EIGHT Githabul people, including five elders, were excluded from a meeting of the board of directors of the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation (GNAC) at the Lismore Workers Club last Friday, January 25.
GNAC is the prescribed body coporate under the Native Title Act that is required to represent the Githabul people. It is composed of represent- atives of ten Githabul families, but one of the people ejected from the meeting, Iris Ray Dunn, told The Echo there is dissent within the families.
"Coal seam gas (CSG) mining on land covered by Native Title is a major cause of disagreement," Iris said.
"This is a horror story you can't even imagine, of people who don't even live on country pretending to represent our people."
Iris, her partner Jarmbi and other Githabul elders arrived at the meeting only to be told it was a closed directors' meeting.
The Echo had also tried to attend the meeting, arriving just before it began, and had been told the same thing.
When the group became distressed at being excluded, chairman Trevor Close closed the meeting and police were called to force the non-directors to leave.
"There were three men from State Forests at the meeting, and another man we didn't know, whom we thought might have been from a gas company," Iris said.
"We wanted to be at the meeting to find out what was being done in our name.
"Mining divides families on so many levels - farmers, families where one person may want work with the mining company but others in the family are opposed to it, and see it as a destruction of the Earth.
"Many Indigenous people see it as their sacred duty to protect the land."
In 2005, the GNAC board signed off on CSG, Iris said.
"The Githabul people have asked them to come and tell the tribe what's happening, but they won't come to our meetings and we're not allowed to go to theirs.
"It's not just that everyone's against CSG, they're not; some people don't care, others are for it and others against it.
"But if mining was inevitable because it was all signed off years ago, where's the money?" Iris asked
"We need money for the Githabul school, for language courses and camping trips for the kids."
Iris said that in other parts of Australia, "savvy" representatives of Indigenous communities have been knocking on the mining companies' doors, demanding remuneration for their tribes."
Jarmbi told The Echo that his tribe believes that all Githabul people should have full disclosure of what is being done on their behalf by GNAC.
"I formally invited the chairman to the next meeting of elders on February 9," Jarmbi said.
"We were disrespected at that meeting. Senior elders (should) override the board of directors; we have bloodlines to country. DNA comes first - that's tribal."
Former GNAC director Gloria Williams agreed that the elders had been disrespected.
"I was one of the first GNAC directors after the Native Title Act was passed in 2007. When I found out that GNAC was signing away our rights, I resigned," Gloria said.
"It's not just us who will get sick from coal seam gas, it's everyone who's near it.
"It's happening in other tribal lands too. There's open-cut coal mining in the Laird State Forest and half of that's gone now."
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