Straddie: miners & government ‘tore out his guts, stole his rich grains of sand’

But Minjerriba’s back is now broken;
Men came and tore out his guts;
Stole his rich grains of sand,
Stripped his cloak of cyprus and gum,
Drained water from his ageless eyes
And weakened this giant in the sun.
— from ‘Minjeribah’ by Oodgeroo Nunuccal

Socialist Alliance and Greens join forces on UQ campus

The combined strength of these two groups was evidenced at a forum at University of Qld UQ on Thursday afternoon 18 Aug 2010 about sand mining on Stradbroke Island. The forum was led by the Quandamooka representative, Dale Ruska.

Dale gave a detailed historical look at the generations of Quandamooka people who have been involved in trying to stop sand mining on their land.

Sandmining on Straddie started in post War World II period of capitalist development in Queensland along with many other mining ventures that are killing the land and slowly destroying indigenous people’s connection to the land — something so dear to their culture that it has led the Qunadamooka people to refuse bribes from the state government to give up their land to further exploitation..

Not a single political party in Queensland supports ecologically sustainable development.

To understand this term we need to respect the land. Indigenous poet Oodgeroo (Kath Walker) taught both Quandamooka and whitefellas the importance of respect for land, flora, fauna and culture. She taught me and others this when we visited her camp at Moongalba in the early 1970s  on this ancient sand island.

Dale Ruska told the audience of students, staff, an indigenous visitor from New Zealand, a Green politician and political activists that Minjerriba (Stradbroke Island) is the ancient land of the Nunuccal, Goenpul and Nuigi people.

Dale said that the Quandamooka claim was the third cab off the rank for native title after Mabo and Wik claims were lodged in the early 1990s under native Title legislation introduced by the Keating Labor government.

Dale said that there were 48 interest groups that registered claims against the native title claim by the Quandamooka people.

Native Ttile law requires that all these intersts be satisfied through negotiation. This included whitefellas with Mining leases, fishing licences and Oyster leases. One mining lease (No 7064) was that of ACI (formerly a glass manufacturer at South Brisbane) now taken over by UNIMIN (a Belgian company). This led the state government to make a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offer to the Quandamooka people of $450K pa and traineeships in exchange for land.

Dale Ruska refused the offer because it meant the extinguishment of Quandamooka sovereign rights to the land and a breaking of the cultural connection with the land that goes back millennia.

Oodgeroo Nunuccal taught her people to look up for a bright new day but a stalemate has been produced by the Quandamooka refusal to succumb to stark greed by miners and bribes from government over may years.

In 1997 a small group of Aboriginal people on Minjerriba (Straddie) began a campaign to stop sand mining.

Dale said that awareness was raised about 3 years ago when CRL held leases (now bought by UNIMIN) that it wished to extend its licence so that it could extract construction sand. This required a permit to sell the sand that was previously restricted to extraction for its mineral properties i.e. sand rutile it used in the production of zircon, titanium and silica. Sand is comprised mainly of silicon di-oxide (SiO2) which is used in the production of photovoltaics, which involves converting light into electrical energy through a solar cell.*

The CRL/UNIMIN interest was to extract the sand ‘under the table’ solely for construction — an extractionit had been invlved in since the 1990s (at leaast).

Last year UNIMIN sought to legalise its unlawful activities in the Supreme Court of Qld.

It failed.

Nevertheless the government was implicated in the unlawful activity by taking royalties for the extraction. At its peak, the mining consortium had 300 trucks per day exporting the sand. The Supreme Court found that the companies had been in breach of the Mineral Resources Act 1989 The companies appealed the decision to the Qld Court of Appeal. Their appeal was rejected.

Furthermore it was revealed that sand extraction had been performed on a lease called ‘Vance’. However the lease expired three years ago. Green groups estimate that $80M worth of sand had been illegally transported to the mainland to be used in construction. Yet the government has treated this as a simple offence. Dale Ruska argues that it should be an indictable offence because of the size and contempt shown to the Quandamooka people by miners and government.

Dale challenged the common law. He argued that the claim of terra nullius made by early colonial administrations was invalid. There has been no treaty with the first nation people; there was either conquest or the use of common law to overcome the sovereign rights of the Quandamooka people.

Dale and others have fought this battle for a long time on behalf of their people. His mother Donna Ruska fought back in the days that Oodgeroo was alive. Donna Ruska was at the Aboriginal tent embassy set up in Canberra in the early 1970s. Her bloodline line goes back through both Goenpul and Nunuccal people.

There are 12 clans still living on Minjerriba. The Native title process set up by the Keating labor government in the early 1990s and followed by subsequent governments of all persuasions has managed to whittle away the historic claims using anthropology so that only 1 clan of the 12 has established ongoing connection with the land of Minjerriba, 2 of the 12 have established connection with Moreton and the other 9 have been said to have only an ‘historic’ connection with the land. The same treatment was given to the Yorta Yorta people when the word of my great grandfather,  Edward M. Curr was used by the judges to reject their claim in the High Court of Australia.**

Native title was designed to extinguish land rights and to permit mining and destruction of the ecology of Straddie. You can listen to what Dale said yourself.

There were two other speakers at the forum. Ewan Saunders spoke for the Socialist Alliance and Larissa Waters spoke for the Greens. They are both candidates in the coming federal election this Saturday. Larissa is a lawyer who works for QLD Department of Environment and Resource Management [DERM (formerly the Environmental Protection Agency for Qld)].  Larissa said that the state labor government is intending to extend the sand mining leases on Straddie out to 2027. So contrary to the announcements made by the premier Bligh it is Labor’s intention to further the destruction of the island and its people over a longer period.

Larissa called for the use of federal powers to stop sand mining in much the same way they were used stop sand mining on Fraser Island. This was done by the use of the regulations under the Customs Act. This prevented the Bjelke Peterson government in Qld from mining more sand on the largest sand island in the world. Ewan Saunders said that the Socialist Alliance supported the claims made by Dale Ruska on behalf of the Quandamooka people and said that both the Socialist Alliance and the Greens would work together on this issue. The meeting was chaired by Dominic Hale, a UQ student and member of the Socialist Alliance, who pointed out that the only difference between the Greens and the Socialist Alliance was that the socialists had an unambiguous opposition to capitalism.

Questions were taken.

A New Zealand Maori alluded to the treaty of Waitangi and to the use of international law to protect the sovereign rights of the Maori people. Dales Ruska pointed out that his people would be doing the same and referred to the recent UN proclamation of the rights of indigenous people which Australian government is a signatory to.

Dale mentioned that there would be a demonstration outside the Magistrates courts in George Street Brisbane at 10am on 7th September 2010 to put pressure on the government to prosecute UNIMIN for its unlawful sand mining.

Ian Curr
August 2010

* This was the subject of most prestigious awards in Australian science this year, the Eureka Award that went to a Professor Green, a pioneer in photovoltaics research for more than 30 years, holding the world record for silicon cell efficiency almost continuously over this period, including the present record of 25% — a level of efficiency long believed to be impossible


SIMO Newsletter winter 2010

** Recollections of Squatting in Victoria.

Yorta Yorta case.


Joint statement by Greens and Socialist Allliance

Support a local Aboriginal Rights Campaign!

The Native Title claim of the Nuigi, Nunuccal, and Goenpul people of Morteon Bay (Quandamooka people) is the longest outstanding Native Title claim in Australia, originally lodged in 1994.

Since then, much of the land belonging to the Quandamooka people has been despoiled by unlawful sand mining, four wheel driving and real estate development.

Earlier this year, mineral and sand minig firm, UNIMIN was charged by the QLD Department of Environment and Resource Management.

The QLD government is cynically trying to appear to be doing something while in fact protecting the interest of UNIMIN.

Premier Anna Bligh made a statement on June 20 titled “Mining Ends on North Stradbroke”, hiding the fact that the QLD government is renewing mining lisences to allow sand thief UNIMIN to continue operating at the large Vance mine until 2027, destroying Straddies beautiful landscape, before declaring it a National Park.
The statement also incorrectly claims that the Quandamooka people hold Native Title and support the QLD governments proposals through an Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

Why has there been a 16 year delay in processing the Quandamooka people’s Native Title claim, at the same time protecting mining interests?

Is Anna Bligh dangling the carrot of Native Title in order to pressure the Quandamooka people to follow the QLD governments proposals?

Why support mining in a proposed National Park?


Dale Ruska, Community spokesperson for the Quandamooka people

Larissa Waters: Lead Senate candidate for The Greens in this year’s federal election.
Ewan Saunders:
Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Brisbane in this year’s federal election

Contact Dom 0431 638 772

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