The land around Muckaty Station, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, was nominated as a possible site for a nuclear waste dump by the Northern Land Council in May 2007. This was accepted by the federal government in September 2007.
Natalie Wasley from the Beyond Nuclear Initiative told Green Left Weekly: “A small group of traditional owners, hoping for cash for their impoverished community and improved services like roads, housing and education, agreed to the dump site. However, many other traditional owners remain opposed to the plan.
“Many Muckaty traditional owners are now living in NT intervention forced ‘prescribed areas’, as the intervention and NT government ‘working futures’ policies are stripping funding back from many remote communities and focussing on ‘hub towns’ or ‘growth towns’.”
The NT is now a focus for a radioactive dump because “former PM John Howard was forced to dump the South Australia dump plan due to community pressure and a legal challenge by the SA government,” Wasley said.
While Muckaty has not formally been selected as a dump site, there is a very real danger it will be.
Muckaty Aboriginal activists Dianne Stokes and Kylie Sambo, who have been at the forefront of the battle against the proposal, will speak at the World At a Crossroads — Climate Change Social Change conference about the battle against the dump, and the fight for land rights.
Sambo is a Muckaty traditional owner and hip hop artist from Tennant Creek in the NT. Though still in high school, she has travelled with her family over the past few years speaking out against the imposition of a nuclear waste dump on her traditional land.
In 2010, Sambo won the ABC Radio Heywire award for her song “Muckaty”, a rap about fighting the waste dump and keeping the country clean for the next generation. She will perform at the “Culture of Resistance” performance night at the conference on October 1.
Stokes is a Warumungu and Warlmanpa woman and traditional owner for the Muckaty Land Trust.
She is a spokesperson for traditional owners fighting the proposed dump and has travelled extensively for five years to raise awareness and support for the campaign.
Her community of Kalumpurpla is about 40 kilometres from the proposed dump site at Manuwangku (Muckaty).
“The campaign is growing strong,” said Wasley. “A broad section of unions are supporting it — the Maritime Union of Australia, the Electrical Trades Union, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Unions NT.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions now has a good policy. There is also support from the NT government, which remains opposed to the dump, local pastoralists, and national health and environment groups.
“We have the Public Health Association Australia, the Medical Association for Prevention of War, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth, the Uniting Church Nightcliff in Darwin, the Environment Centre of the NT and the Arid Lands Environment Centre.”
Wasley said the Muckaty community “have held numerous rallies and events in Tennant Creek over the years. Representatives (including Stokes and Sambo) have travelled around the country to let people know about opposition.
“If Muckaty gets announced as the dump site, traditional owners are asking people to travel to Tennant Creek (when they put the call out) and help block the road to show they are serious about not letting the waste travel through to the dump site.”
[Kylie Sambo and Dianne Stokes will speak at the World at A Crossroads — Climate Change Social Change conference, Melbourne, September 30 – October 3.]