Muckaty nuclear waste dump scrapped - NLC jumps ship with egg on its face

Just before the Northern Land Council was going to be questioned by Muckaty Waste Nump nomination Trial, it has abandoned its push to locate a national nuclear waste dump on Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory.

No nuclear waste dump will be built at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek after the Australian government agreed not to act on the nomination of a site by the Northern Land Council (NLC). Social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn has been acting for Traditional Owners opposed to the dump in a four-year legal fight that was two weeks into a Federal Court trial when it was resolved. Video by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Penny Williams Namikilli said "ngulayilpa wanganya ngurru-ku partta-wurru mar-darnjaku, marjumarju kula yanjaku. kuyayi ngurru kirlka kan-jin-mi ,mayi parnta."
[Translated from Warlmanpa: We talked about our land to keep the waste away off the land, not to put it there. We want it to remain clean with bush tucker.]

Audio of Paddy Gibson summarising the trial up to the point of NLC jumping ship - 18 June 2014

Beau Donelly Sydney Morning Herald 19 June 2014

The federal government has abandoned its bid to build a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory after a long-running dispute with the traditional owners of the sacred land.

A settlement was reached on Wednesday between lawyers for the opponents and the Northern Land Council, which was set up to help Aboriginal people manage traditional land.

Plans to build the dump at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek were opposed by traditional owners, who said they were not consulted before the site was nominated in 2007 and that the process had ''bypassed'' legal requirements set out in the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

The legal battle reached the Federal Court this month but on Thursday morning Maurice Blackburn’s head of social justice practice, Elizabeth O’Shea, said the parties would ask the court to dismiss the proceedings.

"Every step of the process was opposed by people on the ground, and that may be one reason why they've decided to no longer rely on litigation," Ms O'Shea said.

“Aboriginal people at Muckaty have been fighting this plan for more than seven years and are overjoyed to have secured this outcome.”

The NLC said it settled out of concern for relations among the clans.

Chief executive Joe Morrison said the offer was accepted without any admission of liability “that the nomination was made in error.”

“The most concerning thing for the Northern Land Council was the divisions created through the litigation within the families of Muckaty station, and it’s on that basis that the offer of settlement was accepted,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is great division that have been created through this.

''The most pressing matter for the NLC is that we would focus on reconciling the families at Muckaty.”

Traditional owner Lorna Fejo said she had fought hard to protect the land for her children and grandchildren.

"I feel ecstatic,” she said.

“I feel free because it was a long struggle to protect my land. My grandmother gave me that land in perfect condition and other lands to my two brothers, who are now deceased," she said in a statement.

"It was our duty to protect that land and water because it was a gift from my grandmother to me."

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney said the settlement was a tribute to the traditional landowners.

For “seven years the Muckaty people have been under the pump, have said ‘no’, and that has been heard,” he said.

“What we need to do now is move away from the search for a vulnerable postcode and have an assessment of the best way to manage this material.”

With the site off the agenda, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the council would be given the opportunity to nominate an alternative location.

"If a suitable site is not identified ... the government will commence a new tender process for nominations for another site," Mr Macfarlane said.

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The NLC are in tatters today as any credibility they may have had, sailed out the window when the traditional owners on muckaty exposed their unprofessional approach and total lack of understanding of the depths of culture at the Trial last week. They were simply; 'just not listening to the people'

Northern Land Council (NLC) Media Release

NLC settles on Muckaty

NLC CEO Joe Morrison addresses the media today

19 June 2014

Out of concern for relations among the Aboriginal clans which comprise the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust, the Northern Land Council has agreed to settle the Federal Court challenge to the Commonwealth Government's proposal to establish a nuclear waste facility at Muckaty.

The settlement, offered by the lawyers representing opponents of the facility, was signed off by the parties in Melbourne late yesterday.

In June 2007, the NLC nominated a site for the facility on 225 hectares in the south-east section of the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust area. The Commonwealth approved the site in September 2007.

"The NLC notes that its acceptance of the offer is done without any admission of liability - that is, without any admission that the nomination was made in error," said NLC Chief Executive Officer Joe Morrison.

Mr Morrison said the NLC remains satisfied that it made the nomination with the consent of traditional owners and after consultation with other Aboriginal people with interests in the land.

"In fact, the applicants' own evidence, heard in Tennant Creek last week, acknowledged that the NLC had consulted broadly and appropriately, with the involvement of all affected groups, and that consent was given to the nomination in accordance with Aboriginal tradition," he said.

"The NLC maintains that the nomination was not affected by any relevant error and that the legal challenge would have failed.

"However, it is apparent for various reasons - largely due to outside pressures, including pressures caused by divisive litigation - that a number of individuals have shifted their position since the nomination and no longer want the facility to be constructed on the nominated land.

"Because of the divisions within the Aboriginal community, the NLC is now of the view that it would be preferable if the Commonwealth did not act on the nomination. The Commonwealth has agreed with our proposition.

"This position has, of course, been endorsed by the NLC's Executive Council, which now wants to help the restoration of good relations among the Muckaty families."

Northern Land Council

Media Release - Beyond Nuclear Initiative

June 19, 2014

'Justice has prevailed': Muckaty nuclear waste plan finally dumped.

Traditional Owners and campaigners are celebrating today after learning that plans for a national nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory have been scrapped.

The Commonwealth Government has committed to not pursue the proposed Muckaty site, the announcement coming mid-way through a federal court trial examining the site nomination process.

A delegation of Traditional Owners has travelled from Tennant Creek to speak with supporters and media in Alice Springs.

Marlene Nungarrayi Bennett, Warlmanpa woman 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."

Penny Williams Namikilli said "ngulayilpa wanganya ngurru-ku partta-wurru mar-darnjaku, marjumarju kula yanjaku. kuyayi ngurru kirlka kan-jin-mi ,mayi parnta."
[Translated from Warlmanpa: We talked about our land to keep the waste away off the land, not to put it there. We want it to remain clean with bush tucker.]

Milwayi Traditional Owner Gladys Nungarrayi Brown said, "The land is important, we have to keep it clean without radioactive waste. Our ancestors walked around that land and were always looking after it- generation after generation they kept handing that knowledge on. We have to keep passing on that knowledge to future generations."

The Commonwealth government announced in 2005 that it would pursue three sites in the Northern Territory for a national dump, passing legislation to override NT government opposition. Amendments made in 2006 allowed additional site nominations from Aboriginal Land Councils.

The Northern Land Council offered Muckaty for assessment in 2007, despite opposition from many Traditional Owners. A determined community campaign gained support from trade unions, public health and human rights organisations around the country. Annual demonstrations in Tennant Creek pledged direct action against any attempts to build the dump.

Beyond Nuclear Initiative convenor Natalie Wasley said "Next month will mark ten years since the SA nuclear dump plan was stopped by the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta and supporters. Any further attempts to impose nuclear waste on Aboriginal people considered politically expendable will be defeated."

Dianne Stokes, Milwayi kurtungurlu and Yapa Yapa kirtta said, "We will be still talking about our story in the communities up north so no one else has to go through this. We want to let the whole world know that we stood up very strong. We want to thank the supporters around the world that stood behind us and made us feel strong."

Kylie Sambo, Milwayi Kurtungurlu and hip-hop artists said, "I joined the campaign four years ago when I wrote my hip hop song Muckaty. My sister always told me stories about our mothers dreaming, where it traveled to and from. That land means a lot to us, that's why we stand up to protect it. My sister always encouraged me to stand up for our people and our country, my uncle and grandfather would be very happy and proud of what we have done. We are in Alice Springs with good news that we have WON the fight, If you think something is not going the right way then you stand up and speak, because if we in the centre of the Northern Territory can stand up and win then so can you."

Court proceedings in Melbourne revealed that compensation for the radioactive dump would be in the form of roads, houses and education scholarships. This funding is desperately needed in the region, with a recent estimate that Tennant Creek alone needs around 400 houses to meet current demand.

Ms Wasley concluded, "This radioactive ransom must end. We call for the repeal of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act, which explicitly targets Aboriginal Land for a waste dump. It is time for a national commission to examine radioactive waste production and all options for management."

To arrange interviews please contact: Natalie Wasley 0429 900 774