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

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

Muckaty nuclear waste plan DUMPED!

Some fantastic news today- the Commonwealth Government has committed not to pursue plans for a national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty!

Lawyers from Maurice Blackburn Social Justice Practice announced the exciting development in Melbourne  this morning and a delegation of Muckaty Traditional Owners travelled to Alice Springs for a press conference- see featured photo.

The announcement comes mid-way through the Federal Court trial examining the process under which the nomination of Muckaty was made by the Northern Land Council and accepted by the Commonwealth Government in 2007.

Two weeks of the trial were completed with hearings in Melbourne, Tennant Creek and on country at Muckaty outstation. The Northern Land Council and Commonwealth Government have agreed to settle with the Applicants by committing not to act on the proposal or nomination, so the hearings scheduled for Darwin (June 23-July 4) have been cancelled.

This campaign has followed the successful campaign by the Kupi Piti Kungka Tjuta to stop a nuclear dump in SA and been built from the ground up in Tennant Creek with help from supporters across the NT. Over the last 7 years, the community has marched in Tennant Creek every year, hosted trade union delegations, written songs and poems, made films and toured photo exhibitions. People have travelled tirelessly around the country to build awareness and support, having conversations over cups of tea in regional areas and walking the corridors of Canberra Parliament House to lobby Ministers.

The community used the May 25 rally and media attention on the federal court proceedings to reiterate they would continue campaigning until the dump was stopped- including blocking the road if needed.

So the deadly news is now public – please tell everyone that together we dumped the Muckaty plan! Traditional Owners and the broader community in Tennant Creek are very excited and relieved and looking forward to a big celebration in the coming few weeks.

We will then set about collating photos, footage and other materials from the campaign, so stay tuned for the call out to copy and/or send these to the Arid Lands Environment Centre for archiving.

There is a lot more to say but we are still all a bit shocked and processing the news so will send more updates and reflections in the coming week.

One important point is that Traditional Owners have been absolutely clear that they will wholeheartedly challenge any attempts to nominate any other sites on the Muckaty Land Trust- an idea suggested by NT Senator Nigel Scullion today.

I was asked to finish this note with a huge thanks to everyone who has been part of this campaign and supported the Muckaty mob to be heard- every action, letter, conversation, trip to Tennant, fundraising gig and movie night has helped bring about this victory!!

Muckaty will be nuclear free!

Muckaty court report : Guest post by Bruce Reyburn

Below is an excerpt of a Songlines blog post written by Bruce Reyburn.

Read the full post here.

Excerpt from “A sniff of a long overdue refreshing change in the wind?” by Bruce Reyburn | June 12 2014.

The Federal Court is sitting in Tennant Creek at the request of Warlmanpa people opposed to the radioactive waste facility which the Commonwealth Government seeks to establish on Aboriginal land (anywhere) but especially at Muckaty – 100km up the road from here. The very concept is racist in its inception.

I understand that there was opposition to the Federal Court coming here to Tennant from the other side (not clear on details) so it is to the great credit of the Federal Court – under Justice North – that they are here this week listening to evidence from Warlmanpa people opposed to the radioactive future.

And it has to be said that this form of legal process is one initiated by Warlmanpa opponents to the radioactive waste facility. Lacking any other legal option (i imagine) they brought their case to the Federal Court.

I say this because they processes of this form of Western justice strike me as being at real odds with the workings of indigenous society in this part of the world.

The way the system works is that a single person is called to give evidence, and is then cross-examined. Then that witness is dismisses by the Judge and allowed to stay and listen to the evidence of others or leave.

But before anyone can give evidence they are not allowed to sit in Court and hear what other witnesses are saying. There is good legal reason for this – it ensures that the evidence people give is not unduly influenced by something they may have just heard from a person giving evidence.

The thing is – individualism of this kind is a comparatively recent development in Western life – and is not something which exists at a deeper level in the lives of First Peoples here. There is, by contrast, a very strong notion of being part of a collective – a group – which has (amongst other things) two complementary opposite parts – kirda and kurtungurlu – (like yin and yang).

Added to this there is a marked distinction between the worlds of men and women. Mens business and womens business are worlds clearly distinguished.

There has been a lot of evidence about both these facts of Warlmanpa life in proceedings in Tennant Creek this week


Earlier attempts to resolve this dispute by mediation (both by Warlmanpa Ways and through the Western legal process) have not been successful. They appeared to lack serious support from those involved in the nomination of the radioactive waste site but i don’t really know why mediation was not a successful healing process. That is what is needed.

When I worked on land claims here in Central Australia the approach of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner was very different. People were always treated in ways which accommodated these fundamentally important features of their social Being. Kirda and kurtungurlu were present. Men and women treated according to the appropriate protocols.

Speaking about country and Dreamings requires the right people to be present. I noticed Dianne S (a very strong women with – as she says – culture) look trapped on one occasion when she was being cross-examined – she looked around the court room for the right people for that moment, but they were not in the room. She could not escape and had to continue.

Given the great importance of this case, procedures are required that ensure people can give their very best evidence.

I hope to tease out some of these matters when i return to Wollongong since there is so much happening here at the moment i need some quiet time to reflect on these things.

Yesterday in Court we heard from a very strong woman P Brown who was very capable and spoke strongly about key matters – but she was followed but a far less confident women who – isolated and alone – worried about other matters – situated in the middle of the intense focus of non-indigenous men – was subject to gruelling hours of cross-examination by Northern Land Council lawyers.

It just felt so wrong i had to leave the room – one less non-indigenous man i thought. Later on other Warlmanpa women expressed their concern about how she was being treated and ensured that they were in the court room to give her some support.

Read the full post here.