ELDER: Erica Walker is the spokeswoman for the Pitjara and Jagalingu people.
ELDER: Erica Walker is the spokeswoman for the Pitjara and Jagalingu people. Jann Houley

New Native Title claim a game changer for Galilee Basin

STARING out over a mountain of paperwork at her kitchen table, Erica Walker says she has proof that her people have the strongest claim on the land where Adani plans to build their Carmichael Mine.

Tired of sitting on the sidelines, MsWalker has broken her media silence for the first time, speaking exclusively to The Morning Bulletin, to provide an insight about her people's strong, potentially game-changing native title claim.

For the past 12 years, elder and spokeswoman for the Pitjara and Jagalingu people, MsWalker has fruitlessly tried to bring prominence to their claim for land which encompasses a large portion of the resource-rich Galilee Basin, stretching between Carnarvon and Alpha.

 

FAMILY TREE: This certified family tree points to the Pitjara and Jagalingu people having a strong land claim.
FAMILY TREE: This certified family tree points to the Pitjara and Jagalingu people having a strong land claim. Leighton Smith

She has authentic documentation detailing family trees, ancestral history, language, moieties, customs and totems - showing a history stretching back to the 1860s when her ancestor John Frazer set up the first station in Alpha.

"We're the people who are supposed to benefit, but we're not benefiting at all," Ms Walker said.

"I am the one Adani should be dealing with.

"We want Queensland Native Title Services to step up and do their job properly, they won't even contact me."

 

Erica Walker
Erica Walker Jann Houley

Provided they stick to rigid environmental guidelines, Ms Walker is supportive of mining activities proceeding, including Adani's Carmichael mine, recognising the wealth of opportunities it would bring in terms of boosting the economy, employment and essential services including health and education.

"Everyone can benefit (from the mining), all of Queensland, provided it's done properly, that they abide by the conservation policies that they've been given," she said.

"You've got to move on, you've got to think about progress.

 

Map of Adani in relation to Central Queensland townships.
Map of Adani in relation to Central Queensland townships.

"How are they going to keep the hospitals going, you know? Health and education? Everything will just stop if there's no economy."

She believes that the current native title claimants, the Wangan and Jagalingou groups, lead by anti-mining-activist Adrian Burragubba, doesn't have the appropriate supporting documentation (including family history) to have their land claim upheld.

 

PROOF: The Pitjara and Jagalingu people say they have the paper work to claim the land in the Galilee Basin.
PROOF: The Pitjara and Jagalingu people say they have the paper work to claim the land in the Galilee Basin. Leighton Smith

The W&J people are currently locked in a court battle with Adani with Mr Burragubba claiming in the Federal Court that his indigenous group did not give permission for the mine to go ahead.

"Adani don't realise these people that they're meeting, they know them by face value but they don't know their background and what they're going to do," Ms Walker said.

"They should have questioned these people and gotten documentation off them to prove who they are before they give them any control over anything.

"It's all greed and we're tired of that."

In late December, Adani Mining filed a petition in the Federal Court seeking an order bankrupting Mr Burragubba with the judge ordering him to pay $50,000 security for legal costs before the appeal could be heard in May.

 

LAND CLAIMED: Adrian Burragubba is an activist for the Wangan and Jagalingou case against Adani.
LAND CLAIMED: Adrian Burragubba is an activist for the Wangan and Jagalingou case against Adani. DAN PELED/AAP

The W&J group is split over the use of its land for mining, with some clan members voting in favour of Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) at a Maryborough meeting two years ago - a meeting which Ms Walker also attended and voted in support of mining.

Ms Walker expects their claim to be thrown out in May, after which time the way will be clear for her family to lodge a proper native title claim.

She said there were several other mining projects awaiting the results from Adani's court case but they would need to work with her people on ILUAs, if their native title claim was upheld.

"Then they'll include all the family and relatives who should benefit, not just anyone," she said.

Mr Burragubba and the Queensland Government's Native Title Services were contacted for comment.



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