Home » As it happened: Defence minister to visit Ukraine; Morrison pushed $500m project before business case was done

As it happened: Defence minister to visit Ukraine; Morrison pushed $500m project before business case was done

A psychologist has rejected claims he acted as an advocate for a Yindjibarndi organisation in its decades-long battle with mining company Fortescue Metals Group.

Expert witnesses are giving evidence in a Federal Court case between the Yindjibarndi Ngurra Aboriginal Corporation and the State of Western Australia, with FMG as the second respondent.

The case will determine whether FMG must pay compensation to Yindjibarndi people for mining on their land without agreement at the Solomon Hub, a massive iron ore operation in the state’s Pilbara region. The Yindjibarndi Ngurra Aboriginal Corporation seeks compensation for two types of destruction: of country, including sacred sites, and of community.

Fortescue chair Andrew Forrest and Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Michael Woodley.Credit: Composite image

When Fortescue began planning the Solomon Hub, it started negotiating with the Aboriginal corporation, but the relationship began to sour in 2007 when the Yindjibarndi people realised FMG could legally destroy their sacred sites and was doing so in construction of the mine.

When the corporation refused to accept FMG’s royalty offer, the miner gave financial backing to a breakaway group, Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, which paid people $500 each to attend a meeting that voted in favour of the deal in 2010.

Excerpts were played in court on Thursday from a recording of a conversation between psychologist Dr Jeff Nelson and Michael Woodley, chief executive of the Aboriginal corporation.

In the recorded conversation, Nelson can be heard asking Mr Woodley for clarification on conflict between cultural obligations and benefits to people who work in mining.

He also asked about problems caused by alcohol before the mine, and whether FMG founder and billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest believed he could do whatever he wanted because the provision of alcohol had weakened the Yindjibarndi people.

“It’s aggravating that they’ll come in to people who are struggling and then even cause more harm by splitting the community and maintaining the split,” Nelson says in the recording.

“That’s not acceptable, it’s like kicking a dog when it’s down, you just don’t do that shit, eh?”

In the recording Woodley is heard to agree, saying: “They knew exactly what they were doing and how they could manipulate.”

Read more here.