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The video of Twiggy Forrest that everyone’s talking about

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has been accused of being “paternalistic” in his attempts to strike a native title deal with a group of traditional owners. The dispute involves a $5 billion iron-ore investment by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) in the Pilbara, in Western Australia.

With a Federal Court judgment on legal action by 700 traditional owners over the claim looming, Forrest has attempted to strike a deal with a breakaway group of 200 Yindjibarndi people.

At a public meeting with the breakaway group in March, Forrest’s lawyers had a fight over a microphone with one of the senior traditional owners who questioned whether the meeting was legal.

A video has been uploaded by the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation expressing their concern over the meeting:

FMG’s Great Native Title Swindle from Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corp. on Vimeo.

Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation have raised legal questions about who formed the breakaway group, the Wirlu Murra Yindjibarndi. Their leader is Allery Sandy.

A Fortescue spokesman told The Age that Ms Sandy approached the company after the corporation rejected Fortescue’s offer.

”We have held talks with her and her people in good faith,” the spokesman said.

According to the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation video, the native title lawyer who was meant to act as an independent chair, Graham Castledine, walked out of the meeting after the agenda could not be agreed on by all parties.

Crikey contacted Castledine this morning. He confirmed that he had left the meeting but he declined to comment on the matter.

Michael Woodley, CEO of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, told Crikey this morning that Fortescue is “still talking to the black fella of old”.

When he walks into an Aboriginal community, he walks back in time,” Woodley told Crikey. “He think he’s discussing matters with Aboriginal people that they discussed with Aboriginal people back in the 1950s and 60s.”

The Age reported this morning that Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation rejected an annual offer of $10 million — $4 million plus $6 million in work and training opportunities.

Woodley told Crikey: “We told FMG: ‘we don’t think negotiations are going anywhere, we believe that your offer on the table is not reflective of where you’re going to be in the next 100 hundred years and therefore we want you to leave our community’.”

In the video, Forrest says he should be judged on his actions, not his words.

What we’re asking here, particularly for you mob over here who’ve just heard that complete and utter bulldust from Michael. If you give me the opportunity and you give my company the opportunity I want to do the same thing for you. I have one message give, and I’ve been giving this ever since I became a businessman, the more you know Aboriginal people. The more you love them. I deeply respect Aboriginal people.”

Woodley told Crikey this morning that the dispute isn’t about trust.

This is a commercial deal you don’t take or trust anyone for their word,” he said. “You do the deal, you put it on paper and then a relationship can then develop and be grown out of that. This is a commercial business transaction. He should know this, he’s a businessman.”

11
  • 1
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Forrest’s arrogance is amazing.

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Does the term “carpetbaggers” spring to mind? Holding this sort of meeting (foreign to the participants with most to lose), because those seeking to profit, can control the preordained outcome?
    An “industry” now with a “voice” on national TV - to control PR and advertise their position, to sod all contradiction? “Bolt’s Advertorials!”

  • 3
    DogsRGr8
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Disgusting. Forrest’s arrogance is sickening. He talks like some colonial conqueror offering glass beads to the natives in return for their land. If I was a member of the Yindjibarndi I would be insulted too. And Ronald Bower is clearly behaving unethically - particularly since, according to the video, not one of his ‘clients’ spoke at the meeting - and they were paid to go there.

  • 4
    jaymez
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    If the Aboriginal People in any area want to be treated like they are doing a normal commercial deal, then they will need to change the way they are prepared to operate. Firstly, there should be no-one being paid ‘sitting fees’ as that is not how normal commercial deals are done. Secondly, negotiators should not be expected to negotiate with all the people. Aboriginal people should trust each other enough to entrust the negotiations with a representative few rather than all demand to attend these unwieldy meetings. You can’t expect to be treated with respect but demand paternalistic treatment too.

  • 5
    sparky
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    So what you are saying Jaymez is they should become like Ziggy et al instead of Ziggy et al becoming like them.

  • 6
    Cretaceous
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    This is all so familiar to us in the Kimberley. There must be a manual somewhere on how to subvert traditional owners and destroy local resistance. Woodside, in its bid to get started on its highly polluting gas hub north of Broome, has used these same tactics. From promoting splinter groups with promises of huge money, to flying in people unconnected to country, to having highly paid whitefellas chairing meetings and setting agendas it’s all from the same song sheet. Throughout these shenanigans the captains of industry, hands on hearts, assure us of their love for the land they are about to destroy. It has got to the stage here where a trip to country often results in being followed, filmed and harassed by Woodsides hired thugs. The disrespect is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Corporatism has gone too far.

  • 7
    LisaCrago
    Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    good grief now lets nort talk about who has more rights that the other or who is more deserving/aboriginal than who, in each group or we might end up in court!

  • 8
    Tom Jones
    Posted Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    The legal validity of this meeting needs to be questioned. As to Twiggy Forwar’a respect for Aboriginal people the terms of the Agreement where there is a payment of money at a flat rate rather than as a percentage and also the ability to override any objections to a particular aspect of the mining is completely disrespecful. That is even before considering what can only be described as a kangaroo meeting. Because there is video recording it appears that it would be a strong piece of evidence in any appeal. What is going on here is a disgrace.

  • 9
    Jason Quin
    Posted Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Jaymez, the background to the meeting featured in the video, is that FMG bypassed the representatives - that you consider appopriate to “civil” negotiations - fostering a split in the community. Is this backdoor tactic standard practice? Equally, why not aspire to a society where consensus-building is the norm?

  • 10
    SBH
    Posted Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s said that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think the point of that maxim is not that being rich is bad but that you have to do evil things to become rich.

    Jaymez I don’t disagree with some of what you say but I should point out that very often Aboriginal communities do select representatives to stirke commerical deals. The community at Wonarah used the CLC and the SLc to assist them to negotiate a large mining deal so it does happen. On a broader point though what we see here is an imposition of one way of doing things - Forrest’s way - which is inimicable to the way many communities operate.

  • 11
    Leanne Tonkes
    Posted Wednesday, 13 April 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Now it’s able to be viewed here;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6w_fB7e0WCY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xa1eX_E0p8

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