Maurice Blackburn Fight BackNews
Muckaty mob building support for legal claim
Traditional owners from Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory visited Melbourne this week to attend a Federal Court hearing and rally support for the legal challenge against the nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land.
At the Federal Court hearing on June 25, Justice North said there were "many steps yet to go" before a trial date could be fixed but he signaled that he understood the need for people to give evidence and to tell their story in a way that accommodated the failing health of some people, and avoided "tedious cross examination."
It is now five years since the Muckaty land near Tennant Creek was nominated for Australia's first nuclear waste dump by the Federal Government. Maurice Blackburn took on the legal challenge pro bono in May 2010. The case is against the Federal Government and the Northern Land Council.
Penny Phillips, one of the traditional owners fighting the dump said outside the Federal Court: "I would like the Judge to come out to Tennant Creek so we can take him out to the community, to the land, to our country. They only talked to certain people when they decided to put [the dump] there, not the majority of the group. If you put that stuff on the land and if it starts leaking, it will destroy the water, the environment and things that live there."
There are many different dreamings associated with the nominated land.
This is a very significant case. It's looking at how we treat the traditional owners' interests in their land. It's Australia's first nuclear waste dump and it will have a profound effect on the land. We are asking the court to look at whether the Commonwealth and the Northern Land Council can impose this dump on people who clearly don't want it. People are very upset about the nomination of this dump and they have resisted it every step of the way.
When there is disagreement about a project of such significance it has to taken very seriously. It's not good enough to say that people's objection should be overridden.
The matter returns to the Federal Court for another directions hearing on 12 November 2012.
Community and union involvement
Key Aboriginal organizations, environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Beyond Nuclear Initiative have been involved in the campaign against the Muckaty nuclear waste dump for several years.
Dave Sweeney, ACF nuclear free campaigner said it was wrong to impose the dump on some of the poorest people in the country without their consent and without consultation.
"In 2012, in the 21st century, in the land which is meant to be about the fair go we have to get fair dinkum, we must do better than the plan for Muckaty. A long time after the people involved in this campaign are gone, the waste remains a threat. It's a test of national responsibility," Mr Sweeney said.
Some of Australia's most powerful unions have also pledged support. The Maritime Union of Australia, Victorian secretary Kevin Bracken met with traditional owners after the June 25 hearing and MUA members were briefed the following day about the campaign at a monthly meeting. Several other unions have also signalled they will block any plans for a waste dump at Muckaty.
In mid-May, ACTU Congress passed a resolution expressing disappointment that the highly contested Muckaty site will continue to be pursued under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act and affirming that the ACTU "stands in solidarity with Traditional Owners and communities resisting Federal government plans for a radioactive waste dump and commits to supporting trade unions refusing to cooperate with implementation of the policy".