The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation released this statement on February 13.
On February 12, Federal Court Justice Neil McKerracher handed down a decision that validated the vote of the Yindjibarndi people to authorise a new and unified applicant group of 12 Yindjibarndi men and women to run the Yindjibarndi #1 claim — this includes the area of vacant crown land where [Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s] Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) is developing the Solomon Hub and “Firetail” mine.
The conditions that were attached to the authorization means that these applicants must also act in concert with the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC), and get YAC’s written consent for any agreement that affects the claim area.
In essence Justice McKerracher said that the YAC conducted an orderly authorisation meeting, which was supported by thorough genealogies, an independent chair, fair opportunity for the participation of all members and their legal representatives and a video recording of the entire meeting that demonstrated such.
Justice McKerracher said he was most mindful to ensure the Yindjibarndi #1 claim can now be progressed in a well-ordered and efficient manner, and concluded that the appointment of the new 12-member applicant, elected by the majority of Yindjibarndi people on March 24, last year, would achieve this end.
The new applicant group of six men and six women unequivocally supports the YAC as the chosen representative institution and Prescribed Body Corporate for the Yindjibarndi People.
They applaud YAC for not caving in to the “divide and conquer” campaign of FMG, and for rejecting the land access agreement proposed by FMG, whose terms are ten-fold poorer than industry standards established by FMG’s resource sector peers — and which have been roundly condemned, not least by lawyers and consultants paid by FMG.
The effect of this decision is that the division sponsored by FMG in the original applicant group, for the purpose of tying up all Yindjibarndi native title in a land access agreement, is finished — because that applicant group is dissolved by order of the court.
The two women applicants on the FMG side of the division, who challenged the majority vote of the March 24 meeting, and sought to remove the other five members of the original applicant group (including centenarian Ned Cheedy), can no longer be used by FMG to obstruct the YAC in making decisions for the Yindjibarndi #1 Claim.
If FMG wants a land access agreement over any part of that area, it must now deal with YAC.