Leading Australian Human Rights Lawyers Support Indigenous Rights Submission to UN

October 3, 2015

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) today expressed strong support for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Peoples’ submission to key United Nations human rights, cultural and indigenous working groups which seeks the UN’s urgent intervention to stop the proposed development of the Carmichael Coal Mine on their traditional lands by Adani Mining Pty Ltd, with the support of the Australian federal and Queensland governments. The ALHR submitted a letter of support to these bodies yesterday.

ALHR was established in 1993 and is a network of over 2,600 Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and a secretariat at La Trobe University Law School in Melbourne.

Queensland Convenor of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, lawyer Benedict Coyne, said, “Australian Lawyers for Human Rights strongly supports the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples’ submission to key UN bodies and backs their request for urgent intervention to stop the massive and destructive Carmichael coal mine,” Mr Coyne said.

The Carmichael Mine, which if developed would be one of the largest in the world, would destroy vast swathes of the W&J People’s traditional lands and waters, and with it their cultural identity.

“The Australian and Queensland governments’ ongoing support for the mega-mine, despite the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples’ lack of consent to the mine’s development, is in direct contradiction with Australia’s obligations under international human rights law,” Mr Coyne said.

“ALHR is troubled that both the Australian and Queensland governments have done little to address the problem, clearly outlined in the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples’ submission to the UN, that throughout the consultation and negotiating process Adani has failed to respect their fundamental human rights.

“Adani has consulted and negotiated with the Wangan and Jagalingou communities in bad faith, attempting to undermine their internal decision-making processes and institutions of representation and ultimately their fundamental jus cogens right to self-determination.

“Critically, our network sees the situation of the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples as raising issues of broad application for the protection, promotion and realisation of human rights and especially indigenous peoples’ rights in Australia.

“The issues raised in the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples’ submission are sadly not unique. Similar human rights issues affect all of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In particular, the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples’ experience demonstrates the inconsistency of Australian native title law generally with the country’s international human rights obligations, including under the seven core international human rights treaties that Australia has signed and ratified.

“The Australian process for granting approval for development activities on indigenous peoples’ traditional lands urgently requires scrutiny for compliance with Australia’s international obligations,” Mr Coyne concluded.

Contact: Mr Benedict Coyne, Queensland Convenor, National Committee member, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights 0434 915 713 – qld@alhr.org.au

NOTE: ALHR sent a letter of support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights and Members of the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on 2 October 2015.