Indigenous leaders threaten court action over land use
Francis Tapim August 23, 2011
Queensland Indigenous leaders say mining companies are using their financial might to steamroll Aboriginal people over land use agreements.
Aboriginal leader Ray Robinson says 99 per cent of the traditional owners in Queensland do not have the money to fight legal battles with mining companies when negotiating Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA).
He says under federal laws they are supposed to negotiate in good faith but he says that amounts to offering Aboriginal people peanuts to sign over all their land.
"They're being ripped off by mining companies," he said.
They are going out there and getting minerals and gas and they are getting billions and billions of dollars and they are offering Indigenous people a pittance, which is absolutely disgraceful."
Mr Robinson is urging Aborigines around the country not to sign any more land use agreements until they find a powerful legal team prepared to take on mining companies in a united class action.
"We need to call on good silks and take all these billion-dollar mining companies to court ... [over] the treatment of the traditional owners in this country," he said.
"We need to challenge them, we need to stop signing these little deals in regard to giving these mining companies compulsory acquisition."
Kamilaroi Nation spokesman Bob Weatherall says mining companies and governments have become too greedy and Indigenous people have had enough.
He says leaders across the country are now talking to farmers and conservationists about a united action against mining activity.
Mr Weatherall is warning governments to sit up and listen before it is too late.
"What they have got to do is basically bring Aborigines together, sit down and talk with the developers and sit down with the Government and start looking at our inherent rights and our interests," he said.
"We should be compensated for the lands lost, our land rights and interests are not being looked after.
"What we believe needs to happen is Aboriginal people should just don't sign the ILUA, the Indigenous Land Use Agreements, a pittance to what they are offering in other parts of country and they expect Aborigines to extinguish their native title sell off their heritage for five cents and leave no heritage for the next generation."
... from Ray Jackson
The article above describes a positive call to stop the theft of Aboriginal land and its resources.
For far too long we have been stripped of our rights by, as Bob Weatherall correctly describes the Governments and mining companies, as being over the top greedy in their lusts for the stolen billions.
The use of the courts, and especially the high court, to settle the land claim arguments of the traditional owners raised great concerns among Governments and multinational mining companies. One only needs to remember the absolute horror that arose from those two groups when the high court handed down the 1992 Mabo 2 decision.
The country was being taken back to the stone-age and no backyard would be safe from those Aborigines who would lay claim to every square millimetre of Australia. Howard frothed up all the lies and scaremongering tactics that his white Australia ethics could think of. he was ably supported by the equally frothy Tim Fischer who promised "bucket-loads of extinguishment" that would defiantly oppose the high court decision. The invasion philosophy that Aborigines had no rights to anything other than the cultural death of assimilation must be upheld.
The frothers and their supporters spoke of getting rid of "unelected judges", judges that had gone beyond their role and had ventured into 'social adventurism'. How dare they question and overturn the benefits and benign benevolence of white Australia!
Howard realised that he could not appeal the decision and win as he had no valid legal argument of appeal, but that did not stop his bastardry to overturn or at least dilute as much as possible the high court decision. He got his legal hacks to draft up the infamous 10 point plan that would wipe out the legal understandings of that decision. He had the numbers in the house of representatives but not in the senate to push his odious plan through parliament.
It got stalled in the Senate and the decision was left to the Tasmanian independent, Brian Harradine. Brian had had his own historical problems with the Tasmanian Union movement but that trouble carried him into parliament. He was conservative in his thinking and constantly brought his religious views to the fore when making his political decisions.
Brian did not want to be put in the position of deciding what to do with Howard's plan. He knew he was on a hiding to nothing and whatever the outcome it would not look good on his CV. He asked the shortest question recorded in Hansard to the Senate when he asked all the other Senators "Why?"
In his dilemma he could think of only one way to deal with the problem. He was being contacted by Aboriginal spokesmen like Pat and Mick Dodson, even Noel Pearson sought to put his view after calling the Howard Government "racist scum." Many other Aboriginal activists were also attempting to gain an audience with the now very powerful Tasmanian Senator. The decision was to be his, would he allow the racist bill to pass or would he reject it? The life of Brian took on a whole new meaning.
Only Brian really knows how he came to the decision to call in, as an advisor and mentor, Father Frank Brennan to assist in working with the Howard Government to reshape the bill. Brennan had been a third of what was called 'The Triumvirate' along with Father Ted Kennedy and Father Geareghty back in the 70's and involved in Aboriginal issues. Geareghty moved on to become a judge, Brennan studied law but remained with the church whilst Father Kennedy remained in Redfern working with the poor and homeless, regardless of race. He had a hard time with his hierarchy, especially Cardinal George Pell, who objected to his religious views of working with the people of Redfern, especially his close relations with the Aborigines. Sadly Father Kennedy died in may 2005. Pell has spent his time since then in undoing all the good works of Father Ted.
Harradine and Brennan locked themselves up and ignored all the outside Aboriginal voices. Eventually the negotiations with the Howard Government brought about an agreement to reduce the racist 10 point plan to a racist six point plan. The decision of the high court was severely weakened and that allowed howard to get his way. When the good senator was asked why he had accepted the six point plan rather than reject the total bill he replied, sincerely I believe, that he did not want a racist election!
His grasp on Aboriginal issues was, I think, very weak and whilst he may himself believe that he had done the right thing he did not know or recognise that for Aborigines every election is a racist election for our peoples. especially outside of the capital cities where the fight for land rights was and is the strongest.
State and Territory Governments were also having problems on land issues going to the courts as, quite simply, the courts could not be trusted to maintain the status quo. Such public slanging matches in court also did not assist the Governments to maintain the argument that they were not racist when it became quite obvious to all that they were, in fact, being driven by their historically racist views. Something had to be done. Especially after the debacle that the Yorta Yorta claim proved to be.
And so was born the great scam called Indigenous Land Use Agreements. The agreements were sold by the Governments as a panacea for the ills of going to court to resolve the differences. Basically the Victorian Government said to the Yorta Yorta elders "look, you, we, cannot trust the courts to be fair and proper to both sides so we need a process that will bypass the dodgy courts and we can sit together, as equals, and come to a proper decision that respects both sides. We are not adverse to looking at your claim more favourably if we can sort it out just between us".
When the elders agreed to this process in good faith and entered into negotiations they soon found that they were no longer 'equal', not by any definition of equality. They were forced to accept a fraud. Like every other agreement that has been negotiated around australia, all the traditional owners accepted a fraud. They did not own their lands nor the resources of that land, all they were able to do was to access the lands for cultural reasons. They could hunt, fish, seek bush tucker and bush medicines but they had no right to the land or in stopping the access of others onto the land. This fraud, this moral abomination is known as Native Title. there is no title for us, the natives. Native Title is an oxymoron and a disgraceful insult to every Aborigine.
Native Title is not Land Rights. Not under any circumstances. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal Land.
And that is why I fully concur with the call from Bob Weatherall and Ray Robinson that no further agreements or Native Title Claims be entered into with any mining company or Government until such time as the argument returns to the high court for real Land Rights justice to prevail.
We must have the same land rights entitlements as our brothers and sisters, the Maori who own areas of their land and its resources, as do some First Nations of America and Canada.
It is time we show that we have still our traditional lands and cultures. And our human rights.
Indigenous Social Justice Association