Youth Verdict’s historic climate and human rights challenge to Palmer’s Galilee Coal begins

Youth Verdict

The opening arguments in Youth Verdict’s critical human rights and climate change legal challenge to Clive Palmer’s proposed Galilee Coal Project will be heard today in the Queensland Land Court in Brisbane.

Youth Verdict’s First Nations-led argument is the first time a coal mine has been challenged on the grounds of human rights violations in Australia.

Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, Youth Verdict and The Bimblebox Alliance, will argue burning coal from the mine will impact the cultural rights of First Nations Peoples by further contributing to adverse climate change. They will also argue the mine would destroy the Bimblebox Nature Refuge in the proposed site.

In a legal first, First Nations people in Gimuy (Cairns) and the Torres Strait Islands of Erub and Poruma will give evidence to the Land Court ‘on Country’ and in accordance with First Nations protocols.

Witnesses will deliver compelling evidence that the Mining Lease and Environmental Approval for the mine should be refused due to its severe impacts on the environment, its contribution to run-away climate change, and the profound effects this will have on the human rights of First Nations and young people.

Murrawah Johnson, Co-Director of Youth Verdict and First Nations Campaign lead said:

“First Nations peoples and our cultural rights are barely addressed in policies on climate change.

“To truly address the climate crisis, the first hand experiences of First Nations need to urgently be heard and acted upon.

“First Nations people know what’s best for their Country through their deep and abiding knowledge of Country. They know what will sustain their futures and carry on their cultures.”

“That’s why we’re here today. To make sure the Land Court and Waratah Coal are listening to the lived reality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are experiencing the detrimental impacts of fossil fuel induced climate change right now.

“Our First Nations witnesses will be sharing cultural knowledge and expertise of Country and climate that has been passed down for thousands of generations to demonstrate how global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is having profound impacts on their ability to exercise their rights to practice their culture and sustain their livelihoods.

“First Nation’s Cultural rights are supported under the Queensland Human Rights Act and will be argued for the first time in Australia as grounds to reject the mining lease and environmental approval applications for a new coal mine.

“We are taking this case against Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine because climate change threatens all of our futures. For First Nations peoples, climate change is taking away our connection to Country and robbing us of our cultures which are grounded in our relationship to our homelands.

“Climate change will prevent us from educating our young people in their responsibilities to protect Country and deny them their birth rights to their cultures, law, lands and waters.

“Our governments refuse to commit to stopping new coal mines despite the fact that we are running out of time for urgent climate action. So we have stepped up to challenge Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine.

“If the Queensland Government were actually concerned about promoting and protecting human rights they would not be letting Palmer’s mine go ahead.”

Sharyn Munro, spokesperson for The Bimblebox Alliance said:

“The Bimblebox Alliance is taking this action to defend the Bimblebox Nature Refuge. The idea that a coal mining exploration permit can be given out over a nature refuge is unthinkable. It throws into question the entire nature refuge program and the legal agreements that underpin it.

“It’s now more important than ever that Bimblebox be protected, as it was agreed to be. In perpetuity.”

Sean Ryan, EDO Managing Lawyer said:

“This is the first time a coal mine has been challenged on human rights grounds in Australia.

“The case unites First Nations people (through Youth Verdict Ltd) and rural landowners (through The Bimblebox Alliance Inc) as they defend the places they love from Clive Palmer’s climate polluting coal mine.”

“Under Queensland law, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a right to practice and enjoy their culture.

“All cultures are under threat from climate change, but particularly those cultures that have maintained a strong connection to the land and water, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. With its emissions, this coal mine would worsen climate change impacts on culture.

“Our clients will also argue against the direct destruction of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge by the mine.

“Clive Palmer’s coal mine would undermine and destroy this quintessential Australian bush to exploit the coal that will pollute our climate and offend basic human dignities.

“In a long overdue step for environmental litigation in Australia, the Land Court will follow First Nations protocols throughout the hearing. These protocols accept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of communicating and provide a more respectful system for First Nation witnesses to be heard in Court.”

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