Queensland Police officers have recognised Traditional Owners’ rights to practise their culture at the Adani Carmichael coal mine.
Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners have been practising culture at a camp on Country inside the bounds of the Adani coal mine lease for 43 days.
Bravus Mining and resources, Adani’s rebranded Australian subsidiary, believe the Traditional Owners are trespassing on the mine site and have made a complaint to Queensland police
However, a recent recording show police officers telling those at the camp that they will not be moved on.
In a statement to the National Indigenous Times a spokesperson for Queensland Police said an investigation is ongoing, but officers at the mine site have told Traditional Owners that they have cultural rights to conduct ceremony.
“We understand that your connection to culture is disappearing and you don’t want to lose that,” said an officer in the recording reported by The Guardian Australia.
“At the moment you guys are here and you’re practising culture, and part of that under the Human Rights Act is for that to be practised and shared.”
“We have no intention at this time is to come in [and remove you], our intention is to support you through that [and] mediate the two groups.”
The officers continued to explain they had previously attended the site in response to the complaint filed by Adani.
“Initially we were here [because Adani] were making a complaint against you guys being here, at this time that is not the case. Please note we are not the enforcers here. If they want to do something they’ve got their legal avenues they need to take,” an officer said.
A spokesperson for Bravus said the Traditional Owners were “cloaking their anti-coal protest camp and trespassing under the guise of traditional activity”.
“We are supportive of our Traditional Owners undertaking cultural practices and ceremonies on their traditional lands and as a responsible landholder we will continue to ensure that when people do wish to access our land properties, they are able to do so in a planned, safe, and respectful manner, that ensures both Bravus and anyone on the property are compliant with the law,” they said.
“However, we won’t tolerate criminal activity on our mining lease, nor anti-fossil fuel activist group Frontline Action on Coal cloaking their anti-coal protest camp and trespassing under the guise of traditional activity.”
“For more than a decade activists have tried and failed to stop our project and this is seemingly a last ditch attempt to do the same.”
Wangan and Jagalingou Tribal Leader and Nagana Yarrbayn Senior Cultural Custodian Adrian Burragubba hit back at the claims on ABC radio, saying their activities on the mine site maintain their connection and responsibility to Country.
“There’s no form of protest, we’re not interfering with the mine, or the construction or development of the mine,” he said.
“We’re not posing any safety risks to anyone, we’re just going about our business. And practising our culture. I don’t know what Adani’s talking about.”
The Wangan and Jagalingou people say the mine threatens the culturally significant Doongmabulla Springs, and acting to protect the Springs is a cultural responsibility.
“We are connected to the land and the waters and we have a responsibility to the land and to the waters, and to maintain our spiritual and cultural identity and our livelihood and the use of those resources and water [is] a part of our cultural activity,” he said.
“So we are manifesting our culture and that is something that we, as Traditional Owners, are allowed to do.”
A spokesperson for Queensland Police said they “acknowledges the cultural and human rights of all persons involved and [are] undertaking operations to maintain a safe environment while an appropriate response is determined”.
Burragubba will speak at a ‘solidarity rally’ at Queensland Parliament which is planned for Monday.
He will call on the Queensland Government to stop the destruction of Wangan and Jagalingou Country and waters.
Wangan and Jagalingou Cultural Custodians are calling on the state government to stop the work on the Carmichael mine and conduct an independent investigation into the impacts of Adani’s mine on water and the threat to the Doongmabulla Springs.
“Adani’s coal mine will drain the life out of the land and destroy our dreaming and the sacred Doongmabulla Springs. It will be a catastrophe every bit as destructive to our culture, and as hurtful to our people, as the blasting of the caves at the Juukan Gorge,” Burragubba said in a statement.
“Our culture is inseparable from our lands and waters, including groundwater. Where the groundwater flows to the surface, at the Doongmabulla Springs, is our most sacred site.”
“Mining our land and extracting our groundwater denies us our right to enjoy, maintain and protect our culture and traditional stories. The very large volume of water being extracted by Adani is locking in future environmental damage to our sacred sites.”
By Sarah Smit