By Peter Johnston
DARWIN — Two Aboriginal women, Jacqui Katona and Christine Christopherson, began serving a 12-day jail sentence on February 26 for "trespassing" on traditional Aboriginal land during a protest at the Jabiluka uranium mine. Katona and Christopherson have refused to pay a $500 fine.
In a statement issued the previous day they said, "Australia should rethink its future if Aboriginal people defending cultural obligations are to be punished as criminals. You are witnessing the Northern Territory use the law to protect economic interests at the expense of blacks — at the expense of our beliefs, at the expense of our culture, at the expense of our land, at the expense of our society."
Two more "criminals", Maura Humphries and Marty Branagan, were found not guilty of trespass and related charges on February 11 in the Darwin Magistrates Court. In a three-day hearing, their legal representative, NT Environment Centre lawyer Tim Pritchard, successfully argued that the prosecution had failed to establish the location of the controversial uranium lease.
Another four activists, Maggie Ritchie, Joe Clements, Robert Milne and Rita Warleigh, had their trespass charges withdrawn on February 15 and were awarded maximum costs of $710 each. The four were arrested last July after they crawled under a fence erected outside the Jabiluka lease. The police mistakenly arrested them for trespass on the mineral lease while they were still on crown land. Other activists fined for the same offence may now appeal.