Murrawah Johnson: A Warrior for Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice

Murrawah Johnson: A Warrior for Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice

Murrawah Johnson, a Wirdi woman of the Burra Gubba nation in central Queensland, has been recognized with the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award for her tireless activism against billionaire-led coal mining proposals. This international accolade, to be announced in a ceremony in San Francisco, highlights her grassroots efforts in protecting Indigenous lands and advocating for environmental justice. Murrawah Johnson: A Warrior for Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice

“I come from a long line of resistance fighters who are incredibly resilient in the face of the colonial project,” says Johnson, emphasizing the strength she draws from her Indigenous cultural identity.

Johnson’s journey as an activist began in her teenage years when her Elders entrusted her with the responsibility to speak out against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine on her people’s land. Alongside her uncle Adrian Burragubba and other Traditional Owners of the Wangan and Jagalingou group, she waged a battle against the powerful multinational company and both the Queensland and federal governments.

The struggle against Adani’s coal mine saw numerous challenges, including contentious votes on Indigenous land use agreements and legal battles. Despite setbacks, Johnson persisted, fueled by her determination to protect her ancestral lands and the rights of her people.

Her efforts extended beyond the fight against Adani. In 2020, Johnson led Youth Verdict’s challenge to Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal and their proposed Galilee Coal Project. This landmark case, fought on human rights grounds, resulted in a significant victory in 2022 when the Queensland Land Court ruled against the project, recognizing its adverse impact on climate change and the rights of First Nations peoples.

Reflecting on the challenges faced, Johnson acknowledges the systemic barriers Indigenous communities encounter in their struggles for justice. “As a young person, feeling disempowered, really starting to open your eyes to the fact that there’s a conspiracy going on that works against your people,” she says. “We’re still fighting the doctrine of Terra Nullius.”

Despite the hardships, Johnson remains committed to her cause, drawing strength from the knowledge passed down by her Elders and the resilience of her ancestors. Her advocacy not only highlights the ongoing fight for Indigenous rights but also underscores the importance of grassroots activism in the face of powerful interests.

Murrawah Johnson’s recognition with the Goldman Environmental Award serves as a testament to her unwavering dedication to protecting the environment and Indigenous lands, inspiring activists worldwide to continue the struggle for justice and equity.

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