of coal’s influence over politics, this is it: both the Coalition and Labor have rushed changes to the Native Title Act through the Senate, with the explicit intention of “fixing” the laws hindering Adani’s construction of the Carmichael coal mine. Earlier this year, a ruling in a Western Australia court invalidated Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) not signed by all registered native title claimants. Today, that decision has been overruled. Amendments to the act now mean companies such as Adani will only require agreement from a majority of members to go ahead with mines.


With traditional owners from the Galilee Basin, the Wangan and Jagalingou Council, currently pursuing four separate legal actions against Adani in the Queensland Federal Court, Turnbull promised to “fix” the native title laws holding up Adani’s coal mine. Not coincidentally, Nationals Senator Ian MacDonald has previously called the changes “The Adani Bill”.


Labor has today reversed their previous decision not to support the bill, meaning the amendments have passed the Senate with the only opposition coming from the Greens. “This has got nothing to do with native title, and everything to do with getting up a massively polluting mega coal mine…. that is going to, over time, kill the Great Barrier Reef,” Greens senator Nick McKim said.


There is some debate about how fair the original unanimous consent rules were to Indigenous groups, with businessman and advocate for First Nations economic empowerment, Nyunggai Warren Mundine, arguing that a majority vote would actually be more representative of native title organisations than the original legislation.

Mundine and academic Marcia Langton have also warned of environmental activists co-opting native land rights in their fight against Adani. It’s a claim that was shot down by Indigenous lawyer Tony McAvoy last week.


Likewise, anyone pretending the mine has universal approval from traditional owners is clearly not listening; the elected-spokeswoman of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council, Murrawah Johnson, has been an outspoken critic of the mine since 2014 and has refused to sign the ILUA.


She also accused Adani of paying at least 220 people of the 295 in attendance at a Wangan and Jagalingou land claim meeting in April 2016 — a claim that is currently being pursued in court.


Senior spokesman for the council, Adrian Burragubba, has argued that the majority of Wangan and Jagalingou people have not given consent to the mine nor were they properly consulted on the changes, and Johnson has argued that today’s decision is in fact an abandonment of First Nation rights.


“Settling native title amendments has become synonymous with looking after Adani’s interests, not about good lawmaking for Indigenous people,” Johnson said. “Adani want the major parties to enable them to take away our rights to say no, to mount legal challenges and resist their destruction of our lands and waters.”


Whichever ILUA system is more fair, the issue is blatantly not why the government made this decision. Our Prime Minister quite literally promised Adani he would “fix” Australian native title law. That certainly seems like a decision made with a coal company in mind, rather than any First Nations group, or the Wangan and Jagalingou people.


And now, thanks to our flaccid opposition, Turnbull has made good on his word.

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Grandparents for the GalileeSymbolically led by 95 year old Kokoda veteran Bill Ryan, the ‘Grandparents for the Galilee’ have already occupied Queensland Labor for 10 hours, locked-down buildings, occupied Queensland’s Deputy Premier’s office for 11 hours, and delivered her some coal. They’ve challenged Penny Wong and even made their own film clips.


A few arrests later they are ready to hit the road!

For obvious reasons we can’t tell you where they are going, or who they will target when. We can tell you that Nonviolent Direct Action to #StopAdani is the name of their game.




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The Senate, with full support from Labor, yesterday voted to weaken land rights in this country, despite outcry from people like you. This is outrageous, but we can’t give up hope.

These attacks on Native Title are just the beginning. George Brandis said it himself that this is part of broader changes to land rights that the government is looking at dismantling in the coming months. 

Donate now or get your ticket to Power Shift to show this out of touch Government that we will not back down, we will continue to Protect Country, and fight for land rights until we win. 

This government and the Labor party have proved that they can’t be trusted to act in our best interests. If they see our land rights as a “hurdle” in approving giant coal mines, the week after the anniversary of the Mabo decision, they can’t be trusted with any Aboriginal affairs.

But we will not give up. Since colonisation our people have been fighting for land rights. These changes are a set back. But together, we can show this government that there are tens of thousands of people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous that demand land rights come before mining rights.

Donate to Seed to power this land rights campaign into the future, or if you’re a young person, come to Power Shift to learn how to take on the bad guys and win.

Senator Ian MacDonald has called these changes to Native Title 'the Adani Bill’ multiple times, and Bill Shorten even placed a call to Mr Adani telling him that he will ‘deal with’ Native Title. Make no mistake, this government has put the wishes of a multinational corporation over Indigenous human rights.

Aboriginal people and Traditional Owners have a very important role to play in climate action in this country. We have the right to make decisions about what happens on our land and we take our responsibility to protect country seriously.

The Native Title regime as it currently stands only gives us opportunity to negotiate. It hamstrings many Traditional Owner groups in their decision making process, especially those who do not want fossil fuel companies on their land. It is broken because successive federal Governments have taken it apart piece by piece, weakening it like they did again yesterday.

But we can’t afford to let this get us down. We must work together to protect our land rights, so our people can protect their country from destructive projects and stand together to stop dangerous global warming. Together we will continue to put pressure on the government with creative protests, powerful messages and the important work of organising our mob to fight back. 

Thank you so much to everyone who took action to stop this bill. 20,000 of us wrote submissions, hundreds of us made calls and posted on social media to get politicians to take notice, and it made the government scared. That’s why I believe that we can protect land rights in the long term.

Donate or come to Power Shift so we can continue this fight together.

In hope,

Larissa, on behalf of the whole Seed and AYCC team.

P.S. If you're young, black and deadly, don't let money get in the way of you standing up to Protect Country. Scholarships are available to help cover transport and ticket costs until tomorrow night. Click here to apply for a scholarship to Power Shift in Melbourne now.

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The Australian Youth Climate Coalition · Australia