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64 responses to “Anglican Church on Wild Rivers”

  1. JM

    The Report is here.

    Note the date on the report. There is also the Senate Committee material from earlier this year.

    Don’t know about the rest of the people here. I don’t pretend to any special knowledge of the issues and I am not aware of the extent of Indigenous opinion on the matter, but alarm bells go off for me whenever Noel Pearson is involved in something, and whenever the Murdoch press takes a huge and partisan interest in the same matter.

  2. BK

    For some pre election background on the WR issue see this from the Wilderness Society campaign manager Dr Tim Seeling

    Conservative commentators (see Paul Sheehan in Fairfax) have been foreshadowing Abbott’s intention to use the WR federal legislation as a meat axe in parliament. It will be interesting to see how Ken Wyatt votes on this. With Pearson so intimately involved, the debate will go to the broader question of indigenous affairs and not be confined to the environmental aspect, I suspect.

  3. Glenn Walker

    Please see here for an alternative Indigenous perspective on Wild Rivers, including views on the impacts of economic development.

    Encourage all to read their powerful statement in full.


  4. BK

    @2 Missing link to Crikey post

  5. myriad74


  6. TerjeP

    I don’t pretend to any special knowledge of the issues and I am not aware of the extent of Indigenous opinion on the matter, but alarm bells go off for me whenever The Wilderness Society is involved in something.

  7. Anya

    As Spock would say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Economic development can’t be the only consideration here, as it most likely would have been in the Howard era. Australia must start securing it’s natural assets, and it’s water.

    Preserving as much of earths natural areas where we can is important. That said preservation can go hand in hand with some sustainable “industries” – such as the wetland tours etc already run in the area. There are opportunities as well as threats here.

  8. CJ Morgan

    Does anybody really believe that these disingenuous efforts to repeal the Wild Rivers declarations are motivated principally by concerns for the interests of Indigenous people?

    I’ve been following Pearson et al’s campaign for some time, and it’s pretty obvious to me that St Noel has been co-opted by mining interests and their political representatives to open a new bullshit front in the environmental war that they’ve lost on Cape York.

    If Aboriginal people were likely to derive any lasting benefit from the establishment of the proposed large scale mines that are the real reason for this dishonest campaign, surely places like Aurukun would be models of affluence and progress already?

  9. Katz

    This point needs to be emphasised. The Anglican Church are accepting the legislation where they find consent has been gained.

    What processes achieved this acceptable method of achieving consent?

    Were these processes not followed/not successful in the other cases?

    If not? Why not?

  10. Kim

    Some traditional owners who’ve been visiting Parliament House this week talking to Macklin and the Indies (and maybe Abbott):

    “Tony Abbott’s intention to overturn wild rivers does not have our support and he should drop his crusade immediately,” Ewamian People spokesman Jimmy Richards told reporters.

    “We call on Tony Abbott to acknowledge that Noel Pearson does not speak for all indigenous Australians – he is not our elected leader.”


  11. akn

    If anyone can figure out what Federal powers Abbott will use to “overturn” Qld Wild Rivers legislation then please bring it to attention.

  12. Hrgh

    As Spock would say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    That’s a dangerous comment. Are you supporting the oppression of minorities?

  13. MikeM

    It took me some time to find the actual report. It can be downloaded from here.

    It is very short on specifics and provides no concrete examples of ways to “engage” with the economy that Aboriginal groups might wish to pursue but which the legislation prevents. It does however mention Noel Pearson six times.

    The issue of consent by affected groups to declarations is a valid one, but there is no information about how or why some groups consented while others either did not or were not consulted. (The report does not indicate which.) There seems to be a lot of misinformation about what the legislation prevents. It would be helpful if someone could find a clear statement in plain English with some practical examples. The report mentions two cases of bauxite deposits whose exploitation would apparently be prevented, since they are insufficiently large to be of state significance. These cases seem hardly justification for federal override of state legislation.

    It is not surprising that Pearson approves of the report and as a consequence, so does The Australian.

  14. Phil

    Anya, would you please explain to me how this rip off secures anything for the many, or anyone, other than the vote of some fringe radical greenies for Anna.

    Most people don’t even know where the rivers, except vaguely “up there” somewhere, & would not want, or be able to, get there, without a lot of help.

    To me the many would be the locals, not some southerners who just may drop in to one or two rivers, for a few days, once in their life.

  15. Katz

    From MikeM’s link, the money quote:

    Wild Rivers

    The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Brisbane has reviewed operation of Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation in an effort to understand the likely effect of the legislation on indigenous well-being for Cape York communities.

    In addition to completion of our own research, we have consulted environmental stakeholder groups Some of those groups share our deep concern that indigenous people’s legitimate interests in land risk being disenfranchised in the current Wild Rivers process. With other groups we respectfully disagree.

    Note that the Diocese does not claim to have agreed with the opinions of indigenous groups Rather, the Diocese finds itself in agreement with “environmental stakeholder groups”. And if the Diocese did consult with indigenous groups, the Diocese “respectfully disagree[s]” with their opinion.

    Is this position statement merely badly drafted, or is it a deliberate obsfucation?

  16. Steve at the Pub

    I struggle with the concept that this legislation, or the overturning of it, is any business of the Anglican Church.

  17. Kim

    @18 Yep.

  18. Doug

    Re 18 A couple of possible reasons for the anglican church getting involved:
    1.Many of the people affected by the Wild Rivers legislation on the Cape are members of the Anglican church.
    2. churches have always engaged and contribute to public debate on matters affecting the wellbeing of people and communities – questions of doing justice are integral to the Christian faith. Doesn’t mean they are right – but the report needs to be read and discussed on the merits and/or demerits of its argument and the evidence it puts forward – in the same way that the arguments of any other group engaging in the debate are assessed.

  19. Patricia WA

    @ 18 & 19 – Surely there is no authority, divine or secular, to which the ‘Anglican, so called, Church’ can appeal to support its intervention in affairs of state! Rather than using its rulings or research to support his arguments on any issue Mr. Abbot should be questioning the motives of this heretical body. Their views on the infallibility of his Pope, to say nothing of their murderous support of contraceptive drugs and devices, makes any submission of theirs highly questionable.

  20. PatrickB

    I do. I think single minded catholic 50 years old with large ears should be oppressed or was that repressed?

  21. silkworm

    I don’t pretend to any special knowledge of the issues and I am not aware of the extent of indigenous opinion on the matter, but alarm bells go off for me whenever the Libertarian party is involved in something.

  22. Patricia WA

    @ 22 Patrick B – suppressed is the word you were looking for.

  23. Tom R

    @AKN at 13:

    “If anyone can figure out what Federal powers Abbott will use to “overturn” Qld Wild Rivers legislation then please bring it to attention.”

    Since the Native Title Act Case (1995) and Kartinyeri (1998) I’d say the High Court would uphold this under the Feds’ “people of any race” power (Const sec 51.26).

  24. WD40

    “I struggle with the concept that this legislation, or the overturning of it, is any business of the Anglican Church.”

    “@18 Yep.”

    Oh come off it guys. LP is always sticking its lily white bib into indigenous issues. Whats the diff?

    Moreover, presumably the Anglican Church has a congregation in the pertinent communities, and this precipitated its decision to throw its hat into the ring.

    Other than that I have no opinion on matter as I don’t know the issues well enough.

  25. Sam

    LP is always sticking its lily white bib into indigenous issues. Whats the diff?

    The diff is that LPers are just expressing an opinion, whereas Dr Catt is invoking his authority as the Anglican Dean of Brisbane to give weight to his opinion.

    When the MSM runs a story along the lines of “WD40, a commentator on the blog Larvatus Prodeo, today said that …”, then there will be no diff.

  26. Jo

    CJ [email protected]
    You are just indulging in the usual round of Noel Pearson bashing to me.
    Just the smallest glimpse of this campaign will tell you that noel Pearson has little influence with the state government but that they have already made exceptions for large mining projects for which they are unwilling to forgo royalties.
    As for the 100 projects supposedly approved I would like to know the details and whether they were in the “High Preservation Areas”.
    The act is written in such a way that discourages small scale enterprises from applying for permits in the “High Preservation Areas” as “the assesment manager must refuse to receive the application”. This wording or variations on it appears in at least 8 places in the Act.

  27. akn

    Thanks Tom R. I figured that the ‘race power’ would be it but imagined that there might be other possibilities. Game to use the race powers I reckon.

  28. Katz

    Of course the dear old Church of England is entitled to an opinion on this important and interesting question.

    Though, it would be beneficial for that venerable institution were they to form an honest and informed opinion on this important and interesting question.

  29. WD40

    Katz, if you have some special insights or information that shows the Anglican Church report was done in bad faith I’d be interested to here about it.

    Irrespective of my previous comments, I would generally put environmental concerns before perceived indigenous interests where the two are in conflict. Indigenous exceptionalism is one of my pet hates.

  30. Katz

    Katz, if you have some special insights or information that shows the Anglican Church report was done in bad faith I’d be interested to here about it.

    See #17 above.

    My insights aren’t special, they are just informed by accurate reading of the evidence.

    You should try it sometime.

  31. WD40

    #17 was good grammar on the Church’s part and poor Plain English comprehension on your part. May I suggest you reread it with an open disposition?

    Must now go tend my petunias …

  32. Katz

    If you garden as well as you think, I fear for the petunias.

  33. CJ Morgan

    @Jo at 28:

    Granted I’m no great fan of Noel Pearson’s, but I have long been both an environmentalist and a supporter of Indigenous rights. There are plenty of Traditional Owners from Cape York who don’t support Pearson’s campaign.

    I note that you haven’t attempted to refute my main points, i.e. that Pearson has been co-opted by mining interests and their political advocates, and that Aboriginal people on Cape York have generally not benefited from existing mining developments.

    I think that the supposed small-scale enterprises that have been allegedly stymied by the Wild Rivers declarations are at best a furphy, and at worst a fiction.

  34. j_p_z

    “Dr Catt said: …”

    Well I must say, she certainly gets from one place to another with admirable efficiency.


  35. akn

    I’m astonished at the nerve of the Anglican Church intervening in this. The Anglican Church track record includes the history of Yarrabah mission under Ernest Gribble, the withholding (read theft) of wages, conditions so harsh that a strike erupted in 1957 among Aboriginal residents followed by permanent banning of the strikers. The Anglicans are assuming that no-one knows this history. The sheer hide of ’em.

  36. Tom R

    AKN, if we go back that far that also rules out anything the ALP has to say about racial discrimination issues.

  37. akn

    Brian and TomR: institutions develop character over time through the accretion and sedimentation of the behaviour and attitude of personnel. I said they had a hide not that they have no right to a voice on this issue. TomR, agreed, if I was indigenous I’d be very cautious about any decision of any Australian parliament given the history. That includes ‘Wild Rivers’.

    Nevertheless, there is more going on here than meets the eye especially when an institution that was such a major player in dispossession and institutionalised apartheid develops an opinion on current matters. I’m going to dig around.

  38. moz

    I’m a big fan of any voice opposing hardship and discrimination. If the pope came out against the sexual abuse of children tomorrow I’d welcome his input. So yeah, by all means, let’s hear the anglican church on the issue.
    My concern is not so much that we don’t know enough about what’s happening “up there”, as that we may not be able to know. I wonder what would qualify as a sufficiently complete, unbiased account of the situation, and how we could get from that to meaningful regulation. And I find myself thinking “committee of foreigners with judicial powers to compel witnesses” followed by “something like the Waitangi Tribunal”. The idea that a reporter from The Australian will investigate the situation and produce an article explaining it all seems far-fetched. But so does a parliamentary committee and balanced legislation that everyone involved agrees with. There are competing interests – the miners and state government want extractive inustry (so do some farmers), some indig mob want that too. Others want sustainable industry and tourism. I suspect there’s a quite a few who would just like us all to sod off and leave them alone.

  39. Katz

    Here is Catt, as reported by the OO back in April 2010:

    Committee chairman and the Anglican dean of Brisbane, Peter Catt, said the laws eroded “hard-won indigenous property rights” and were passed without the consent of local communities.

    “The effect of this is that indigenous people in the impacted areas cannot engage in the real economy by developing sustainable projects,” he said.

    The point about the Wild rivers legislation is that it removes property rights of all property holders in the affected areas. That is what governments do in pursuit of their perceptions of the greater good. To frame this legislation as targeting Aboriginal property rights is sheer mendacity. But hey, Abbott and the OO have climbed on board, so who can be surprised?

    Moreover, as Brian mentioned in his post, the Anglican Church does not purport to object to all declarations of Wild rivers.

    Yet the Anglican Church has not explained how unobjectionable declarations achieved that status. Until the Anglican Church reveals its thinking in this matter, it can be accused of pursuing a hidden agenda.

  40. Jo

    CJ Morgan @35
    I thought I had refuted what you said about Noel Pearson. I just didn’t do it with hobnail boots.
    I don’t claim to know about the benefits of mining.
    If you look at the scale of what is covered by the high preservation area it is no furphy. You may be able to convince someone behind a desk in Brisbane that it is, but some of us know better.

  41. George

    Being a North Queenslander who has travelled extensively within Cape York, and not some armchair big city neo environmentalist, allows me to have a slightly different opinion.

    Simply put, Cape York is definitely no “pristine wilderness”.

    There are a couple issues here for mine namely:

    1. The right to degrade environments. Do people who live in areas that are highly degraded environmentally (Big Cities) have the right to deprive others of any environmental damage to their surrounds? Locking up country basically deprives the locals of work in the areas in which they live. Those that have already exploited resources to their own gain, then insisting others cannot do the same appears to me to be a little smug.

    2. Exploiting divisions in aboriginal communities. Before we jump to conclusions here, it would be illuminating to ask the Wilderness Society which communities in Cape York have received financial backing, or political support. Certain groups are better at playing the political pay-off games than others. Which communities are getting Qld Govt support for their economic plans over other communities? Now compare that list to those that are supporting Wild Rivers.

    3. Noel Pearson in an article written in the Australian rightly refers to the 70’s and 80’s where it appears to certain commentators that Aboriginal groups divisions were successfully exploited by mining companies to their advantage, and contrasts the environmental lobby groups and their actions today.

    Food for thought.

  42. Lisa

    I think you will find that the Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee is opposed to is a Wild Rivers Declaration without consent. There is no further hidden agenda than that.

    I would recommend downloading the full information pack from the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane website and sitting down to some strenuous reading.

    I think Mick Dodson said it far better than I can express when he said:

    Policies and programs which rest primarily on a perception of need and powerlessness subtly reinforce the powerlessness of the recipients who are seen as being given justice rather than as receiving their rights. The recognition of entitlement is in itself an act of empowerment.

  43. Bismarck

    This entire thread, with the exception of Tom R’s contribution @25 is hilariously misinformed. Has anyone actually seen the proposed legislation? I have. It does not ‘overturn’ or ‘repeal’ the Qld Act. It says that Wild River declarations, as far as they regulate the use of land by indigenous people, are invalid if the agreement of those people is not obtained within 6 months of commencement.

  44. Sam

    This entire thread, with the exception of Tom R’s contribution @25 is hilariously misinformed. Has anyone actually seen the proposed legislation?

    Dude, this is a blog.

  45. Bismarck

    Point taken.

  46. akn

    Bismarck: is the draft legislation available at a link? If not, can you tell us by what mechanism “agreement” is to be obtained?

  47. Bismarck

    [email protected]: as I understand it, that will be a matter for the regulations – presumably to be determined through consultation with the Qld Government, Land Councils and other interested parties – although there are some examples in the bill (such as land use agreements under the Native Title Act).

  48. akn

    Why not plebiscite?

  49. Bismarck

    If that’s what people want: sure, why not?

  50. akn

    Well, assuming the legislation goes ahead with support in the Reps … it seems to me that the issue of who gets to decide what and by what means is critical. If Abbott is saying that the Wild Rivers legislation doesn’t represent the interests or views of the ‘Wild Rivers’ indigenous constituency then his proposed changes need to be totally transparent on the matter of who has a voice and who doesn’t. What you’ve mentioned so far appears to be a bit of an ad hoc list of existing organizations and reference groups. But, given that this is about to challenge Qld legislative authority using the constitutional race powers then the rest of the nation is entitled to insist that the next step in decision making is genuinely representative of the will of local indigenous people. Seems to me the only way to do that is by plebiscite in order to ensure that local power groups and gender imbalances on the existing bodies you mentioned don’t give a skewed result.

  51. Josh

    So let me get this straight – 24 hours after the church “released” their report, it doesn’t exist anywhere on the internet? I mean, I know the church is behind the times…

  52. Josh

    Found it! Link

    From a super-quick scan, it looks like they are arguing about the meaning of “sustainable development” (ie. suggesting some things which are “sustainable” are nevertheless excluded).

  53. harleymc

    A series of mucking great mega-dams and intensive alumina extraction and aluminuium smelting; that’s the agenda for repeal of wild rivers. Rewind the clock to the 1970s.
    With enough clash to splash the mining industry will always be able to divide traditional owners whatever the consequences are to land or community.

  54. Posterity Speaking

    It says that Wild River declarations, as far as they regulate the use of land by indigenous people, are invalid if the agreement of those people is not obtained within 6 months of commencement.

    Any hints about mechanisms in this draft legislation by which “those people” may signify their consent or dissent?

    Six months is clear enough. Legally countable stakeholdership isn’t.

    Has Abbott enlightened the world about his thinking on this interesting and important subject?

  55. Lisa

    The link to the ASRC’s Information Package is here:

    ASRC Wild Rivers Information Package

  56. JM

    Earlier this year Senator Nigel Scullion, Opposition spokesperson on Indigenous Affairs introduced an identical bill to Abbott’s into the Senate.

    Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010 [No.2]”

  57. Sam

    Noel Pearson is a paid Government advisor, the racist types like him because he will say what they want to hear, He wouldnt make the top 100 if we as Aboriginals could vote in our public faces, his community is doing well compared to most Aboriginal communitys due to being in the pocket of government, it the same theme across the country, the government hand pick their advisors without inclusion of the majority, and put unwarrented attention on qualifications to attract the assililated who are usually so disconected from their communitys that its impossible for then to convey the real concerns of communitys, the only Aboriginal supporters of the nt intervention are noel and bess price, two people who dont live under those conditions and both benefit from yit, good to see him get some criticism, usually only hear supporters of the nt crap repeating his and bess’s names over and over, any land ever given to aboriginals is a waste land or they cant develop to gain some