Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura (PKKP) Traditional Owners have revealed Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC), their representative body at the time of negotiations with Rio Tinto, failed to accurately present the agreement that led to the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves.

Appearing before the Senate inquiry on Monday, PKKP Traditional Owners from the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation (PKKPAC) broke their long-held silence on the controversial agreement.

After emotional comments about Juukan Gorge’s significance from PKKP Traditional Owners John Ashburton and Burchell Hayes, Senator Pat Dodson asked PKKPAC representatives whether Traditional Owners understood the agreement they were signing at the time.

PKKP Traditional Owner Donna Meyer, who was part of the original negotiations with Rio Tinto and YMAC, said people had “a little bit of understanding” during meetings at the time.

“We were meeting all the time with Rio Tinto and with YMAC … but when it came down to talking about the agreement and people understanding it [clearly], I don’t think they did understand it,” Meyer said.

“We were told, ‘Well this is … the best agreement you’re going to get … you’re not going to get anything out of it.’ … I don’t think there was a better understanding by the members, by the people.

“[The] people that represented us [YMAC] didn’t present it properly to us for the [PKKP] people to understand.”

WATCH: PKKP Traditional Owners visit Juukan Gorge post-blast. Video courtesy PKKP people and PKKPAC.

Meyer said at every meeting YMAC would provide an agenda, notes from the previous meeting—not minutes as none were taken—and a piece of ‘Plain English’ text relating to the agreement.

“They were taking sections out of the agreement, putting it in what they called ‘Plain English’ in a little box on a piece of paper,” Meyer said.

She said the 740-page agreement was never given out to members to read or review. PKKP Traditional Owner, Suzette Baumgarten, said each section of the agreement was instead whittled down to a ten-page document and presented to the PKKP people.

“When it was brought to the table, we were again told that we can’t get anything better out of this,” Meyer said.

Baumgarten added to Meyer’s comments.

“YMAC would present to us a condensed form of what they thought that we needed to know … in our agreement,” she said.

“Whatever … they wanted us to know about, how it was going to affect our agreement, that’s what they would present it on.”

Meyer also said Traditional Owners never got to read anything before attending meetings—YMAC would just send notices to inform when and where the meetings would take place.

YMAC has been contacted for comment and will be appearing before the Senate inquiry tomorrow.

By Hannah Cross