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Issue #1693      July 15, 2015

Taking Indigenous rights struggle to the world

We’re back from a tour of five countries in which we met many international banks, and made contact with First Nations people fighting similar fights to our own.

Representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou people present a Declaration of Defence of Country to Queensland Speaker Peter Wellington outside parliament in Brisbane earlier this year. (Photo: Dan Peled)

It’s been three months since the Wangan and Jagalingou launched our campaign to stop Adani from devastating our ancestral lands with their Carmichael mega mine.*

When we first asked you to stand with us back in late March, we were overwhelmed by the flood of support we received. Tens of thousands of Australians and their friends and families stood with us to support our rights as Traditional Owners. Since then our fight to preserve our culture has literally taken us around the world.

Our three-week world tour included parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. Our main purpose was to visit some of the world’s biggest investment banks, and urge them to rule out providing the billions of dollars that Adani still requires to fund the project.

Senior executives from Goldman Sachs, Citi, Bank of America, US EXIM, Standard Chartered, UBS and Credit Suisse all met with us to hear our story and learn of our struggle. We explained who Wangan and Jagalingou are, and what we risk losing from Adani’s mine. We shared a little of our culture with them, explaining how Adani’s mine will tear through our song lines and poison our water – the lifeblood of our country.

We appealed to their sense of decency and their responsibilities as signatories to the Equator Principles. We made it very clear we have never given our free, prior and informed consent to Adani’s mine. And never will. We will not allow this mine to destroy our environment and our heritage, or stay quiet in the face of a gross violation of our rights as Indigenous people.

All the meetings were positive, respectful, and at times, emotional. Our stories of our grandparents and their ancestors on country, the way we grew up knowing who we are and where we come from, what’s at stake for the future of our people – and the importance of our land and especially water to the transmission of our culture and the ability to pass on our ancient legacy to our children – showed the human side of the banks’ investment decisions.

Now that all these banks have heard our side of the story, Adani’s chances of financing Australia’s biggest coal mine are looking increasingly remote.

In between lobbying financiers, we had the opportunity to meet with other First Nation’s people fighting to protect their ancestral lands from environmentally-destructive projects. They expressed solidarity with us and reminded us that our fight is a universal one “because we’re all Indigenous to Mother Earth”.

It was especially gut-wrenching to share time with the Athabasca Chipewyan in Alberta, Canada. Their country is being devastated by tar sands production on a scale and a rate that we could similarly confront if Adani mining has their way. We were inspired by their strong resistance and heartfelt desire to protect their lands and uplift their people.

We were able to do all this thanks to the generous support of thousands of people who recognise, as we do, that some things are more valuable than money. People who recognise that the destruction of our land would essentially mean the destruction of us as a people. Our land is where our culture and our laws and customs reside. It represents the legacy of our ancestors, and the future of our children.

Thank you for being one of those who stood up for our rights.

Our fight is far from over, Adani are still deploying their massive wealth and legal power against us. But we’ll tell them again as we have told them before – No means No. Right now we are taking them on in the courts.

Hearings have commenced in the Federal Court as we push to overturn the decision of the Native Title Tribunal, in favour of Adani, to allow the state to issue mining leases against our expressed opposition. If you can give any further support to our legal fighting fund it would be greatly appreciated.

The more people who stand with us, the closer we get to achieving our goal of preserving our ancestral land, and the laws, culture and traditional wisdom that resides in that land.

People all around the globe know who Wangan and Jagalingou are now, and support our struggle. That means the world to us.


Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson, on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council.

* The Indian mining giant wants to develop a massive coal deposit in the Galilee Basin in Carmichael, central Queensland.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of Queensland taxpayers’ money was earmarked by the former Newman government.

Next article – White Paper whitewash for Indigenous workers

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