Our First Nations people are leading the way on stopping fossil fuel projects

Image: Murrawah Johnson, Serena Thompson and Monique Jeffs from Youth Verdict, who challenged Clive Palmer’s proposed Galilee coal project. Photograph: Darren England/AAPFrom the Youth Verdict team November 25, 2022:

A Queensland court has found Clive Palmer’s proposed Waratah Coal Project should be rejected after a historic legal challenge by Youth Verdict and The Bimblebox Alliance.

President Kingham has ruled Waratah Coal will contribute to climate change which will limit human rights of Queenslanders and First Nations cultural rights.

The mine has been recommended to be refused on all grounds, including First Nations people’s right to culture!

This is the first time an Australian court has heard evidence on-Country against a coal mine and according to First Nations protocols.

Today, President Fleur Kingham of the Queensland Land Court recommended Waratah Coal’s application for a mining lease and environmental approval for the project should be rejected by the Queensland Government.

In delivering her decision, President Kingham recommended the Mining Lease and Environmental Approval should be refused on environmental, climate and human rights grounds.

The President relied on the human rights grounds for both the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, including the property rights of the Bimblebox Refuge landholders, and the cultural rights of First Nations peoples impacted by climate change to make her landmark decision.

“The mine risks unacceptable climate impacts to Queensland people and property,” she said.

The President thanked First Nations witnesses — many of whom travelled to Brisbane for the hearing — for their hospitality and the sharing of their cultural knowledge during on-Country evidence.

Youth Verdict First Nations Lead and Co-director Murrawah Johnson said:

“We are overjoyed. The voices of First Nations Queenslanders have been heard. A court has recognised the human and cultural rights of First Nations peoples are impacted by climate change and has recommended that this mine not be approved.

“As a Wirdi woman, I am proud that this case was able to raise the bar for the respect given to First Nations knowledge and customs in the western courtroom. We are excited that we were able to use the Human Rights Act to advocate for changes to Land Court process based on cultural rights grounds.

“All environmental approvals or mining leases should have to consider their impact on First Nations cultural and human rights.

“Now the government must accept the court’s recommendation and reject Palmer’s Galilee Coal Project approvals.

“Billionaire Clive Palmer wants to line his pockets by building a new coal mine in a time when we must move away from extractive industries that destroy Country and fuel climate change.

“First Nations peoples will not stand by while coal-fuelled climate change destroys our Countries and further threatens our connections to culture.

“First Nations peoples must have decision-making power over our Country, our lives and our futures. By continuing to fight for First Nations cultural rights, we’re fighting for a safe and healthy climate for us all.

“We would like to thank our First Nations witnesses, who welcomed the court onto their Countries and told their stories. For some of them, this has been a chance to share with the world their deep knowledge and understanding of Country and its ecosystems and wildlife.

“For others it was a moment to share the pain of the loss of place, of culture that they are already experiencing due to climate impacts like sea-level rise and heatwaves.  We could not be more grateful and humbled by the heartfelt evidence they gave during the on-Country hearings. Thank you.”

Waratah Coal v Youth Verdict

In a landmark case, Youth Verdict and The Bimblebox Alliance, represented by Environmental Defenders Office, argued coal from the mine would impact the human rights of First Nations Peoples by contributing to dangerous climate change. They also argue the mine would destroy the Bimblebox Nature Refuge which sits on top of the proposed mine site on Wangan and Jagalingou Country.

This case is the first time the Qld Human Rights Act 2019 has been used to object to a fossil fuel project on climate change grounds and the first time in Australia First Nations people have been able to use cultural rights to object to a coal mine.

In May, the court travelled to Erub (Darnley) Island and Poruma (Coconut) Island in the Torres Strait to hear first-hand how climate change is negatively impacting communities and eroding their ability to practise culture, now legally protected by cultural and human rights under the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019.

This is the first time an Australian court has heard evidence against a coal mine on-Country and according to First Nations protocols. It is also the first time the Land Court has been welcomed to Country as part of a hearing for a mining objection which was accepted because of the Cultural rights.


Full Summary of the Case: http://youthverdict.org.au/waratah

Facebook event to share: https://www.facebook.com/events/657805789210766

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