2017 Environmentalist of the Year

Adrian Burragubba

Adrian Burragubba is from the Babinburra Clan, of the Wangan and Jagalingou People (W&J) of Central Queensland, Australia - a part of the Wiirdi language group. He is a Wangan and Jagalingou primary Traditional Owner. Adrian is the father of six strong, independent, young adults.

A leading Aboriginal activist, artist and cultural worker, he has been in a lifelong struggle for social justice for Aboriginal people. He challenges the norm, seeking answers to Aboriginal people’s experience in a period of anxious social upheaval and persistent injustices.

He stands in the line of his ancestors who resisted the take-over of their lands and walked off the repressive missions, asserting their freedom.

Burragubba’s concept of justice is indeed stirring and radical on all levels. His vision is of liberating his people through Culture – reflecting W&J law and custom through visual art, song, dance, and ceremony – and using this to re-inspire and reconstitute his Society.

This is at the core of his contemporary political activism, and for the past three years he has put everything into taking a stand against the Adani conglomerate that wants to mine and destroy W&J country.

He is working with the re-established W&J tribal council to challenge the Native Title process – which continues to minimise Aboriginal rights and dispossess Traditional Owners of their connection to country – and the Crown’s claim to ownership over the W&J’s sacred sites and lands and waters.

Burragubba has knowledge that was passed on to him through the elders of his father’s people from when he was a small boy. They taught him the law. The land teaches him and the Wangan and Jagalingou people how to belong, when to sing or dance or practice culture.

Burragubba is the authorised spokesperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council. The Wangan and Jagalingou have rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani Mining on three occasions since 2012.

The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Representative Council exercises its right to meet independently as a Traditional Owner council and have authorised Burragubba to speak on their behalf about their opposition to the mine and their determination to protect their land and culture.

Under Burragubba’s leadership, the W&J launched a public campaign, In Defence of Country, in March 2015, after rejection by the W&J people of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the proposed Carmichael Mine in October 2014 - the second time they'd rejected it since December 2012.

Adani and the Queensland Government refused to accept the 'no' decision, and chose to ride roughshod over native title rights and undermine the right to free prior informed consent of the primary Traditional Owners.

With his niece, Murrawah Johnson, he has worked tirelessly to defeat the mining project and open the space for improved legal recognition of the rights of the Traditional Owners, and of Aboriginal people more generally.

W&J have held Adani off when they expected an easy tick-a-box result on approvals and consent. And Adani still doesn't have the land agreement it needs to proceed. A showdown looms.

The campaign is at the forefront of the biggest Aboriginal rights and protection of country campaign in a generation, with over 100,000 citizen supporters around the country and internationally, and constant attention in the Australian and overseas media. They have been at the centre of an international finance campaign - traveling to seven cites in five countries to meet major international banks to oppose the mine.

Burragubba has initiated four legal cases against Adani, the National Native Title Tribunal, the Queensland Mines Minister and Queensland South Native Title Services and has been fully engaged in the recent political fight over amendments by the Coalition Government to the Native Title Act to support the mining lobby, and Adani especially. Further actions are likely, with a challenge in the High Court being considered.

Adrian and Murrawah have taken the W&J cause to the United Nations, meeting with and making submissions to the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, as well as various other related UN rapporteurs, rights councils and working groups. 








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  • Gillian Gasser
    commented 2017-11-03 13:32:39 +1100
    Magnificent opportunity to support indigenous people to stand up for their values, culture, and commonsense. Congratulations for opposing Adani mines!