Today the Federal Court of Australia will hear the case from Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners who oppose the Adani Carmichael mine development on their lands.
Adrian Burragubba and Wangan and Jagalingou community members represented by the W&J Council have been challenging the Adani mine for four years through the courts and were almost prevented from having their current appeal heard because of the huge financial barriers to people seeking to hold corporations accountable in Australian courts.
“The story of the Wangan and Jagalingou community and Adani is part of a broader story in Australia, where many First Nations communities are prevented from accessing their rights because of the huge expense involved in bringing important public interest cases to court, and the massive imbalance in financial means between these communities and the corporations they are seeking to hold accountable under the bright lights of court,” said Isabelle Reinecke, Founder and Executive Director of the Grata Fund.
Upon application for hearing the appeal in the Full Federal Court, Justice Robertson said he believed Mr Burragubba and his co-plaintiffs do have a case to be heard. Despite this, Adani asked the court for a guillotine order forcing Adrian and his co-plaintiffs to provide $160,000 as surety before the case was heard. Justice Roberts reduced this and ordered the five appellents pay $50,000 into court within a matter of weeks or drop the appeal. Still too much for the community to cover alone, Grata Fund was able to step in and provide the $50,000 required within hours of the deadline.
According to the Public Interest Litigation Clearing House (now JusticeConnect) 9 out of 10 meritorious public interest cases don’t reach the courts because of financial barriers caused by the risk of adverse costs orders.
Isabelle Reineceke said “Mr Burrgubba and Wangan and Jagalingou community members have a legitimate legal question about Native Title that must be heard and resolved in the courts.”
“Whatever the outcome of the case, Australians are becoming more and more frustrated by the unequal power of government and corporations on our democracy. Laws about costs need to be changed so that First Nations communities and most other regular people who do not have big bank accounts can access their rights and hold corporate power accountable,” said Isabelle Reinecke.
The case will be heard at the Full Bench of Federal Court 27-28 May.
Media contact: Belinda Lowe 0428 805 696