Adrian Burragubba takes his case to London in attempt to stop the Adani mine from getting finance.
Adrian Burragubba takes his case to London in attempt to stop the Adani mine from getting finance.

Traditional owners give full support to Adani mine

TRADITIONAL owners of the W&J People say they want the Adani mine to go ahead and its about time their voice was heard.

After years of silence, one of the 12 Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) native title applicants has spoken out, saying the traditional owners of the W&J People felt disrespected and concerned by interference from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, without any attempt to consult them.

Les Tilley, on behalf of the applicants, has written to Dr Noureddine Amir, chairman of the UN committee, expressing deep concern about reports the committee had asked Australia to consider suspending the mine and rail project until there was consent from all indigenous people.

"We were dismayed to read that you have written to the Australian Government on a matter of great importance to the W&J People without affording the W&J Applicants the courtesy of a meeting or any formal communications," the letter read.

"We object to your requested suspension of the Adani Carmichael Project and are insulted by your clear disrespect for the decision made by the overwhelming majority of the W&J People claim group.

"We, the W&J People are a broad group of people, with formal rights as the registered Native Title applicants for this area...

"While we recognise Mr Adrian Burragubba and his Family Council do not agree with the Carmichael Project proceeding, the majority of us do."

Mr Tilley said the applicants had finally spoken out because they were tired of Mr Burragubba being seen as the voice of the W&J People.

"He is only one voice. He does not represent the majority as can easily be seen in Federal Court decisions," he said.

"We followed due process under the Native Title Act.

"Wangan/Jagalingou people have spoken; ILUA vote count 294-1."

The Indigenous Land Use Agreement vote was taken in April, 2017 after which anti-Adani group Wangan and Jagalingous Family Council released a statement saying it was a "sham meeting which has engineered a shame outcome".

Mr Burragubba claimed Adani paid people who were not W&J to stack the meeting.

Multiple court cases have upheld the original decision despite Mr Burragubba being bankrolled by The Sunrise Project, which is partly funded by billion-dollar, United States-based Sandler Foundation, Graeme Woods, GetUp and most recently the Grata Fund.

Mr Tilley described Mr Burragubba as a "puppet" of anti-Adani campaigners who were taking advantage of him.

He said anyone could put their name down to register at the ILUA authorisation meeting, but anyone who could not prove a blood tie wore a different-coloured wrist band.

"They can sit in on the meeting but they can't vote," he said.

"As far as I'm aware there was only one maybe two with different-coloured wrist bands.

"Who gives Mr Burragubba the authority to say who is and who isn't W&J - no one.

"All we do is cop abuse for it if we speak up ... that's the way it's always been with Adrian Burragubba.

"He wants to be the voice and in the limelight and anyone who tries to speak up gets shut down.

"He was never voted in to be a spokesperson or to take on any of these court actions. It's a breakaway faction."

Mr Tilley said negotiations with Adani had their "ups and downs" and things at the beginning were different to now.



Les Tilly is one of the W&J People's 12 native title applicants
Les Tilly is one of the W&J; People's 12 native title applicants

He said the group had bad advice in 2011 but Adani brought in people who could do the job, in particular chief operating officer and executive director, Samir Vora.

"He is the brother-in-law to Guatam Adani and he came over to complete negotiations," he said.

"He was the most sincere and genuine person I've ever met across the table.

"Under (Australian CEO) Lucas Dow they are making great headway for W&J people."

The W&J have been negotiating contracting opportunities with Adani for seven years, which they say offers 30-60 years of intergenerational opportunities for employment, training, business development, contracting and pathways from school to the mining industry for their young people.

Mr Tilley said they had held similar negotiations with other mining companies but Adani was the only company that seemed to be following through.

"It takes three generations to make a change in a family, so this could make huge changes for our people and something for our young people to look forward to for the life of the mine," he said.

Indigenous-owned environmental management company Woongal has won the contract for water monitoring at Adani's Carmichael project and is also looking to mine rehabilitation.

The company's areas of specialisation include groundwater monitoring, groundwater- dependent ecosystems, surface water monitoring, threatened species management, site waste audits and mine rehabilitation.

Woongal's contract is just one of the benefits Mr Tilley said would come from the ILUA, with monetary penalties if set targets were not met.

"We'll have someone working on the inside to make sure they are being met ... any monetary penalty is to be turned into training and development," he said.

"This has been a long time coming, but these opportunities would not come about if we did not have the listening ear of Adani."

Mr Tilley said he and the native title applicants he speaks on behalf of had sent a strong message to Dr Amir, saying the committee's conduct is "at odds with the fundamental principals the UN body you chair was created to uphold".

An invitation to meet with W&J applicants had been offered.