High school walkouts boost Jabiluka student rallies

May 5, 1999


High school walkouts boost Jabiluka student rallies

Rallies against the Jabiluka uranium mine were held on April 29 by tertiary and high school students, who joined the rally after walking out of school. The mine is being built inside Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, contrary to the wishes of the indigenous traditional owners, the Mirrar. The demonstrations and walkouts were initiated by the National Union of Students and supported by Jabiluka Action Groups and Resistance.

Emma Webb reports from Adelaide that a rally of 600 people, about half of whom were high school students, began at Victoria Square. National NUS environment officer Scott Alderson, Resistance member and high school student Tristain Miller and trade union and community activist Davey Thomason addressed the crowd. Protesters were welcomed to Kaurna land by Don Smith.

The rally marched to the offices of Robert Hill and Alexander Downer, where Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott spoke about his people's struggle against the Roxby Downs uranium mine. Buzzacott and the Arabunna are taking legal action against Hill and Downer for acts of genocide.

The protesters then marched to the South Australian Art Gallery, before ending up at Adelaide University. The Art Gallery owns 7000 shares in North Ltd, the parent company of ERA, which is building the Jabiluka mine. Protesters "died" outside, while others chalked around their bodies, leaving a very visible message. At Adelaide University, David Noonan, the Australian Conservation Foundation's Adelaide campaign worker, and Peter Garrett, ACF national president, addressed the crowd.

In Melbourne, 800 high school students walked out of school to protest against the uranium mine. They met at the GPO, where Reuben Endean, Princes Hill secondary student and Resistance activist, chaired a speak-out.

The students were addressed by Trish Corcoran from the Jabiluka Action Group on the importance of high school students in the campaign, and by Tim Doughney, University High student and Resistance activist, who questioned the existence of real democracy in this country: "When three-quarters of the population are opposed to this mine, how can the government allow it to go ahead?".

The high school students then joined with 200 university and TAFE students who had rallied at Flinders Street Station in a long and spirited march down St Kilda Rd to the headquarters of North Ltd.

Along the march route was Melbourne Grammar. When the protest reached the school, the students in their classes, some in lab coats, ran to the windows and cheered the protest. The march stopped for several minutes and chanted "Walkout! Walkout!" The march then went past students on a sports field who also cheered the protesters on.

At North Ltd, the protesters filled out a giant report card for North, assessing that it had failed the tests of recognising the rights of Aboriginal people and of environmental sustainability. There was also a green goo "toxic spill" on St Kilda Rd, which caused the temporary death of hundreds of protesters.

The crowd was addressed by Dave Sweeney, anti-nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The cop presence was very prominent, including at least 12 mounted police. The protesters and the police negotiated intensely over the spilling of the green goo — protesters pointed out that the cops do not intervene to stop the real polluters: North Ltd, Energy Resources Australia and the federal government.

In Sydney, Alana Kerr reports, 200 people gathered in wet weather in the afternoon. Many protesters had rallied earlier in the day in actions organised by NUS on university campuses.

The rally was addressed by a range of speakers, including Lee Rhiannon, NSW Greens parliamentarian; Emma To, Resistance high school activist; JAG activist Alexia Mylonas; Jim Green from the Sydney People Against the New Nuclear Reactor; Natasha Verco, NUS environment officer; and a representative from the Sydney University Koori collective.

Speakers addressed the racism of building a mine on Aboriginal land, the overall environmental impact of the mine, the devastating nature of the nuclear industry and the fact that a majority of Australians are opposed to the mine.

Ruth Ratcliffe writes from Brisbane that more than 100 university and high school students gathered in Emma Miller Place as part of the national student walkouts.

The rally heard from Rebecca Duffy from Brisbane JAG and Vanessa Glenn from NUS Queensland's environment department. Resistance member Miranda Gibson spoke about the necessity of building a mass movement to stop uranium mining.

The rally marched first to a central Westpac branch and then on to the offices of former minister for resources Warwick Parer. There the demonstrators heard from several high school speakers, some of whom had travelled from the Sunshine Coast to attend the rally.

In Hobart, about 60 people attended a rally in Franklin Square, organised by Resistance, Tas Uni Union Environment Collective and Everyone for a Nuclear Free Future (ENuFF).

Tony Iltis from ENuFF said the nuclear cycle linked the ongoing genocide against indigenous communities in Australia with the genocide being carried out by the global military machine against places such as Iraq, Serbia, Kosova and Montenegro. He supported legal moves by Kevin Buzzacott of the Arabunna people to bring Roxby Downs operator Western Mining and the Australian government to court.

Rohan Pearce from Resistance spoke of the health dangers affecting workers in uranium mines, saying that 40% of those who work in underground mines get cancer and pointing out that this doesn't take into account effects on the children and grandchildren of miners.

The rally, chaired by Valentina Marshall from ENuFF, also heard speeches from Mat Hines from the University of Tasmania Greens, Amanda Sully from the Wilderness Society and Jocelyn Bishop from the Australian Democrats, before a lively march to the offices of North Ltd, where activists dressed in radiation suits staged a radiation spill.<>><>41559MS>n<>255D>

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