Queensland police backtracking over First Nations camp at Adani site

Photo by Cole Bennetts/Getty: Indigenous leader Adrian Burragubba

Contributed by Ben Wilson

Adrian Burragubba of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners, who is leading the battle to stop the Adani Carmichael coalmine  at the Galilee Basin In Queensland, was banned from the area in August last year.

He subsequently lodged a complaint in writing to senior law officers, outlining rights under native title legislation. These provide the right to establish a “cultural camp” at the mine’s site.

“Prior to our occupation we sought legal advice as to the exercise of our co-existent common law native title rights,” the legal letter said.

The police argument at the time was that permission from Adani was necessary. It seems that this is now up to question, and the uncertainty has prompted Queensland police to backtrack and express regret over the incident.

Assistant commissioner Kev Guteridge said police recognise that Burragubba represents a group of traditional owners “aggrieved by Adani’s occupation of the land”.

The statement went on to say: “We recognise that there are complex legal issues and cultural sensitivities relating to this matter. We recognise the complexity of these matters and will commit to take into account the issues raised in this complaint in future responses.”

This doesn’t mean that the camp will be allowed. But it does weaken the case for police action against it.

Criticism over the police association with Adani has been around all along. Officers have been accused of being a  accused of acting to “shield” Adani’s corporate interests, and have even been used to spy on opponents of the mine. This came to a head after a crew of French journalists were arrested and given restrictive bail conditions while making a documentary about the controversial coalmine.

When the documentary was released, the journalist Hugo Clément detailed how police had them “under surveillance” and sought to repeatedly block filming near Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal.

The reality is that the campaign to stop Adani has succeeded in outing the future of the mine in doubt. Backers have pulled away, fearing that impact of public opinion on their bottom line.

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