WA indigenous land rights failing: expert

A professor from the Australian National University has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) and the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal community in Western Australia.

Professor Jon Altman, an expert in native title rights and compensation told WA Today professional advice and support is needed for indigenous communities negotiating with mining companies.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s company FMG, wants to mine part of the land owned by the Yindjbarndi people, but they say they want more compensation than the $10 million per year being offered for part of their land.

A small breakaway group is in support of FMG’s offer, but Altman told WA Today most of the population would not be educated about the socio-economic impact of mining on their land.

"I believe we are failing indigenous Australians," he said.

"What is a multi-billionaire company doing negotiating directly with these people? We’re talking about people who are in general, poor and marginalised and often neglected by the state.

"They’re being offered these employment opportunities and income by a corporate giant and they are not in a position, in my view, to make a fully-informed decision.

"They need expert advice and they should not be in positions of direct negotiations."

He said the federal government needs to work on a streamlined approach to the negotiation process for all states.

In the Northern Territory and Queensland there is an intermediary body involved in the negotiations, but in Western Australia indigenous people must negotiate themselves, Altman said.

"This would never happen in the Northern Territory," he said.

"Why should Aboriginal people in the Pilbara have second-class negotiation rights compared to Aboriginal people across the board."

To view the full article in WA Today, click here.

Image: Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation

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