Adrian Burragubba, spokesman for Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners, has reasserted his position after the federal government flagged potential legislative changes which would make it harder for environmental groups to oppose mining projects.
The new legislation - which previously failed to pass the senate under the Abbott government - would restrict court challenges to those directly affected by the development.
"We can’t have a situation where this is US-style vexatious litigation which is tying these major projects down in the courts costing millions of dollars, whether it’s in legal fees, or billions of dollars, in what would’ve otherwise been development and jobs," Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told the ABC yesterday.
Mr Frydenberg's comments follow Wikileaks revelations that Australian environmental group the Sunrise Project, which campaigns against the Adani coal mine in central-western Queensland, received US funding.
The Adani project has been subject to a series of legal challenges, one led by Mr Burragubba.
'Unless they want to change the Native Title Act... we still have the right to oppose these mining projects.'
He says traditional owners are opposing the mine on different grounds to environmental groups, and therefore wouldn't be impacted by the proposed legislative changes.
"The environmentalists, they have a scientific understanding of the environment and how it all is a cycle. We have our Aboriginal understanding," he told NITV.
"This is about the impact that this mine will have on all of our lore - that’s why we're, not protesting, but we’re protecting our lore and custom, and our country and our ancestors that are still there.
"Unless they want to change the Native Title Act... we still have the right to oppose these mining projects and vast extractive projects that are going to destroy our country."
UN report slams Australia's treatment of Indigenous activists
The latest developments come a week after UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst delivered a scathing assessment of Australia's treatment of human rights defenders.
"Indigenous rights defenders also face lack of cooperation or severe pressure from the mining industry with regard to project activities, as has been exemplified in the case of the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine in central-western Queensland," Mr Forst wrote in his end-of-mission statement.
"I also call on government officials and politicians to refrain from attempts to vilify environmentalists, likening them to eco-criminals, traitors and green radicals.
"Not only those verbal attacks de-legitimise valid environmental concerns in policy debate and protect business interests linked to environmental harm, but they are also not in line with the responsibility of the State to respect the rights of human rights defenders and support their work."