Reflections on the 2007 ‘no waste dump’ road trip

Ten years ago a group left Alice Springs on a two week speaking tour “From the Heart, For the Heartland”, with meetings in Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. A follow up meeting was held later in Perth.

The group consisted of Traditional Owners and community representatives from four areas being assessed for the National Radioactive Waste Facility. The aim was to hold public meetings, media interviews and a photo and art exhibition to increase awareness about the dump proposal and build support from a broad range of people.

Along the way we met with many wonderful people and solidified networks that remain engaged in nuclear free struggles today.

Here are a few of the pics from along the way. The photo taken in the office has a sombre feel as it was taken on June 21 literally just after the extremely racist, draconian and far reaching Northern Territory Intervention laws had been announced.

The tour was a really important part of the campaign to stop the NT waste dump and was also an important foundation for the national campaign that was to come against the Intervention.

Friendships made along the way (two weeks in a mini-bus!) have endured.

As we reflect on the lessons from the successful NT dump campaign, thoughts are with Adnyamathanha people and the community around Kimba now faced with the same waste prospect and communities that continue to live under the Intervention today.

Speaking tour_group speaking tour_mitch interview speaking tour_tent embassy speaking tour_Greens speaking tour_Audrey trades hall speaking tour_Oxfam speaking tour_Mitch art speaking tour_Adeladies Speaking tour_exhibition Speaking tour_DJ Heartland speaking tour meeting list

Celebrating one year since Muckaty nuclear waste plan dumped!

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​ Press conference in Alice Springs announcing Muckaty campaign win: June 19, 2014

This Friday June 19 marks one year since the federal government agreed not to pursue plans for a national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.

The historic decision was the result of a long and dedicated campaign by Traditional Owners and supporters right across the country- thank you again to everyone who contributed in such a variety of practical, creative and important ways.

The solidarity and support from trade unions, students, artists, lawyers, health professionals, environment groups and other communities who had been targeted earlier in the process was a significant boost to morale and kept the Muckaty community focused on the often daunting task of challenging both the federal government and Northern Land Council.

“It’s really a frightening situation that people aren’t going to have a say about what’s stuck there, buried in their own lands. We are not prepared to be the people who transport this back up to bury it in an area where the communities have no say, the Traditional Owners have no say whatsoever about this going in the ground. We need to say this is just not acceptable.”
Maritime Union of Australia Illawarra Branch Secretary Garry Keane  (April 22, 2009)

One year on, management of radioactive waste continues to be a national challenge; for many years the Muckaty campaign was calling for an independent inquiry into all options of waste management, including but not limited to a single remote repository. Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane called Muckaty a “disaster” yet decided to again pursue a single remote facility; he has however stated it would only be approved on a genuinely ‘volunteered’ site where land tenure was not contested.

A very short window was provided for landholders to nominate and the Minister is now considering what was submitted and preparing to shortlist sites. Unfortunately, these nominations are not being made public, which has already raised concerns about lack of transparency, consultation and consent from areas where nominations have been exposed by the media.

However, though we are collectively watching the new process very carefully, it is important this week to celebrate the tenacity of the Muckaty mob in winning their long struggle!​

To commemorate this fantastic victory, NITV will be screening the documentary “Protecting Manuwangku” on Friday night at 8:30pm. The film was produced by Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS and documents the community preparing for the annual Muckaty protest rally and concert. Tune in Friday night at 8:30pm and invite your family and friends to do the same.

150619_Protecting Manuwangku_NITV

Some celebratory images will be circulated on social media via Beyond Nuclear Initiative: please like the BNI page on facebook or follow BNI on twitter and send these around to all of your contacts.
Finally, a really sincere thank you to everyone for your ongoing support for the BNI project. With the final allocated funding for the project having been stretched much further that even we thought possible, any end of financial year donations to keep BNI rolling will be gratefully accepted and put to very good use.

BNI is a joint project of Australian Conservation Foundation and Friends of the Earth Australia, hosted by the Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs and Environment Centre NT in Darwin.

The following poem was written by Muckaty Traditional Owner Isobel Phillips

Isobel Poem_Muckaty one year

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Radioactive Waste Update- March 2015

In June 2014 the Australian federal government abandoned plans to build the first national nuclear waste facility on Aboriginal land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory. The decision came half way through a federal court case challenging the nomination of the site and is a testament to the determined eight year campaign by Traditional Owners and their supporters around the country and world.

Australian non-government and civil society organisations, including environment groups, public health organisations and trade unions, have consistently requested the Minister halt the search for a single remote site in favour of a process based on an audit of all radioactive waste materials in parallel with an independent Inquiry that considered the full range of waste management options.

However, in November 2014 federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane instead announced intention to open a nationwide site nomination and selection process for locating a national radioactive waste facility. The National Radioactive Waste Management Project (NRWMP) was officially launched on Monday March 2 and aims to shortlist nominations, assess preferred sites and declare a final location by the middle of 2016.

The Beyond Nuclear Initiative considers this timeframe to be unnecessarily compressed and constrained, especially given that the first shipment of long-lived intermediate level waste returning to Australia from overseas reprocessing in December 2015 will be returning to a purpose built storage facility at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor complex just south of Sydney.

Waste currently stored in Australia is concentrated at two secure federal facilities; the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation campus at Lucas Heights and the CSIRO facility at Woomera in South Australia. There is little opportunity for public input and consultation built into the NRWMP, especially in the early stages.

Once preferred sites are shortlisted and field assessments begin, we understand that public input will include submissions to the Environmental Impact Assessment in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act (ARPANS).

Essentially, there is still an underlying assumption – and a continuing push – that we need a single remote facility. However, Minister Macfarlane’s public statement that the Muckaty process was a ‘disaster’ has clearly influenced the approach to the revised NRWMP. After decades of top down decision-making based on a Decide-Announce-Defend model, this new process does at least contain some degree of transparency, clarity and a stated commitment to volunteerism.

Two committees have been convened to assist the government developing criteria to select a site; a Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) and Public Interest Panel (PIP). The Australian Conservation Foundation was the only civil society organisation engaged with radioactive waste issues during the Muckaty/Northern Territory waste dump proposal that was offered a position on the PIP. According to the government website (, each shortlisted site will be assessed against three facility design options, two of which only have low level waste being transported to the facility and intermediate level waste managed ‘under current arrangements’.

Looking at a broader range of options in collaboration with the two advisory panels – even if just on paper – is far better than the single-minded pursuit of a solo site for all radioactive waste located on remote Aboriginal Land. The Minister has taken a welcome half step back, but there are still many unanswered questions regarding this process, which we maintain would be far better addressed through an independent Inquiry.

The Beyond Nuclear Initiative will continue to monitor progress of the NRWMP and inform stakeholders and interested parties of key developments and opportunities for input into the process. That this process is happening at all is a tribute to the tenacity of the Muckaty Traditional Owners who took such sustained action to protect their country and culture. It is also a tribute to all who supported them. Now we need to maintain our vigilance and efforts to advance radioactive waste management in Australia in a more socially and environmentally responsible way.

Regards, Natalie Wasley Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator.



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It’s time to manage Australia’s radioactive waste – not dump it

For over two decades successive Australian governments have searched for a location to dump Australia’s radioactive waste.

This has caused heartache in targeted remote communities and headlines in the national media. And this “out of sight, out of mind” approach has failed.

In June this year, after seven long years of protest and community resistance, the federal government abandoned plans to open a dump on Aboriginal land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.

The buck should have stopped there.

But the government seems to have learned nothing and instead of taking a look at its flawed dump plan it is planning a new national search for another dump site.

The search for a dump site needs to stop and an independent inquiry into the best way to manage Australia’s radioactive waste needs to start.

The majority of Australia’s radioactive waste is currently stored in two defined federal sites and both have confirmed they can securely store this waste for years to come.

We have the time and opportunity to do things differently and better. We don’t need a quick and dirty dump – we need a responsible and lasting solution.

Please help tell the Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane that it is time for a new approach to radioactive waste management – one that is expert, independent and public.


How to help:

Minister Ian Macfarlane is accepting public comments on his national dump search plan until November 10 and your small comment could help make a big difference.

Some themes that you might mention in your email or letter include:

• The history of two decades of community resistance and concern over plans for a remote dump

• The need to move beyond Muckaty and to have a new approach that includes people and explores options

• Australia has never had an independent and open assessment of the different ways available to manage radioactive waste – and now needs one

• We have the time and the need to do things differently via a public Inquiry to achieve a better and longer lasting result

• Radioactive waste is a long lasting threat and requires serious and measured attention – its management should not become a political issue

• Aboriginal and remote communities should not be the primary targets in the search for a response to a national problem

• All Australians get a better result when a decision is based on clear evidence and credible process

Comments can be sent by November 10 to either


• Manager, Radioactive Waste Management Section, Department of Industry, GPO Box 9839, Canberra, ACT, 2601



On June 19 we received the fantastic news that Warlmanpa people had been successful in their eight year struggle to stop a nuclear waste dump being built on Aboriginal land at Muckaty.
We all supported this fight and are proud of the victory. But the Commonwealth and NT governments have not stopped in their attempts to divide our communities and impose a nuclear dump.
Being forced to accept Australia’s nuclear waste would be bad enough. But former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is openly campaigning for a dump to house nuclear waste from across the world. He says this is a “solution” to the dire poverty facing our people and that NT Chief Minister Adam Giles is a ‘keen supporter’ of the plan.
We have heard that people are being approached with the suggestion a nuclear dump could draw funding for bitumen roads and outstation housing. The Commonwealth Department of Education also offered scholarships as part of the Muckaty proposal.
NT Chief Minister Adam Giles was elected promising outstation funding and support to rebuild the community councils destroyed in 2008, but has delivered nothing. Thousands of jobs from our Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) were also taken away by the NT Intervention.
But why should Aboriginal people have to accept waste no one else in the world wants, to receive amenities and opportunities taken for granted in mainstream Australia?
Decisions about using our land for the nuclear industry cannot be restricted to small groups of Traditional Owners. If there is contamination, surrounding lands will be affected. Waste will have to travel long distances through many people’s country.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Act allows for compulsory acquisition of land near the nominated site deemed necessary for the project and overrides key environmental and Aboriginal heritage protections during site selection. Currently, only Aboriginal Land in the NT is under consideration by the Commonwealth.
Enough is enough. We will never accept a nuclear dump on NT Aboriginal Lands. We will not be blackmailed and will continue to fight for the public investment our communities deserve.
The Commonwealth and NT Government’s are causing more pain, division and frustration. But they are wasting their time. Any attempt at a nomination will be fought every step of the way. We won at Muckaty and we will win again.
Signed by :
-Jackie Baxter
-Marie Ellis- President Imwerkwernhe Council Limited
-Noel Kruger- Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson
-Rosie Kunoth-Monks
-Ngarla Kunoth-Monks
-John Leemans
-Margie Kngwarraye Lynch
-Pamela Kngwarraye Lynch
-Valerie Napaljarri Martin
-Audrey McCormack
-Elaine Peckham
-Barbara Shaw
-Walter Shaw- Tangentyere Council CEO
-Dianne Stokes- Muckaty Traditional Owner
-Tangentyere Council
-Amelia Kngwarraye Turner
-Peter Paul (Coco) Wallace