Showing posts with label traditional owners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label traditional owners. Show all posts

Friday, 17 July 2020

Will U.K. based multinational mining corporation Rio Tinto Ltd be stripped of its status as a human rights leader following its destruction of an Aboriginal sacred site showing evidence of 46,000 years of human habitation?

"The fact that nearly half of the companies assessed (49%) score 0 across all indicators related to the process of human rights due diligence is particularly alarming. These indicators focus on the specific systems the company has in place to ensure that due diligence processes are implemented to assess the real-time risks to human rights that the company poses, to act on these findings so as to prevent and mitigate the impacts, and to track and communicate those actions. Human rights due diligence is a fundamental expectation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The three companies that top the 2019 ranking (Adidas, Rio Tinto and Unilever) all score full points on the human rights due diligence indicators...Eleven [of the 56 extractive] companies score above 50%, with Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Freeport McMoRan and Repsol in the highest scoring band of 70-80%" [Corporate Human Rights Benchmark 2019 Key Findings]

The New York Times, 8 July 2020:

MELBOURNE — Aboriginal and human rights groups on Thursday called for miner Rio Tinto Ltd to be stripped of its status as a human rights leader following its destruction of an Aboriginal sacred site showing evidence of 46,000 years of human habitation. 

With state government approval, the world's biggest iron ore miner in May destroyed two sacred caves in the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia as part of a mine expansion. 

 Rio's response to blowing up the caves was "far from adequate", 35 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and human rights groups said in a letter requesting the miner be suspended from the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB). 

Netherlands-based CHRB is a public benchmark of corporate human rights performance. 

It lists Rio as the highest ranked extractives company globally on human rights issues, with a score in the second highest possible band.  

"We are calling on the Benchmark to ensure that the company's human rights ranking reflects the reality for people here on the ground," said Wayne Bergmann, a Kimberley Aboriginal leader and chief executive of Aboriginal charitable trust KRED. 

Rio apologised for the distress it caused to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and launched an independent investigation into how the destruction occurred.

Thursday's letter disputed Rio's explanation of the incident as a "misunderstanding", saying that the indigenous land owners had brought to Rio's attention on several occasions the archaeological and ethnographic significance of the site. 

Rio declined to comment on the letter......

Prior to the November release of its Corporate Human Rights Benchmark 2020 CHRB issued this:

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), media release, 9 July 2020: 

Due to the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site by Rio Tinto at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia on 24 May 2020, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) have decided to append this statement to Rio Tinto’s latest CHRB results. 

It would be inappropriate for CHRB to continue to assess and rank Rio Tinto in one of the highest-scoring bands and as the top mining company without reference to this incident. 

The CHRB seeks to provide robust and credible information on companies’ actions to respect human rights across their business, and it would be misleading not to reference this severe impact as a complement to the latest results. 

The statement appears in the homepage banding table, in the company's latest scorecard and in the latest overall dataset.

"It would be inappropriate for CHRB to continue to assess and rank Rio Tinto in one of the highest-scoring bands and as the top mining company without reference to this incident....The severity of the impact and the context in which it took place, including the process that led to it and allegations of other similar impacts involving the company, raise concerns that go beyond this specific incident and point to possibly more systemic weaknesses in the company’s approach to human rights." [CHRB response to the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site by RioTinto at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia on 24 May 2020]


Hopefully this statement means that Rio Tinto Ltd will get more than a small red flag next to its ranking with a brief one line explanation for ongoing human rights issues, such as was afforded to another extractive industry high flyer, BHP Billiton.


ABC News, 5 June 2020:

Mining giant Rio Tinto was alerted six years ago that at least one of the caves it blasted in Western Australia's Pilbara region last month was of "the highest archaeological significance in Australia".  

Advice delivered to Rio Tinto and the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Indigenous people of the region six years ago was never publicly released. The ABC has been given a summary of the contents of the report, as well as earlier archaeological survey work and excavations at the sites dating back to 2004. 

The documentation of the 2014 report by archaeologist Dr Michael Slack confirmed one of the sites that was blasted, the Juukan-2 (Brock-21) cave, was rare in Australia and unique in the Pilbara. 

"The site was found to contain a cultural sequence spanning over 40,000 years, with a high frequency of flaked stone artefacts, rare abundance of faunal remains, unique stone tools, preserved human hair and with sediment containing a pollen record charting thousands of years of environmental changes," 

Dr Slack wrote. "In many of these respects, the site is the only one in the Pilbara to contain such aspects of material culture and provide a likely strong connection through DNA analysis to the contemporary traditional owners of such old Pleistocene antiquity."....

Before and After
Juukan Gorge caves, BBC News, 31 May 2020

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

"An infamous federal government bureaucrat at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in the ABC’s history – a fraudulent story which sparked the multi-billion dollar Northern Territory intervention – has been promoted to serve as Australia’s High Commissioner to Ghana."

New Matilda, 28 June 2020:

An infamous federal government bureaucrat at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in the ABC’s history – a fraudulent story which sparked the multi-billion dollar Northern Territory intervention – has been promoted to serve as Australia’s High Commissioner to Ghana.

Gregory Andrews was working as a senior adviser to Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough in 2006 when he appeared as the star witness in an ABC Lateline story which falsely described him as an ‘anonymous youth worker’.
Andrews – whose face was filmed in shadow and his voice digitized to hide his identity – wept openly on camera as he described how, in the mid-2000s, he reported incidents of sexual violence against women and children in Mutitjulu to police, but withdrew his statements after being threatened by powerful men in the community.
It subsequently emerged the entire story was a fiction – Andrews had never made a single report of violence against women or children to police.
Andrews was also forced to apologise to the Federal Senate for providing misleading testimony, and later became the first public servant in history to avoid appearing before a Senate Inquiry on the grounds of stress.
The day after the ABC story was broadcast, the Northern Territory government announced a high-level inquiry into the claims. Almost a year later, the resulting reporting – Little Children Are Sacred – was used by the Howard Government as the basis for launching the Northern Territory intervention.

Infamous Canberra bureaucrat, Gregory Andrews, pictured in 2017.

Reporting by Fairfax revealed that shortly before Prime Minister John Howard announced the NT intervention, it received a report from Liberal Party polling firm Crosby Textor advising it that its best chance of winning the 2007 election was to intervene in the affairs of the state and territory governments, to try and make them look incompetent (all state and territory governments at the time were controlled by Labor).
The strategy failed – the Howard government lost the election, with former Foreign Affairs minister Alexander Downer lamenting afterwards that despite the loss, the policy proved popular with Australian voters.
Andrews worked in the community of Mutitjulu for a short period in 2005 as a project manager for the Northern Territory government. He subsequently joined the Department of Families and Community Services, Housing and Indigenous Affairs, and was providing advice directly to Minister Brough when the ABC falsely described him as an ‘anonymous youth worker’.
Talking points which had been prepared by Andrews for the minister prior to his appearance on Lateline were subsequently leaked – they revealed that once Andrews was provided anonymity by Lateline, he grossly embellished his story.
Andrews claimed children were being traded between Aboriginal communities in Central Australia as “sex slaves”. A lengthy investigation by Northern Territory police found “no evidence whatsoever” to support the claims. An Australian Crime Commission investigation also found the allegations to be false.....
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Time to fight for the forests in New South Wales

In the 2019-20 bushfire season wild fires ravaged forests across New South Wales.

The 100km deep coastal zone running the length of the state was particularly hard hit, but Nambucca State Forest was spared and is a critical refuge for unique wildlife still struggling after those fires.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 1 May 2020 that; Government logging has resumed in fire-damaged forests in NSW despite warnings that devastated bushland and endangered wildlife are too fragile to withstand further disruption.....about 92 per cent of the area set for logging was burnt in the fires.

On the morning of Friday 15 May 2020, Gumbaynggirr Traditional Owners and the Nambucca community peacefully demonstrated outside the forest and successfully stopped the NSW Forestry Corporation logging for the day. 

This forest is one of the few remaining patches of unburnt koala habitat and critical refuge for wildlife after the recent bushfire season. 

Community action brought a welcome reprieve but the fight is just beginning. 

The people of New South Wales still need to make sure Nambucca State Forest is kept safe for good. 

Support the Gumbaynggirr Traditional Owners on the frontline by calling on your MP to take urgent action to stop this logging destruction.

Join the fight and email your own state MP to save Nambucca and all native forests from the chopping block.

If you live in the Oxley state electorate make sure to email local Nationals MP Melinda Pavey at

At 10am on Tuesday 19 May 2019 logging trucks again entered one of the few unburnt refuges in Nambucca State Forest at Jack Ridge Road, Nambucca. If you live in the region now is the time to protest legally along boundaries of this forest at logging road entrances.

The 'Protect Nambucca Heads State Forest' group have put out a call for assistance.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

And now for some good news......

Gayini* (formerly Nimmie-Caira), a property totalling 88,000 hectares of NSW wetland on the Murrumbidgee floodplain was handed back to the Nari Nari people on 20 March 2020. 

Gayini is now legally owned by the Nari Nari people who have been its spiritual custodians for at least 50,000 years. 

Gayini is an amalgamation of 19 parcels of land that were purchased in 2013 for $180 million under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan water buyback scheme. 

This property has been co-managed by the Nari Nari Tribal Council since May 2018 as part of a consortium including The Nature Conservancy, the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group and the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW. 

The handback was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and made possible through co-funding from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation and The Wyss Foundation Campaign for Nature.

There are around 2,000 cultural sites on the property including burial sites, middens and camp sites.

* Gayini is the Nari Nari word for water.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Quote of the Week

“First Nations children account for almost 90 per cent of the suicides of children aged 14 and younger. The nation should weep.”  [National Critical Response Trauma Recovery Project Co-Ordinator Gerry Georgatos writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 2019]

Monday, 23 July 2018

One of the reasons why local government, traditional owners and communities in the Clarence Valley should be very wary of home-grown and foreign lobbyists, investment consortiums and land developers – Part Three

In July 2018 the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) continues to hear evidence in Operation Skyline.

An organisation called United Land Councils Limited was mentioned as allegedly sending its then sole director Richard Green around New South Wales to talk with local aboriginal land councils concerning certain proposals.

These trips appear to have commenced sometime in 2015.

At least one trip taken in 2016 by Mr. Green was to Yamba in the Clarence Valley, allegedly at the behest of Nicholas Petroulias.

The subject of the alleged discussion/s with the Yaegl community in Yamba was the creation of a large port in the Clarence River estuary.

It shoud be noted that by July 2016 Yaegl elders and the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation were strongly opposed to a mega port being created in the estuary.

Mainstream media has been following current events as they unfolded.....

The Daily Telegraph, 13 July 2018:

AUSTRALIA’S youngest ever tax chief is behind bars after ­allegedly being caught with a wallet full of counterfeit cash, bank cards in different names and dodgy driver’s licences.

Nick Petroulias, once the nation’s second most powerful tax official, appeared before Burwood Local Court as Michael Nicholas Felson earlier this week having been pulled over by police while driving his luxury black BMW X5.

When the officers stopped him in inner-west Sydney on June 20, the 50-year-old is alleged to have handed them a current New Zealand driver’s licence in the name of another alias, Nicholas James Piers.

Police will allege that inquiries revealed Piers was a permanent resident of Australia and allegedly had a number of aliases including Nick Petersen, Michael Felson as well as his real name — Nick Petroulias.

Under his various aliases he is alleged to have held one NSW driver’s licence, three Queensland licences, one from Victoria and another from Tasmania, only two of which were current. He has not been charged over those licences.

Once a Melbourne legal whiz-kid, Petroulias (pictured left) was made assistant commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office at the age of 30. In 2014 he was declared bankrupt with eye-watering estimated debts of $104 million.

On Tuesday he appeared in court via videolink from Silverwater Jail dressed in prison greens as he used his fingers to flatten the “comb-over” hiding his bald head.

Court documents show he has pleaded not guilty to knowingly possessing seven counterfeit Australian $50 bank notes and two counts of possessing bank cards with the intention of committing fraud. He was refused police bail on June 20 and refused bail in Burwood Local Court the next day.

His case has been adjourned to August 14 when the court was told he will make a fresh bail application.

Newcastle Herald, 17 July 2018:

A member of the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council has admitted to giving false evidence to the Independent Commission against Corruption and disobeying orders not to discuss its inquiry with other potential witnesses, after an intercepted phone call was played in which he told former tax official Nick Petroulias about an inquiry into land deals with which the pair were involved.

But Richard Green, former deputy chair of Awabakal, denied he was “tipping off” Mr Petroulias about the ICAC inquiry.

He was reprimanded by Commissioner Peter Hall QC for failing to answer questions directly.

“Mr Green if you're going to obstruct this commission you could be putting yourself into real trouble,” Commissioner Hall said.

On Monday, Mr Green was questioned about whether he spoke to anyone after receiving a summons from the ICAC in January, telling him he would be required to appear before its Operation Skyline public hearings and warning him not to discuss the matter with any other person.

When pressed by counsel assisting the commission, Nicholas Chen SC, Mr Green admitted he had a brief conversation with Mr Petroulias about the summons, but said it was because he had not read the warning contained within the letter.

However minutes later, a phone intercept was played where Mr Green was heard to read the contents of the letter to Mr Petroulias, including the direction to keep the summons confidential.

“That was contrary to the clear and express statement of what you were not permitted to do. Isn't that right?” Mr Chen said. “What's your excuse, Mr Green, for doing that?”

“Like I said before I don't – I haven't got an excuse,” Mr Green responded.

The inquiry heard that Mr Petroulias is in custody on unrelated charges. 

The former tax office high flyer is accused of playing a "central role" in four deals to sell off Awabakal land. The ICAC is investigating whether the deals were a sham to benefit Mr Petroulias, his lawyer partner Despina Bakis, and Awabakal board members Mr Green and Debbie Dates.

Mr Green conceded that his signature appeared on a number of the sales agreements. However he insisted he could not read well and had not read through documents when they were given to him to sign by either Mr Petroulias or Ms Bakis.
He could not explain why he signed the documents without telling other board members about them, despite board approval being a requirement of land sales. He agreed his behaviour was "reckless in the extreme" but denied he benefited financially from it.

"When you've got a person acting like Nick you take notice of them," he said. "And I keep saying over and over if people understand how Aboriginal land councils function they will understand what I'm talking about.''

Newcastle Herald, 19 July 2018:

Luxury cars, gold jewellery, and Foxtel subscriptions were among the items that Richard Green bought with money disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias provided to him, allegedly for helping facilitate the sale of Aboriginal-owned land in the Lower Hunter.  

The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard on Wednesday that Mr Green, a former land council board member, is alleged to have received an estimated $145,000 between 2014 and 2016 for his personal benefit from Mr Petroulias. 

The money was received via several bank and credit card accounts that were operated in Mr Green’s name, but which appear to have been opened on behalf of him by Mr Petroulias. 

Mr Green appeared confused when presented with statements from some of the accounts and denied any prior knowledge of others. 

The commission is investigating whether a series of deals to sell Awabakal land to developers were a “ruse” to benefit former board members Richard Green or Debbie Dates.

It is also probing whether the first of the deals was a sham set up by Mr Petroulias – using a company he allegedly controlled called Gows Heat – so he could on-sell his interests to other buyers. 


25 September 2016 What's in a name?