South Australian Premier Steven Marshall will argue against a legal bid from the Barngarla Aboriginal Determination Corporation to stop drilling on sacred land in the state’s far-north.
Mr Marshall, who is also the Aboriginal Affairs Minister, will argue that the Barngarla people should not be allowed to proceed with their legal challenge, after he approved mineral exploration at Lake Torrens.
In January this year, the Barngarla people launched a Supreme Court judicial review in an attempt to stop exploration company Kelaray, a subsidiary of Argonaut Resources, from drilling on a sacred site.
The site is listed as an Aboriginal heritage place but is not protected under native title law.
Freedom of Information documents obtained by NITV News revealed Mr Marshall’s decision to approve the drilling went against advice from the state government’s own Aboriginal heritage advisory group.
Mr Marshall was told it would not be possible to mitigate the impacts on Aboriginal heritage values.
In court on Wednesday, Warwick Ambrose, acting for Mr Marshall, said the Premier’s position is that the Barngarla people have not proven in “standing” that they are Traditional Owners of Lake Torrens.
Chairperson of the Barngarla Aboriginal Determination Corporation, Jason Bilney, told NITV News on Friday that his people know where their Country is and they should not have to prove it in court.
“I don’t think it’s right, we all know in our blood where our Country is and where our boundaries are,” said Mr Bilney.
“It’s the entire lake, we’re a part of the lake streaming people, whether it's Kokatha, Adnyamathanha, Kuyani or Barngarla.
“And it goes back to history. We are all a part of that lake, but it’s white man’s argument that you have to prove it in court.”
The decision could now fall on the court to determine whether the Barngarla people are Traditional Owners of Lake Torrens.
If the court decides in favour of the Barngarla people, the exploration which has already started would not be allowed to continue.
The matter is due to return to court next week.