The Great Aluminium Robbery, RTZ and
By Janine Roberts - >
Click to return to
the Aboriginal Australia Room.
It is a misfortune of many
Aboriginal communities living along the northern coast of Australia
that their hunting and gathering grounds are underlain by hundreds of
square miles of bauxite rich clays, the source for aluminium.
Aluminium is one of the most commen elements in the earth's crust.
Companies thus mine it only where land is the cheapest and where
ships can take it out bulk. Aboriginal land was the cheapest.
The companies could take it without paying
the Aborgines for it. British company RTZ now controls a one thousand
square mile, (2,590 sq. Km) mining lease over lands that were once
the largest Aboriginal Reserve in Eastern Australia - lands where
Aboriginal people still live and were hunting and gathering. RTZ took
possession of this in the 1950s from Aboriginal tribess that still
spoke their own languages , still had all their culture intact.P>
The Aboriginal people in the 1990s still hunt and gather on lands
adjacent to the mine, they still struggle to keep their culture, to
survive. They are bitterly fighting plans of RTZ's to further expand
.Albert Chavathun, a Wik elder whose land
has been claimed by RTZ but not immediately mine said:
"They never asked us for this land. This is
our forefather's land... we cannot give away our land. It is not well
for this country to be destroyed and given away... we are trying to
save this country for our children to help them stand firm and
strong. No we do not want the money, we do not want jobs, we do not
want companies to take our land. All our children look very healthy
here. They don't just live on store tucker - we have our own food out
in the bush. If our country is destroyed there will be no hunting
places left. We don't want any mining.I speak on behalf of all my
Mabel Pamulkan, another Wik elder whose
land has been taken by RTZ, said "From
generation to generation it will be our land. God has given it to us.
We thank those that stand behind us for our land."
Elder and Justice of the Peace, Joyce
Hall, stated under oath in court in 1980 and in tears that when the
mining company came into her land, it had bulldozed an Aboriginal
cemetary burning the Aboriginal corpses with the trees it cleared.
The company did not contest her evidence. No compensation has been
paid, no apology given.
In January 1996 the Australian Federal
Court ruled that the Wik people retained no native title rights -
that all their rights to their tribal lands had been extinguished
when the Crown, the Australian Authorities awarded mining or pastoral
leases to white people over it.
Mick Dodson, the social justice
Commissioner with the Federal Government's Human Rights Commission,
said the decision proved that there was still no justice for
Aboriginal people in Australia. "It is not going to bring land
justice back to the Wik people. The people who invaded it and
colonised it always use their law to justify the theft of Aboriginal
land. Nothing's changed."
RTZ, through their local company Comalco
welcomed the legal decision saying it had "resolved the fundamental
issues of law involved in the claim (of the Aboriginal people for
compensation and rights).
But then the Wik won the famous Wik
decsion recovering some of their land rights over pastoral lands! The
story goes on.
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