Friday June 19 marked one year since the federal government agreed not to pursue plans for a national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120 km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The campaign opposing the dump proposal persisted for over eight years.
Traditional Owners launched a federal court case challenging the Muckaty site nomination in 2010. The court had heard evidence in Melbourne, Tennant Creek and on country at Muckaty and was due to travel to Darwin the following week when the decision to abandon the plan was announced.
Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator Natalie Wasley said that community members are still elated about the news, which came as a surprise amidst the intensity of the court proceedings: “One year on, there is a mixture of pride, relief and concern. The determination and resilience of the community prevailed and networks and friendships were built that will last long in to the future. Sadly, some elders who were strongly opposed to the nuclear dump passed away before hearing that the land had been protected.”
Muckaty Traditional Owner Dianne Stokes said, “Everyone is feeling very happy that we won; we struggled that long to get it over and done with. It is special for us to celebrate one year and we are looking forward for the government to stay away from Muckaty and any remote area around Tennant Creek in the future. If anyone else around the country wants support to stop a nuclear dump, we will come along and help them to go against the waste. We had so much support when we were struggling, if anyone calls we will go straight there.”
At the time of the announcement, Warlmanpa woman Marlene Bennett Nungarrayi said: “Today will go down in the history books of Indigenous Australia on par with the Wave Hill Walk-off, Mabo and Blue Mud Bay. The Warlmanpa Nation has won an eight-year battle against the might and power of the Commonwealth Government and Northern Land Council. Justice has prevailed and this is a win for all Territorians.”
Muckaty Traditional Owners and supporters are monitoring the current site selection process for a national radioactive waste facility and will support any community that is shortlisted without full, informed consent.
Statement from Muckaty Traditional Owner Isobel Phillips:
It has been one year, since we stopped the nuclear waste dump at Muckaty.
Looking back now on how we struggled, it was the hardest. Keeping it up was the worst because of the pressure that our land will be destroyed.
We first felt sad, heartbroken and betrayed that the government would put the nuclear waste on our country.
And our grief is for our elders who have passed away − they helped us but their spirit is here with us today.
There is one thing that we have − our culture, lore, and family connection on the land.
We kept going with the fight until we won our land back.
Our heart jiggled with joy and smiled when we heard the good news that the government was not going ahead with the nuclear waste dump on our country.
We jumped and we danced with excitement − what a blessing.
We are so happy, so strong and still smiling with pride.
Don’t give up fighting for your land.
In the end, the land will not give up on you.
We will not give up the struggle about dumping nuclear waste on our country or on anyone else’s land.
We believe in the land, the land believes in you.
You know, it will be there for you.
Published in Chain Reaction, national magazine of Friends of the Earth, Australia, edition #124, September 2015, www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction