Nyikina Traditional Owners have taken their complaint to the top and written to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples about the unauthorised clearing that occurred on Yakka Munga Station earlier this month.
The Special Rapporteur, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, was sent a letter from Traditional Owners Rosita Shaw and Wayne Bergmann last Friday June 21 describing a breach of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The letter said Article 32 of the Declaration has been breached and asked for the UN to intervene on the “large-scale, high-impact development on the traditional land of the Nyikina Mangala People.”
Article 32 outlines that Indigenous people have the right to determine priorities or strategies for development or use of their lands, that states must consult in good faith, and that states will provide fair redress should any adverse impacts occur from such activities.
Shanghai Zenith, the Australian arm of Shanghai CRED, breached the Yakka Munga Station and Nyikina Mangala Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) by failing to engage in good faith negotiations with Nyikina native title representative body Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation before any ground-disturbing works took place.
It was also revealed last week that the company had not been granted a clearing permit by the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
The Department issued Shanghai Zenith a stop work order, citing a breach of section 51C of the Act, saying that the clearing was unauthorised and that any unlawful clearing by the company should be stopped.
This comes after a group of Nyikina Traditional Owners came together to protest the clearing at the entrance of Yakka Munga station last Wednesday morning – blocking the gate and refusing entry onto the property to clearing workers.
“The only time they’ve stopped [clearing] is when we blocked them out. It’s just really terrible what they’re doing,” Traditional Owner Rosita Shaw said.
Traditional Owners Martina Watson and Lasharne Shaw are concerned for future generations if Nyikina land continues to be cleared.
“Everywhere we go it’s our food source, our knowledge, our past, our present and our future,” said Ms Watson.
“It’s upsetting because if they continue doing that sort of thing [clearing], we’ll have nothing left for our children, to show our children,” Ms Shaw said.
It has also been discovered that boab trees, sacred to the Nyikina people, had been bulldozed despite reassurance they would remain standing.
Senior Nyikina Traditional Owner Annie Milgin spoke to Ms Shaw and Mr Bergmann about Nyikina country, saying the trees are home to spirits that come up from the roots and see out from the flowering trees.
“You got all the rai people … they look after outside,” Ms Milgin said.
Ms Milgin said she will warn mining companies about the bad luck that can come from bulldozing trees that house spirits.
By Hannah Cross