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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

We’re under a nuclear cloud but we’re not backing down

By Robyn Rayner.

Farmers contend regularly with fire, flood and drought, but fine wool producer Robyn Rayner never expected to be fighting off plans for a radioactive waste dump across the road from her property.

March 11, 2016

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and was told via a media report that you could be living next door to a nuclear waste dump?

On November 13 last year the Federal Government announced a shortlist of six sites, from twenty eight volunteered properties around Australia, for a proposed national radioactive waste dump. A property at Hill End was named. Since then our lives have been turned upside down. My husband Geoff and I, along with our family, own and run Pomanara Merino Stud directly across the road from the proposed site. It is just 1.5km from our family home. We are second-generation woolgrowers and our son James would like to be the third. This may not be important to Government Departments, but it is to us. This nuclear waste will also be around for generations to come, wherever they put it.

We have worked long and hard to achieve the clean, green and sustainable label that we have today. Our region is renown for growing the best superfine wool in the world and we have won many major awards for the sheep we breed. At no time did the landowner who nominated his property consult with neighbours, nor did he take into consideration the environment or the village of Hill End, located nine kilometres away. Hill End is a historic precinct that host 5000 school children a year and over 100 000 other visitors. The nominated property backs onto the Turon River, a major waterway for the food bowl of Australia.

Stress and anxiety has left us not able to function properly in our day to day lives. Our farm work has suffered. When you own livestock, they have to be your number one priority. Instead we wake up every morning with a nuclear cloud over our head. We are trying to make sense of how the Government could sign off on a site without even visiting the area beforehand. Wherever this facility is located, it will remain there for many hundreds of years. We need to ensure that future generations are well informed as well as protected from any harm that will come from this site.

The proposed site was first listed in the Government Gazette and official Department website as 3165 Hill End Road Sallys Flat NSW. This address does not actually exist. The owners of 3165 Hill End Road Hill End have not and do not wish to volunteer their property. The correct lot number is actually 2641- the coordinates initially published were in fact for the proposed Queensland site. How does a Government department, with resources at its fingertips, get it so wrong? How can we trust these people with nuclear waste when they cannot get a simple address correct?

We have so many unanswered questions. A Department Official told the Hill End meeting on November 26 that no reports will be done until the next phase of the project. Yet Minister Josh Frydenberg said in an interview with Ray Hadley (21 January 2016) that extensive weather, seismology and infrastructure reports have been completed.

The Minister also stated that some neighbours were in favour of this proposal, yet all direct neighbours have twice stated their objections at meetings with Government representatives present.

In the same radio interview the Minister stated that Bathurst Regional Council was in favour, when in fact it had not yet voted on the issue. On February 3 the Council voted against the waste facility being built in the region. Mid-Western Regional Council Mudgee, Lithgow City Council and the Bathurst and Mudgee Chambers of Commerce have also raised objections. The Rural Fire Service has stated that they would not attend any call outs. The Peel Residents Association and the Wattle Flat Progress Association passed motions against the dump. The mid-state sub branch of the National Servicemen’s Association of Australia has also stated opposition.

The Government representatives only wanted one on one meetings with directly affected neighbours, but we insisted on public meetings. The community and the neighbours are all, and will remain, completely against this proposal. This has actually brought our community closer together. We stand united and we will fight to the end.

The time and effort that it is taking to fight this battle is financially and emotionally draining. The stigma of living next to a nuclear waste dump will have an ongoing and lasting impact on our land values and business. Farmers choose to live and work the land, most for little financial gain, but more for the rewards and satisfaction. This is very special to us, something for us to pass onto our children and for them to remember us by.

My husband Geoff, Jodie Carter and I have just been to Canberra, together with representatives from the other five proposed sites. We come from all walks of life, from all parts of Australia, but we were all there for the same reason. We are united in our opposition to a nuclear waste dump being forced on our communities.

Minister Josh Frydenberg refused to meet with us even though some site representatives had travelled for two days. Instead we had a very heated and lively meeting with two senior advisors and a Department representative. It was distressing listening to the other community members and their worries. We heard of more bungles in the process. For example, the post office box advertised for submissions was incorrect for months. This was only noticed when submissions started returning to people who had thankfully put their address on the back. How many had been sent in without return addresses before the Government corrected the problem? Good question.

Even this week, the online ‘consultation hub’ for making submissions says the Minister is seeking views from people where the seven (not six) nominations are located. Is there somewhere else we are unaware of? Or is this yet another simple error that should have been avoided?

We all make mistakes, but it is how we accept and act to correct those mistakes that people will judge us on. The Government should scrap these sites, admit they got it wrong, and then apologise to the people this has affected. They should then start a responsible and correct process to decide what to do with the waste- not just pushing it on regional and rural communities with promises of financial gain. They need to find out a way to stop making more nuclear waste and research what we can do or use instead.

Our community does not want a radioactive waste facility at Hill End. We have supported hundreds of locals to make submissions to the public comment period that closes today (March 11). The people of Muckaty in the NT fought for eight years to stop a waste dump there and we are willing to do the same if necessary. We want to hold the Government accountable, to get all six sites off the list and get this process right.

Facebook: No Central West Nuclear Waste Dump

Australian Nuclear Free Alliance 2014 meeting statement

Click here to download ANFA 2014 meeting statement

Click here to listen to audio from the ANFA media conference held after the national meeting
 ANFA logo__2014

Meeting Statement – 2014

Against a background of strong community protest to the continuing government and industry push for an expanded nuclear sector in Australia, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) held its 17th annual gathering of Aboriginal, environmental and public health representatives who share common concerns over the adverse impacts of the nuclear industry and a common aspiration for a future free of nuclear threats.

The 2014 ANFA meeting was held on Arrernte country in Alice Springs with representatives from the following nations, communities and organisations: Arabunna, Arrernte, Koara, Kokatha Mula, Larrakia, Luritja, Ngaanyatjarra, Tjiwarl, TI Meriam, Warlpiri, Waramungu, Warlmanpa, Wiradjuri, Wongutha, Yankunytjatjara.

Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA, Arid Lands Environment Centre, Australian Conservation Foundation, Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Conservation Council WA, Environment Centre NT, Freedom Flotilla, Friends of the Earth (Brisbane and Melbourne), Indonesian Greens, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Keep Queensland Nuclear Free, Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Nuclear Operations Watch Port Adelaide, Public Health Association Australia (NT Branch), Uranium Free NSW, West Papua.

Radioactive Waste

The ANFA meeting celebrated and acknowledged the seven-year campaign against a planned radioactive waste dump at Muckaty – an important human and environmental rights victory. Many people from Tennant Creek expressed thanks to ANFA for the strong support and solidarity over the years.

Community representatives shared concerns and experiences about the divisive impacts of the federal government’s approach to waste management. Continuing to pursue only remote dumping options further exploits disadvantaged communities. The meeting endorsed a national statement calling for an independent National Commission into responsible radioactive waste management based on science and evidence instead of a continuation of the flawed and failed process of targeting remote communities.

Uranium mining

Australian uranium fuelled the Fukushima disaster but there is ongoing pressure for new uranium mines in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and exploration threats in New South Wales. ANFA condemned the federal and state governments as out of step with the broad opposition to uranium mining across many communities and organisations. The meeting discussed specific action plans to target uranium mining projects across Australia.

Mine Rehabilitation

The meeting heard of the failures of rehabilitation of uranium mines and called for the national adoption and enforcement of the standard applied at the Ranger mine in Kakadu that requires radioactive mine tailings to be isolated from the environment for no less than ten thousand years.

Women’s Health

The meeting heard personal stories and long history of disease and impacts from the nuclear industry, including intergenerational sickness and mental health issues. Base-line studies from the past were not done but should be demanded for any proposed new projects for animals, plants, bush foods and people. There is a need to do healing: the pain and hurt caused by nuclear impacts will always be there but we should support each other through healing and engage our community medical services in collecting data and tracking impacts.

Men’s Health

The meeting heard about scientific studies that have demonstrated increases in cancer incidence among Australians exposed to radiation and we are seeing this in our communities. The consensus scientific view is that even the lowest doses of radiation can cause cancer and children and women are at greater risk. The impacts from radiation exposure are seen in our families’ health. In Australia uranium deposits have been known as poison or sickness country by Aboriginal people with strong cultural knowledge about the dangers – this traditional knowledge is still being ignored.

Weapons

The meeting heard that around 40,000 rounds of depleted uranium weapons have been deployed in Australian military training exercises. This raises serious concerns about where they were used and any subsequent health impacts from these weapons. We recognise the intergenerational health impacts from nuclear weapons testing as well as the documented use and impacts of depleted uranium weapons. The meeting called for all uranium weapons and nuclear weapons to be banned.

Rare Earths

The mining and refining of Rare Earth Elements (REE’s) was discussed. There is a need for roundtable discussion of stakeholders in the nuclear free, climate and renewable energy sectors to discuss the role of REE’s in renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar given that mining these elements involves the generation of radioactive uranium and thorium waste.

Land Councils

There was strong concern about the function of Aboriginal Land Councils in different states and territories. The meeting called for greater openess to ensure such bodies represent the wishes of Aboriginal people in their region. There were deep concerns expressed that full consultation does not always happen and ANFA representatives will be seeking to address these issues within their particular Land Councils.

ANFA Network

ANFA representatives in each states and territory committed to building the ANFA network and sourcing funds to produce and distribute resources needed for grassroots community education on nuclear issues.

In the shadow of Fukushima there can be no nuclear business as usual and meeting   representatives reaffirmed their commitment to actively advance a nuclear free Australia through involvement in ANFA, their communities and organisations.

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

PITY THERE IS NOT ANOTHER WAY OF DEALING WITH THIS DISPUTE

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.