YINDJIBARNDI ABORIGINAL CORPORATION
MEDIA STATEMENT—Thursday 29 November 2012
YINDJIBARNDI WANT SOLUTION TO FMG DEBACLE
Yindjibarndi Elder Bruce Woodley joins Sue Singleton, Brad Goode and Kerry Savas in telling the ‘inconvenient’ truth about Fortescue’s (FMG) behind-the-scenes tactics to divide Yindjibarndi society and destroy our culture. We thank him for his courage, as we do the others, and all those who might follow. We especially hope that Bruce’s peers at the Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC) take heart from his lead in trying to bring our people together to achieve an outcome that benefits us all.
What Bruce Woodley revealed yesterday about FMG’s manipulation and duping of the Wirlu-murra splinter group, which Fortescue helped set up and continues to fund, is not news to the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC). FMG has done everything it can to avoid dealing with the lawful representative institution that was appointed by the Federal Court, and is elected by the Yindjibarndi People, to take care of the native title rights and interests of the Yindjibarndi People.
What is shocking to YAC is that neither the Federal nor State Governments have seen fit to inquire into this disgraceful state of affairs. If FMG attempted to side-step a lawfully elected representative institution of the Australian people, because it believed it knew what was best, there would be hell to pay. The same standard should apply to the lawfully elected representative institution of Yindjibarndi society.
Instead, FMG is allowed to engage in an ongoing abuse of process, making a mockery of both the Native Title Act, and the Aboriginal Heritage Act; they drag us through litigation in the names of two Yindjibarndi ladies under FMG’s control; sap our meagre resources and divert our energies from urgent work in our impoverished community – and all the while steam ahead with the destruction of our sacred sites.
Bruce Woodley’s courage in standing up against FMG’s native title and heritage ‘managers’ and their paid WMYAC agents, Michael Gallagher and Bruce Thomas, is inspiring; and YAC sincerely hopes this will lead to a breakthrough that will bring some relief to our people.
We must now wait to see if anyone in either our State or Federal Government is courageous enough to do something about this.
The Native Title Act was intended to rectify past injustices and secure a respectful position in Australian society for the first nations of this country. YAC’s experience with FMG shows how it has failed to deliver. What YAC asks for is simple. We want the governments, Commonwealth and State, to conduct an inquiry into the actions of FMG and its agents and deliver justice for the Yindjibarndi People.
In closing, YAC asks everyone witnessing these unfolding events, to remember a few basic points:
1. Unlike WMYAC, formed in December 2010, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation came into existence in March 2004 as a direct result of the Federal Court’s recognition that the Yindjibarndi People are – and have remained, since before the assertion of British sovereignty in 1829 – a society of people living under a distinct system of law, which governs their rights and interests in Yindjibarndi country.
2. The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation is the lawful representative institution of the Yindjibarndi People, appointed by the Federal Court and elected by the Yindjibarndi People to hold and manage our native title rights and interests, which includes our right to protect heritage sites.
3. When FMG side-stepped the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and negotiated an agreement with WMYAC – an agreement that severely affects the rights and interests of the Yindjibarndi People but provides no compensation for doing so – FMG knew full well that YAC was both the lawfully appointed agent for the Applicant in the Yindjibarndi #1 claim (which includes the ‘Firetail’ area of FMG’s Solomon Project); and, the lawfully elected representative institution of the Yindjibarndi People. In other words there was no lawful foundation for FMG’s actions.
YAC is well aware of the benefits that will flow to Australian society from the mining of Yindjibarndi country; and we have repeatedly stated that we do not wish to deprive our fellow Australians of those benefits. What we ask for in return is fair compensation to secure our survival as an indigenous people – a distinct society, with our own language, culture and religion; and, a fair opportunity to privately access our sacred sites in the Solomon project area, so that we can create a lasting record of their beauty and the religious ceremonies associated with them, before they are destroyed.
Michael Woodley YAC CEO—0419 097 130 email@example.com
George Irving YAC In-House Legal Counsel—0417 903 785 firstname.lastname@example.org
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