Nuclear waste dump defeat makes history

The front cover photo is by Jagath Dheerasekara.

The Environment Centre NT released this statement on June 19.


The Environment Centre NT welcomes news that the Northern Land Council and the federal government have agreed not to act on the nomination to establish a nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land at Muckaty.

This decision is a historic win for Aboriginal land rights and for the protection of our environment from the threat of nuclear waste. It is a historic day for the rights of all Territorians to clean country and healthy communities and marks the end of a long struggle against the federal government's nuclear waste plans.

The withdrawal of the Muckaty decision today is met with great relief and is a long overdue admission of failure by the federal government in the handling of this complex and longstanding Territory issue.

We congratulate the outstanding efforts of Muckaty traditional owners who have been on the frontline for more than seven years challenging the waste dump plan both in the community and the Federal Court.

From one of the nation’s poorest and most remote regions, the Muckaty community has successfully stood up and challenged the federal government’s cruel vision of their homeland as a dumping ground for the nation’s most dangerous and long-lived waste.

We salute the inspiring leadership demonstrated by Muckaty elders and the younger generations who have fought so strongly for a nuclear-free future and to have voices heard.

With Muckaty out of the firing line, the federal government must now take the first steps towards a responsible approach to Australia’s radioactive waste problem and repeal the National Radioactive Waste Management Act. The establishment of an independent national commission to consider all options for radioactive waste management is the only way to ensure that no other community in Australia is forced to endure such a bitter struggle for justice.

Since a Territory dump was first announced, the Environment Centre NT has been proud to campaign alongside Muckaty traditional owners, and public health, trade union, faith and civil society groups to highlight the injustice of a process that seeks to silence affected communities, risk people’s health and our environment and extinguish Aboriginal culture and land rights.

Australia has a shameful legacy of radioactive racism, from atomic testing on Aboriginal lands at Maralinga in South Australia in the 50s and 60s, to the first federal government attempt to dump nuclear waste on Arkoona Station in the South Australian desert, a plan beaten by the determined efforts of the Kungka Tjuta.

The Muckaty win is further proof that the federal government can no longer hide from its responsibilities to deal with the radioactive legacy it has created by dumping it on communities it sees as voiceless.

Today we thank Muckaty traditional owners for demonstrating with such persistence, good humour and strength that with the smallest of resources, even the largest obstacles can be overcome. We look forward to working with our friends and allies in the Barkly and beyond for a nuclear-free Territory.