From John Ray's shorter notes

July 23, 2020

Indigenous owners lose bid to protect land earmarked for Shenhua mine

You can guarantee that any new mine, dam or road will be found to trespass on an Aboriginal sacred site.  There's money in such claims.  They usually result in a "compensation" payout for the Aborigines and their lawyers

But the company fought this one so everyone is out of pocket

This does clearly need reform.  A rule specifying that there will be no monetary reward for such claims would probably result in most such claims never even being raised.  An apology would have to suffice

An Aboriginal group has lost its bid to protect a culturally valuable site from being destroyed for the Shenhua coal mine in northern NSW, but says the fight to protect the area is not over.

Federal Court Judge Wendy Abraham dismissed the application for a judicial review of the Environment Minister's decision not to protect the Mount Watermark site near Gunnedah from the controversial open-cut mine.

The applicant, Veronica 'Dolly' Talbott, acting as a member of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians, had submitted that Environment Minister Sussan Ley took into account an "irrelevant consideration" when she weighed the impact of the mine on Indigenous sites against perceived social and economic benefits to the local community.

In dismissing the application, Justice Abraham said the applicant had failed to establish that the social and economic impacts are irrelevant under the Heritage Act.

The judgment said Minister Ley had stated she "considered the expected social and economic benefits of the Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine to the local community outweighed the impacts of the mine ... as a result of the likely destruction of parts of their Indigenous cultural heritage."

Ms Talbott said the decision "demonstrates the abject failure of the [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection] Act to provide meaningful protection for areas of particular significance to Aboriginal people."

She said the decision had not deterred Gomeroi elders from continuing to seek protection for the area, and the group, which represents more than 600 Gomeroi people and 31 Aboriginal nations, had made a new application to the Environment Minister to protect the area's sacred sites.

"If this mega-mine proceeds, our interlinked sacred places will be completely destroyed and obliterated from the landscape."

Ms Talbott said there is "an urgent need" to protect places of significance to Aboriginal people, especially following the destruction of the Juukan caves by mining giant Rio Tinto earlier this year.

A spokesman for Minister Ley said the ruling confirms her decision was made in accordance with the provisions of the act and has already announced her intention "to commence a national engagement process for modernising the protection of Indigenous cultural heritage, commencing with a round table meeting of state Indigenous and environment ministers."

The meeting will be jointly chaired by Minister Ley and the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.


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