Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How the West Was Won

I should be working but have spent most of the morning transfixed by footage of a meeting between the richest man in Australia, his lawyers and the Yindjibardi people of Australia's north west. Twiggy wants their land ... but only for the next few generations or until the iron ore runs out.

When the Yindjibarndi people began to prove difficult, citing the proposed agreement as unequitable and offensive, FMG called a Native Title meeting and stacked it with a paid, voting splinter group. FMG also paid the lawyer representing the splinter group. This lawyer chaired the meeting when an independant native title chairman walked out.

A public discrediting of traditional owners' Native Title testimonies followed, including that of a 105 year old man who was present. One agenda motion called for the dissenting claimants (four out of the seven) to be removed from the entire decision-making and voting process.

The footage of this meeting gets more and more appalling. I have never seen anything like it. Thank goodness it was filmed. This is the real, dirty face of Western Australia's 'resources boom.'
You can find the video and more information about the Yindjibarndi people's fight here.

Note for today: Vimeo pulled the video last night, saying they'd been contacted by FMG lawyers concerning defammatory and misleading statements about the FMG CEO ... but if you follow the link above, you can still see it streaming on You Tube. To read the YAC response to this situation, go here. 
For Crikey's article on the FMG public relations officer's overnight editing of Wikipedia pages, go here.

Image: Fortescue Metals Group's Andrew 'Twiggy' Forest and  Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation CEO  Michael Woodley. 


  1. I'll watch the video later tonight, Sarah - if I can face it. Sometimes, 'c***' is the only word strong enough to use against some people.

  2. Appalling and bloody typical. Anyway - who the fuck is enjoying this resources boom. The divide between the well-off middle clases and these on the 'poverty' line as I am supposed to be, is growing. WA is an expensive place to live and WTF do I get out of it? More fly-in-fly-out redneck-four-wheel drived mining employees moving to this sleepy town with their ever=pregnant wives, prams dogs kids and visiting rellies.

    The arse can't fall out of the resources boom soon anough for me.

  3. The vid is half an hour long, so it takes some time to load but absolutely worth it to see the corruption, paternalism and dirty tricks played by the big miners.

  4. The video has been deleted from vimeo. It's been loaded in two parts on youtube. "FMG Great Swindle" will find it.

    In one spot the lawyer paid by FMG but acting for the Wirrlumurra group and simultaneously independently chairing the meeting wrestles to keep control of the microphone. He's decided people have talked too much. And only the wrong people have anything left to say.

  5. Thanks Fresh Local. You are right, Vimeo or someone else has taken it down. Mmm

  6. It so disheartening that there are some who can be bought so easily, like those trucked in to this meeting. Are they that removed in their own lives from what it means to lose your country for the sake of corporate profits?

    A people are nothing without their place. I say that as descendant of misplaced displacers - though my sentiment is in the minority since most are happy enough to wander as unrooted consumers, not knowing how this kind of life is lacking in soul.

    If they're offering a $500,000 signing bonus and then x number of millions after that, you know the profit margin must be immense.

  7. Hi Neighbour, sorry, I have just found your comment.
    The profit margin is obscene. That is pretty much guarenteed in this state.
    It is worth following up the research because the video does not tell the whole story. Those 'trucked in' may have their own tales to tell. It's interesting stuff.

  8. Sarah,

    yeah I realized that later, as I got further into it - including some of the other media reports.

    It sounds actually as though everyone is willing to give the land to the company - the difference is in the price.

    That's sad. Too bad only humans get to make these decisions...

    Of course I recognize that I live comfortably in a world filled with extracted resources, so from this position it's easy to criticize. I just also know, in my heart, that the way we are destroying things is wrong.

  9. Yes, I too live relatively comfortably ... drive my (iron) car etc.
    Part of native title law in WA means that once the govt has granted mining leases, it over-rides native title. The only thing left to the traditional owners is to negotiate a deal. They can't actually stop the miners coming in.

  10. I had no idea. That's just apalling. Is it legitimate tactic to force mining companies to "withdraw" because a native group refuses to negotiate or because they demand fair reimbursement (as in, the mining company would refuse to be fair and thus it's a stalemate)?

  11. Thanks Neighbour, for engaging here.
    The traditional owners cannot tell the miners to go away, they can only negotiate a decent deal.

    Part of the Yindjibarndi want the .05% of total production output that other mining companies offer. They were the ones who produced the video. They are annoyed that FMG are offering much less but with a housing and employment deal. They are saying 'hey, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.' They are accusing FMG of paternalism, that the big miners are looking after Aboriginal people for political kudos and tax breaks. This is a perfectly valid point of view. They are educated in our history and tech savvy. (Interestingly, the money they got to learn those film, editing, website skills it took to produce that video probably came from previous mining royalties),

    The other Yindjibarndi group are saying 'Hang on, offers of work and housing is a GOOD THING considering the circumstances we live in right now, let's take the deal.' This is the 'splinter group'.

    That said, the meeting was a travesty of justice and the evidence of FMG splitting tribal sentiments through cash handouts was pretty obvious. FMG have been in Roebourne for months drumming up business, working with local communities, to get into their land. Read between the lines wherever you like there.

    Like I wrote, it is how things happen in WA but that video going viral was a blessing for us who feel there is something rotten going on in our heart.