Update on the Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company

Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company

Excerpt from our 2016 / 2017 Ambooriny Burru Annual Members' Report  

The Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company was established in 2015 by KRED Enterprises as a fully Indigenous-owned pastoral venture. KAPCO is not owned by KRED Enterprises, but it is one of our key projects. It currently comprises of three Indigenous-owned pastoral stations, Mt Anderson, Frazier Downs and Bohemia Downs, and is soon set to grow bigger, with the Indigenous Land Corporation in the process of divesting Myroodah and Lulugui to KAPCO. By standing together, under a single management structure, all stations are able to take advantage of the economies of scale offered from an integrated pastoral enterprise. KAPCO is already delivering results. Over the last sixteen months a pool of 42 casual staff have worked across all three stations. In addition to generating jobs and training, we're also exploring ways that one of the KAPCO stations could be used as a site to develop a Kimberley youth diversionary and preventative program. Its working title is 'The Marlamanu Project', and it will provide an alternative to current mainstream youth justice programs. KRED has also been investigating opportunities for further investment in the company. 

Traditional Owners lodge appeal after Sheffield conduct condemned

This press release was issued by the Kimberley Land Council on the 12th October, 2017

Traditional Owners lodge appeal after Sheffield conduct condemned

Kimberley Traditional Owners of the Mount Jowlaenga area have lodged an appeal with the Full Federal Court of Australia against mineral sands miner Sheffield Resources Ltd and the State of Western Australia.

The appeal comes after Justice Barker of the Federal Court ruled that Sheffield Resources was no longer obliged to conduct itself in good faith at a time it engaged in negotiation tactics that the Judge condemned in strong terms.

Justice Barker found that Sheffield’s conduct “flew in the face” of an agreed protocol which was designed to ensure Traditional Owners “would not be taken advantage of” by the company in its negotiations.

Kimberley Land Council Chief Executive Officer Nolan Hunter said there should be no loss of the good faith protection at any point of the negotiation process.

Mr Hunter said if the decision was not challenged it would set a concerning precedent for future native title negotiations and would pave the way for companies to circumvent the requirement for formal agreement making. In the past many of the companies operating in the Kimberley have acted in good faith and respected that they need to have an agreement in place with Traditional Owners.

“The Mount Jowlaenga Traditional Owners are not opposed to development, but they are opposed to a mining company that is seeking to operate on their traditional lands without an agreement in place,” Mr Hunter said.

“If this mine is allowed to go ahead it will mean 40 years of operation without an agreement with the Mt Jowlaenga Traditional Owners.

“Sheffield Resources does not have a social licence to operate its Thunderbird mine in the Kimberley.”

In relation to the proposed Thunderbird mine, there is no agreement in place to protect the Mount Jowlaenga Traditional Owners cultural heritage, to compensate them for the impacts on their native title, or to ensure their participation in the project via employment or contracting.

In a statement released by the Named Applicant for the Mount Jowlaenga people on whose native title area the Thunderbird mine is proposed to be built, Traditional Owners said:

“The Judge said that Sheffield Resources treated us in a way that “flew in the face” of the agreed negotiation protocol that is supposed to make sure our “best interests would not be compromised” and that we “would not be taken advantage of”. But the judge also said that at that time, we no longer had the good faith protection under the Native Title Act.

What this decision means to us is that instead of it protecting us, the Native Title Act has been used by Sheffield Resources to take advantage of us.

We have the responsibility of looking after our native title and cultural heritage for our old people and for our future generations. We should be able to rely on the good faith law under the Native Title Act to protect us from companies using bad faith negotiation tactics to get our consent for their project.

What shield does the Native Title Act give us if it allows companies to lie and trick us into giving them our consent? It’s one thing that the Native Title law doesn’t allow us to stop a company from mining our native title lands without our consent. But it is another thing to see the Native Title Act be used to let a company act in bad faith and still be allowed to get its licence to mine.

Sheffield can say it has the ‘overwhelming support’ of the local community for its project. But we don’t know how it can say that when it plans to go ahead and mine the Mount Jowlaenga people’s native title lands for the next 40 years without the Mount Jowlaenga people’s consent. We’re trying to stay strong in the face of bad faith tactics, with or without the protection of the Native Title Act.”

Mr Hunter said the latest ruling of the Federal Court highlights the increasing inability of the Native Title Act to protect and look after the interests of Aboriginal people.

“The Native Title Act is failing the people whose rights it was created to protect. The Australian Government must commit to a thorough overhaul of this legislation.”

Good faith is imposed by the Native Title Act (1993) on parties seeking to reach an agreement relating to activities that may affect native title rights and interests. It is intended to ensure parties can negotiate on an equal footing, to redress the disparity between the bargaining strength of a mining company as against a native title party which may lack capacity to do this.

Northern Minerals earns social license to operate

Jaru Traditional Owners stand to benefit following a major announcement by rare earth miner Northern Minerals.

Almost three years after KRED Enterprises and Jaru Traditional Owners negotiated a native title agreement with Northern Minerals, the company’s board has finally approved a $56m dollar pilot project at the Browns Range site, which is approximately 160km south east of Halls Creek.

Wayne Bergmann, the CEO of KRED Enterprises, says Northern Minerals are one of the few mining companies in the Kimberley that has earned a social license to operate.

“Northern Minerals are setting the standard for local participation—and not just among Indigenous people. I’m hopeful that the flow-on effects of this project will benefit all people and businesses in the area. It’s a game changer,” Mr Bergmann says.

The Jaru native title group finalised the Browns Range Project Co-existence Agreement at a meeting at Ringer Soak in June 2014. The Agreement makes provisions for a comprehensive benefits package.

“The benefits package includes financial benefits, share options and support to sustain Jaru heritage, law and culture. Northern Minerals will also carry out a full social and cultural impact assessment in conjunction with KRED and Jaru, and will prioritise employment and contracting opportunities for Jaru people that will increase over the life of the mine,” Mr Bergmann says.

“It’s important that Aboriginal people are seen as part of economic development, not a hindrance to development. In this instance, Northern Minerals has demonstrated good will and the outcomes have been positive,” Mr Bergmann says.

Indigenous leader welcomes scrapping of DAA

Wayne Bergmann, the CEO of KRED Enterprises, welcomes the new state Labor government's enthusiasm for Indigenous reform, after the government announced last week that they'd be scrapping the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA).

Bergmann says the new government has an opportunity to get Indigenous reforms right and to achieve a proper realignment with the realities of native title.

"The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was slow, cumbersome, and represented a ball and chain around the advancement of Aboriginal groups. It was also ineffective in fulfilling its statutory obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the Aboriginal Lands Trust," Mr Bergmann says.

Across Western Australia, Aboriginal people who have worked at the forefront of Indigenous rights and services, have a wealth of knowledge about what's effective and what isn't when it comes to Indigenous affairs. Mr Bergmann says it's time to draw on this knowledge.

"I call on the Hon. Ben Wyatt to engage with Aboriginal leaders to create a new model for Indigenous affairs, one that's streamlined, inclusive and values the knowledge on the ground," Mr Bergmann says.   

"I propose the development of an independent statutory body to set the policy and service agenda, one which has been elected by Traditional Owners around the state. We need an independent body that's adept at handling the new realities of native title, including the recognition of native title as a property right," Mr Bergmann says.

"The WA state government has a unique opportunity here to set the standard for state Indigenous affairs across Australia."