Adani is preparing to bulldoze a highly significant Wangan and Jagalingou cultural site at its Carmichael coal mine, just days after the Federal Government Inquiry into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters recommended new laws to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. The news broke on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald today.
The site is an ancient stone tool making area that Wangan and Jagalingou people utilised for thousands of years. It contains the highest concentrations of artefacts found on Adani’s mining lease to date.
Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners have written to the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships calling on them to issue a stop work order for clearance works under Section 32 of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003.
Traditional Owners are worried Adani will destroy the site in the coming days. The site is 3000 cubic meters in volume, larger than an Olympic swimming pool. It is within Adani’s coal pit area, which is currently being dug as Adani advances towards exporting its first coal later this year.
Adani plans to bulldoze and remove material and artefacts from the cultural site and relocate it to another culturally important site. Traditional Owners are concerned that dumping of the artefacts would also contaminate the proposed relocation site and change its cultural significance. Adani’s relocation site is in an area earmarked for underground mining operations. There is a risk the land on this site will subside as underground mining takes place, making it unsuitable for safekeeping of cultural artefacts.
Today marks 60 days since Wangan and Jagalingou people commenced a cultural ceremony and occupation of land opposite the gates of Adani’s Carmichael mine, stating their clear and ongoing opposition to the destruction of land and water. The Queensland Police recently refused Adani’s requests to move the Traditional Owners on. Adani claims the group is trespassing, but Queensland police have acknowledged their cultural rights to be there under the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019.
Wangan and Jagalingou Senior Custodian Adrian Burragubba says
“Adani plans to desecrate and destroy sacred sites in the path of its coal mine. We’re upset and we want this to stop. This site cannot be allowed to be rolled over and crushed with bulldozers.
“It is our birthright to participate in the preservation and protection of our cultural heritage. Our family is being deliberately excluded from participating in the monitoring and recording of any disturbances of our artefacts. This denial and rejection of our right to our cultural identity is comparable with what the settler society did to our ancestors.
“These artefacts are a reminder of who we are. We don’t want Adani to desecrate and destroy this site. It contains generational history that is thousands of years old. In the absence of appropriate spiritual practices, the cultural integrity of these significant sites are being compromised.
“It is clear this site meets the definition of Aboriginal cultural heritage under section 8 of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld) as it is a significant Aboriginal area, contains significant Aboriginal artefacts and is of archaeological significance. Hundreds of artefacts have already been collected, and thousands more remain – they cannot be destroyed.
“Adani has a cultural heritage duty of care under section 23 of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld) to take all reasonable and practicable measures to ensure excavation work does not harm Aboriginal cultural heritage. It is an offence to breach this duty of care and Adani and the Queensland government must act today.
“We want to protect our cultural heritage from this mine and from The Adani Group. Adani is disrespecting us and our authority as Traditional Owners. This is why we have been speaking up all these years. This is why we are on country now, where we have been having ceremony for the last 60 days.
“The Queensland Government must make a stop-work order immediately to reduce any further conflict and hold the mining company to account for what has already been done in treating our sacred sites with violent disrespect.”
Wangan and Jagalingou woman and registered Clermont Belyando native title applicant Lyndell Turbane says:
“This is very distressing for us. Adani is digging up our land, our artefacts, and our cultural history. Adani needs to stop the destruction of this site right now.
“This is a very significant cultural site. Something this significant should be brought to the Native Title applicants, so we can bring it back to talk to our families, not for a couple of people to sign away.
“We are being excluded from knowledge and decisions about our land. The destruction of this very significant cultural site is wrong – and it needs to stop now.”
Adrian Burragubba 0497 503 594
Lyndell Turbane 0487 296 028