“One spill could kill our country” Muckaty traditional owner Penny Phillips told 100 people at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on May 30.
The meeting was organised by Anti-Nuclear NT to condemn legislation passed by the federal government on March 13 that names Muckaty station, 200km north of Tennant Creek as the site for a proposed nuclear waste dump.
The meeting was opened by Larrakeyah woman Donna Jackson whose traditional lands cover the East Arm Wharf, which is one area the waste could be taken through to get to the Muckaty site.
Dr Jim Green from the Beyond Nuclear Initiative outlined the other route that the waste could take from Sydney — 3376km long, including part of the Stuart Highway that was cut off by flooding and a train derailment earlier this year.
Green said Australian regulatory bodies had a “poor track record” of dealing with clean-up issues and cited the failure to adequately clean up the Maralinga nuclear test site as an example.
Traditional owner Bunny Naburrula said she cried when she heard that Muckaty would be the site of the waste dump. “We hear the old man tell that sad story about Maralinga — we don’t want that to happen to our country,” she said. “Please listen to us, we don’t want this.”
Eric Fejo from the Larrakeyah Nation and Joshua Jackson from the Muckaty land trust said that the Northern Land Council should not have put forward Muckaty as a potential site without discussing it with all traditional owners of the area.
Matthew Gardiner from the United Voice union said that if an accident occurred because of the dump, every one of the NT’s 200 firefighters would need to be called in because of the limitations of safety equipment.
He said: “We need to get this right. Because if we don’t get it right, we get it wrong. And we get it wrong forever.”
Lawyer Lizzie O’Shea is part of the High Court challenge against the decision to build a dump at Muckaty. She said: “It’s not fair that the government and the [Northern Land Council] can ride roughshod over people and impose this dump on them.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeny chaired the meeting. He called for a full public inquiry into radioactive waste management in Australia, so that it would not be forced on a “vulnerable or remote community.”