Students' camp backs stand against Jabiluka

August 6, 1997

Students' camp backs stand against Jabiluka

By Mamu

DARWIN — Students from many Australian universities in July attended the Students and Sustainability Conference in Townsville. Jacqui Katona, spokesperson for the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Jabiluka mineral lease in Kakadu National Park, invited conference delegates to come and visit the site and meet with the traditional owners, who are opposed to uranium mining.

The response was so great that people had to be turned away, with final numbers based on regional representation. An intensive week-long program was formulated, facilitated by the National Union of Students, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Environment Centre Northern Territory.

A remote bush camp was established by the Gundjehmi Association assisted by Everyone For a Nuclear Free Future.

Students were welcomed into camp with traditional Mimi dances of the Mirrar clan. The traditional owners guided the students on a walk over their country and showed them the site of the proposed mine. People were astounded at the beauty of the area, and its wildlife and forests.

We visited the local Aboriginal community and sat above the banks of Magela Creek. Here we saw where contaminated water flows, saw how the Aboriginal people were living and heard of their struggle with white-imposed bureaucracy.

We learned how a mere fraction of promised benefits and money filters down to the local people whose lives are most affected and whose lands are desecrated.

Twenty kilometres south of Jabiluka is Ranger uranium mine, which has operated for more than a decade. The mining company, Energy Resources Australia, took students on a guided tour. Many found what they saw shocking or became angry.

The students were eager to show solidarity with the Aboriginal people and tell the rest of the world what was happening. A demonstration was planned, and workshops were held on peacekeeping/non-violent practice, painting of banners and placards and making T-shirts.

We met the traditional owners at the gates of the Ranger mine for a peaceful protest. Aborigines led the demonstration with Mimi dancers and long colourful strings of postcards sent from supporters around the world.

Everybody coated their hand with traditional charcoal paint and left imprints — the universal "Stop" symbol — on photocopies of the proposed Jabiluka environmental impact statement.

The students then took their protest to the company town of Jabiru, occupying the civic area.

The last day at camp was spent planning for the future. Many great ideas and promises resulted in us leaving with direction, unity, strength, and rebirth.

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