A year ago, we commenced a ceremony at the edge of Adani’s Carmichael mine, after calling for a stop work order from the Queensland Government so we could protect our sacred Doongmabulla springs, our ochre grounds, and artefacts that are thousands of years old. The Government failed to act, so we did.
The one-year celebration of our Waddananggu sovereignty camp has confirmed our rightful presence on Country and our ongoing role as the cultural custodians. The anniversary of Waddananggu was a joyous time for our families, and for our supporters who made the trip to visit us on Country.
The sacred fire is still burning, and we are still here.
This is a milestone in our journey to defend our human rights and protect our Country from the destruction of mining. It is also a marker of the long struggle we have faced as a First Nation, as we bear witness to the ongoing harm being done to Wangan and Jagalingou people and our lands and waters.
Our ancestral homelands are the locus of creation, our lives are enfolded into a sacred space. Our homelands have sustained our generations for millennia. They are the source of our cultural and religious practices as well as our economic livelihoods and our sovereignty. They are a unique cultural landscape, and we are the cultural custodians of the lands and waters.
This simple truth has been denied since the first dispossession of our people in the frontier wars, followed by the colonisation and destruction of so much of our lands and resources.
While the colonial era may be over, the Australian settler colony remains in place, and everywhere it stands as a barrier to the full realisation of First Nations Peoples’ land rights and our cultural sovereignty.
We will not be denied. We continue to stand our ground.
Adani would pretend that we are nothing but unlawful intruders on their mining lease. But they have had a whole year to test that in the courts and have failed to act. And everyone knows that their mining lease was issued without consent and without a land use agreement.
Their tiresome PR lines against us have no effect. The Queensland Government and the police will take no action after our action in the Human Rights Commission. Nobody, it seems, wants to test our rights again in the courts.
But we will test them. We draw strength and legitimacy from our ongoing presence on Country and have set about using the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) to prosecute a new front in our long struggle for our land and cultural rights. This law confirms our rights to be on Country and practice our culture and gives us a new opportunity to push our fight for recognition further than before.
The Human Rights Act wasn’t available to us when we ran a litigation strategy that for five years prevented the mine from proceeding. In the end, Adani got its mine started. But our stance ultimately proved how stacked the native title system is against us and exposed the breaches of our human rights.
That is cold comfort. At that time, our people were brutally harmed by the state and federal governments, in combination with Adani, as they denied us our right to free prior and informed consent and overrode our laws and customs.
Adani got their illegitimate mine started but reinvigorated a First Nations resistance movement.
The assertion of our rights, and our defence of Country have always been at the heart of our fight against Adani’s coal mine on our lands. We draw authority from our laws and customs and stand in defence of our inalienable rights.
In stark contradiction to all that happened in our fight with Adani, the Human Rights Act states that First Nations people must not be deniedthe right to our identity and cultural heritage, our language, and our kinship ties. It says we have the right to maintain and strengthen our distinctive spiritual, material, and economic relationship within our territories, under our own laws and customs.
It recognises our right to conserve and protect the environment and the productive capacity of our lands and waters, and natural resources.
Our presence on Country embodies these rights. And we will pursue them with all our strength.
I have stepped out from under Adani’s bankruptcy orders, the bad faith dealings, the intrusion into our governance, and the failure of the law to protect our rights and will lead our Nagana Yarrbayn cultural custodians into a new phase of action.
I will attend the COP27 in Egypt in November to again bring international attention to our struggle, and I am instructing our lawyers at the Environmental Defenders Office to prosecute a case under Human Rights Act, in combination with the Environmental Protection Act.
I ask you to stand with us as we continue to stand our ground.
Change and progress don’t come easily. Our fight against Adani has its roots in centuries old causes that require justice for First Nations people if we are to truly protect our lands and waters from greater destruction borne by mining, climate change and the decimation of our plants and animals.
We need help with travel, materials, organising and legal costs, and to continue our presence at Waddananggu.
Please donate to support the work of the Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn cultural custodians.
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