Former Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura (PKKP) representative body, Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC), have skirted questions from a Federal Government inquiry committee about their role in the Juukan Gorge blasts.

Representatives from YMAC, including CEO Simon Hawkins, appeared before the committee on Tuesday to elaborate on their submission to the inquiry.

After both Rio Tinto and PKKP Aboriginal Corporation’s (PKKPAC) submissions highlighted a draft section 18 application was sent to YMAC on October 3, 2013 and received no response, Senator Pat Dodson asked why the draft was not sent onwards to PKKPAC.

“The local Aboriginal corporation is responsible for the implementation of the participation agreement and acts as an agent for PKKP people,” Hawkins said.

When pressed by the Senator as to whether YMAC advised Rio Tinto the draft application should go to PKKPAC, Hawkins avoided the question and referred back to the participation agreement.

“The agreement sets out where the notice should go, which is to the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation,” Hawkins said.

“It’s not YMAC’s responsibility, it is for Rio [Tinto] to send it to the PKKP through to the [local implementation committee].”

“We have no records that show that the section 18 was referred onto the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation by YMAC.”

Senator Rachel Siewert then asked YMAC about the ‘Plain English’ documents they wrote for PKKP Traditional Owners.

“The ‘Plain English’ documents were provided to the group at a pre-authorisation meeting one month out from the authorisation meeting,” Hawkins said.

He said over the six years spent negotiating the participation agreement, there were at least 50 meetings between Rio Tinto and PKKP Traditional Owners—ranging from one to three-day meetings.

“The ‘Plain English’ version [of the agreement] is a 30-page document summarising key components of the agreement,” Hawkins said.

The committee then asked Hawkins if these summaries were an appropriate way to provide accurate information to Traditional Owners that would allow them to give their free, prior and informed consent.

“If people wanted a copy of the agreement it would have been provided to them,” Hawkins said.

“To say that people didn’t understand what was going on … is not a correct statement. It’s quite clear that it was comprehensive.”

The Senator then asked Hawkins about his comments in YMAC’s submission on the agreements being “widely recognised as best practice”.

“When did it start being best practice that Aboriginal people had to give up their rights in order to gain economic [benefits] from their land?”

Hawkins placed the blame on the pitfalls of legislation.

“This shines light on the weakness of the legislation. If we had stronger legislation then clearly you could do things differently.”

The public hearings continue Friday, with the committee set to deliver their report by December 9.

By Hannah Cross