Archive for the ‘aboriginal issues’ Category

Barngarla people say NO to a nuclear waste dump

September 19, 2022

NITV – The Point, September 18, 2022)

Racism on show in the Australian Senate

June 21, 2021

Senator Lidia Thorpe addressed the Senate today on the subject of the newly amended National Radioactive Waste Bill.

”…We need a new approach –  unequivocal rejection of this fundamentally flawed and deeply disrespectful Bill.

How can Labor acknowledge the traditional owners when you can support a Bill that will destroy women’s sacred sites? Labor you should stand up and vote this Bill down along with us”

Senator Thorpe spoke passionately and eloquently, explaining First Nation people’s stromg opposition to the planned nuclear waste dump.

And whaddya know – from the Gallery yelled an old white man, a Member of the House ofrReps, but not a member of this Chamber. Yes, Rowan Ramsey MP, yelled ”Bullshit”.

Just as well the Hon Ramsey is a white man, confronting a black woman. Otherwise, if it were the other way round, you can bet your boots that the interjector would have been expelled from the Gallery.

And here’s some of what Senator Thorpe said (inexact transcript)

” Greens speak up for the Barngarla people, oppose this Bill.   The clearly expressed opposition of Aboriginal people.  They strongly oppose the Wallerberdina site, and need to protect that sacred women’s site.  Today’s proposed amendment again paves way for radioactive dump on  this sacred site. The amendment puts all 3 sites back on the table.  None of these sites have the consent of the traditional owners. None of these traditional owners want their sacred sites degraded.The ”community” consent was conducted on the basis that only rate-payers could vote.  The Barngarla Aboriginal Corporation  commissioned an independent company to conduct a ballot, with the result – unanimous opposition.

Labor – you’re agreeing with the amendment so that the traditional owners can fight this plan in court. Is Labor going to pay for their lagal action? Stop pretending that you’re here for the first people in this country.  We say NO and we will continue to fight against the destruction of our country. Radioactive waste is something that will outlast you and this Parliament………We need a new pproach –  unequivocal rejection of this fundamentally flawed and deeply disrespectful Bill. How can Labor acknowledge the traditional owners when you can support a Bill that will destroy womeb’s sacred sites. Labor you should stand up and vote this Bill down along with us.


Despite thae Australian govt’s claim, there is no “broad community consent” for nuclear waste dump on farming land

December 12, 2020

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation says Aboriginal people not consulted enough on Kimba nuclear waste facility, ABC North and West SA, By Gary-Jon LysaghtLuke Radford and Shannon Corvo.  11 Dec 20,   Pauline Hanson’s One Nation says it is “very odd” that the Federal Government has not consulted Aboriginal people enough on a proposed nuclear waste storage facility in South Australia.

Key points:

  • A nuclear waste storage facility has been proposed for Napandee near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula
  • One Nation doesn’t think the Barngarla people were given enough of a voice in SA’s nuclear debate
  • Federal Government wants to legislate the site, meaning the decision wouldn’t be subject to a judicial review

The proposed facility which would house Australia’s low and intermediate-level waste — which comes from medicine — has been earmarked for a farm near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula.

The Government wants to legislate the farm as the site for the facility, meaning the decision would not be subject to a judicial review.

There was hope the matter would be resolved before the end of the parliamentary year, however that failed to eventuate.

Labor and One Nation oppose the legislation, saying the resources minister already has powers to select a site, adding that a judicial review had merit.

The Greens also oppose the legislation………

The debate surrounding the facility has been a hot-button topic in Kimba for the past five years, with locals saying they will experience another anxious Christmas.

Farmer Jeff Baldock owns Napandee, the 160-hectare property where the Government wants to put the facility.

He said his frustration levels were growing…….

Mr Baldock said having the facility at Kimba would provide future generations with a different industry in which to work besides agriculture.  ……

  Peter Woolford is another local farmer and has been campaigning against the waste facility.

He said it had been a long process but one that “needs to happen because of the nature of what’s being proposed”.

“It’s all about fairness for people, not only those opposed to it, but those that live outside of the Kimba boundary who were denied a vote,” he said.

To have senators not happy with the current legislation, I think it is a positive thing because in the end, this is forever this facility, it’s going to be 100 years.”

Mental health

Mr Woolford said the wellbeing of people impacted by the process had been forgotten.

“There’s no doubt that’s why people have left and some people are considering leaving now,” he said.

“They don’t want to live by a nuclear facility.

“The Government don’t seem to care about the mental wellbeing of people in this town.

“We’re going to keep standing our ground and oppose this because of how unfair this process has been.”

Uranium mining operations to end, as Aboriginal people get back control of Jabiru, in historic legislation

September 3, 2020


Traditional owners regain control of Jabiru as historic land rights law passes Senate      Natasha Emeck, NT News, 3 Sept 20 

HISTORIC land rights legislation that will allow the traditional owners of Jabiru to regain control of their township has passed through the Senate.

Amendments to Aboriginal land rights laws passed through the upper house of federal parliament pm Thursday, returning the ownership of Jabiru to the Mirarr people and allowing for a long-term township lease.

The mining town was built in 1982 to service the Ranger uranium mine, which will cease operation in January 2021, heralding a new era for the town and surrounding Kakadu National Park.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said today’s historic moment had been a “long time coming” for the Mirarr people, who had been campaigning for this for 20 years.

enior Mirarr traditional owner and Kakadu resident Yvonne Margarula, pictured in Kakadu National Park.

Mirarr senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula said her people were glad to see the legal changes finally happen.

They are essential to ensuring the vibrant post-mining future of Jabiru and the Kakadu region that Mirarr have been planning for,” she said.

We look forward to welcoming visitors from all around the world to our beautiful country.”

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, who represents the Mirarr traditional owners, have crafted a masterplan to turn Jabiru into an Indigenous-led tourism and services town.

This bipartisan change to the legislation is an essential step to correct the historical exclusion of the town of Jabiru from Aboriginal ownership and allow Mirarr to take the legal control they need to enact their vision,” chief executive Justin O’Brien said.


Barngarla continue fight against plan to dump nuclear waste on Country

July 31, 2020

“We’re basically aliens in our own Country.”

“We’re still flora and fauna to these people,” Bilney says. “They should have included us from the start. We heard about it on the news. We weren’t included in the vote.”

Barngarla continue fight against plan to dump nuclear waste on Country,   Barngarla mob say they were not properly consulted by federal government for plans to store radioactive waste on Country at Kimba in SA, and that their concerns continue to be ignored. By Royce Kurmelovs, NITV News   29 July 20

Jeanne Miller smiles as she gets to the punchline of her story.

The 50-year-old Barngarla woman is talking about the enduring connection she has to Kimba when she tells how on the day she was born, her parents had been waiting for an ambulance that never came.

Forced to make their own way to the hospital, she says her mum made it as far as the tree outside before giving birth.

“So I’m born on Country,” she says.

Though she may not live there today, Jeanne says a part of her has never left. It is a detail that underscores the significance of the moment she learned Kimba was being considered as a dump for radioactive waste.

“I used to be a carer for my mum. When I first heard [about the facility], I told her. She goes: ‘no, no, no’ and got angry,” Jeanne says. “She said; ‘we don’t want it there’. She said to me: ‘you got to fight for this. You got to fight for it, we can’t have that place there. It’s a special place for us.’”

Most among the Barngarla have a similar story about the shock and confusion at learning their traditional Country was under consideration as part of a proposal to build a nuclear waste storage facility that would take in samples from 100 sites across the continent.

No one, they say, from the federal government contacted them beforehand to talk about the proposal, leaving most to find out through the news media or word of mouth.

Instead it was up to the Barngarla themselves, through the the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) to take the initiative and write to the government in April 2017 to find out what was going on.

‘Wasn’t interested in our views’

That first letter would plunge them into a fight that has so far lasted three years, until it entered a new phase in February when former Industry Minister Matt Canavan announced – a day before he resigned – that he had selected a site just outside of Kimba to situate the nuclear waste facility.

The location he chose was called Napandee, a slice of farmland about 25 kilometres west of Kimba. The precise area had been carved out of a 7500-hectare cereal and sheep property owned by the Baldock family and when built the facility promised to create 45 jobs and bring in $31 million to the community.

Over the course of its operating lifetime, the site would house low-to-intermediate level nuclear waste made up of medical waste drawn from 100 sites across the country. This material would include medical waste, but also the more serious TN81 canisters – casks of material once exposed to high levels of radiation that require containment for several hundred years.

If supporters of the proposal celebrated the financial windfall it would bring, critics worried the decision represented the thin end of a wedge that would eventually see the site expand to house higher-level toxic waste.

For the Barngarla people, however, the proposal represented something more significant: yet another decision where they have been overlooked, ignored and overruled in a process they describe as “divide and rule”.

“It’s like the government’s not listening to us,” Jeanne says. “It’s like if the government picks a place where they want to put rubbish like that, they’ll just go and do it and they don’t care what the people think. And that’s wrong. They should be listening to what the people want too.”

“I know there were people in Kimba that wanted it. We definitely know. We got the looks. We didn’t care. I didn’t care. This is something I believe in strongly and that’s why we don’t want it there, because of my strong beliefs and my family’s beliefs.”

After their early efforts to find out more, the Barngarla say they were stonewalled from the very beginning by both the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, and the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA). That stance would become a pattern.

At first it began with the department initially dismissing the possibility that Aboriginal heritage sites may exist in the area and ignoring requests from the Barngarla for a meeting.

It took a year – until February 2020 – before the department offered to meet with the Barngarla people, though by the time the first and only meeting took place the government was already forging ahead to measure community support through a voting process.

In organising the vote, the local council limited those who could participate to ratepayers within the township, and provided a ballot with a single question: “Do you support the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility being located at one of the nominated sites in the community of Kimba?”

Outraged by what they say was a clear act of voter suppression – a strategy common in the US where procedural tactics are used to discourage or prevent people from voting – the Barngarla took their fight to the courts.

They argued that the vote breached the Racial Discrimination Act by excluding the Traditional Owners who were openly opposed to the proposal. The matter would go all the way to the Federal Court, where it was ultimately dismissed on appeal.

Though the court found the local council had not excluded the Barngarla people on the basis of their ethnic identity, BDAC Chairperson Jason Bilney says the court did acknowledge the council had discretion about who to include in the vote, and they had deliberately chosen to exclude native title holders.

They basically created hurdles,” Bilney says. “The catchphrase was ‘rateable property’ – that’s white man’s terms ‘rateable property’. We’re the native title holders. That holds more weight than ‘rateable property’, so we should have been included.”

Around the time the Barngarla filed their lawsuit to challenge the vote, the first meeting with the department took place in August 2018 – a moment Bilney recalls with frustration.

He says Mr Canavan spoke for fifteen minutes before he left, taking all the government representatives with him.

“That’s it,” Bilney says. “He wasn’t interested in our views, he just wanted us to hear what he had to say.”

When the poll of Kimba residents was counted, it returned a result that saw 61.6 per cent of 824 participants vote in favour of the proposal.

BDAC responded by organising is own poll, asking its 209 members the same question that was asked of the broader Kimba residents.

The result would be a unanimous “No” from the 83 participants – a turnout figure explained by cultural and logistical factors that make it difficult to gather in any one place.

The Barngarla delivered the result to the department in November last year on the understanding Mr Canavan had promised to consider them together.

“Canavan said he would put the two together. He never did because if you put the two together there was clearly no broad community support,” says Bilney.

In its submissions to the senate, the department denies it agreed to incorporate the two votes, but says it only agreed to “consider” their outcomes.

Aliens in our own country’

What happens now is up to the Senate economics reference committee and a clutch of Labor, Greens and independent senators.

The Barngarla say the recent approach of the federal government – to legislate the precise location of the site – represents a new twist as it departs from the process established by the Gillard government under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012.

Worse still, the Barngarla say the provisions of the bill will stymie their rights to seek a judicial review of the minister’s decision in the courts. The Parliamentary joint committee on human rights also raised concerns about the bill in April this year that it says may extinguish Native Title.

“In relation to any cultural and spiritual significance attaching to the land itself, it remains unclear how this would be protected once a radioactive waste facility is operational on the site. Further, it is unclear how Indigenous people will be able to access sites of cultural significance, should they be determined to exist,” the report said.

When NITV News contacted the Australia Radioactive Waste Agency for comment about the process to date, a spokesperson said in a statement the government is seeking to consult with the BDAC going forward.

“Napandee is privately owned, has no Native Title and has been used for agricultural purposes for 80 years. Preliminary assessments have identified no registered cultural heritage at the site,” the spokesperson said.

“Further ground cultural heritage surveys with Traditional Owner consultation are planned, to determine cultural heritage values at the site.

“That said, we have approached the Barngarla through BDAC numerous times during the past years to work together to identify heritage, without resolution.”

In addition, the federal government is seeking to establish a Barngarla economic plan backed by $3 million in government funding, employment opportunities at the site and a cultural heritage management plan.

The Barngarla view this as a bribe when for them it isn’t a matter of money, but one of self-determination concerning what happens on their Country, set against a much deeper history.

So far it has taken two decades for the Barngarla to have their Native Title claim to a 45,000 square kilometre stretch of the Eyre Peninsula recognised by the courts – a process during which they were once informed that they did not exist as a people.

Neither have they forgotten the horror at Maralinga when the British army tested nuclear weapons after falsely declaring there were no Aboriginal people in the area.

To the Barngarla, the government has only decided to talk after the big decisions have been made.

“We’re still flora and fauna to these people,” Bilney says. “They should have included us from the start. We heard about it on the news. We weren’t included in the vote.

“You know, the Barngarla [native title] claim was basically an unwinnable case, they said. It’s taken us 21 years. Twenty-one years to win Native Title under white man’s law. And yet we’re still classed as second-class citizens? Flora and fauna.

“We’re basically aliens in our own Country.”

Stopping Aboriginal sAustralia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill aims to prevent indigenous people from taking legal action against the nuclear dump

June 2, 2020

Schedule 1 of the Bill is a blatant and indisputable attempt to prevent any judicial review proceedings which would have been initiated by the Barngarla people (and potentially other members of the Kimba Community)

There is clearly no broad community support and such material suggesting there is, was manufactured by gerrymandering the ballot to exclude the Barngarla.

The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation to Senate Committee on National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020  [Provisions]
Submission 25    The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC ICN 8603 (BDAC) is the
registered native title body corporate for the Barngarla native title holders.1 As the determined native title holders for the Kimba area, which includes the site of Napandee, the Barngarla people seek to make a submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Economics (the Committee) as part of the Committee’s inquiry…….

………….., once the pandemic is resolved, BDAC consider it important that the Committee should attend on Country  and hear from the Barngarla people directly. BDAC would welcome this opportunity and may seek to provide supplementary submissions at this time.

4. The Committee would be aware that members of BDAC were excluded from participating in a community ballot, facilitated by the District Council of Kimba between 3 October 2019 and 7 November 2019, to gauge support for the nominated sites of Napandee and Lyndhurst at Kimba.2 As the First Peoples for the Kimba area, this exclusion was alarming to our community given the permanent impact that the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) would have on Country.

The Barngarla people also hold many parcels of native title land very close to the NRWMF location, and have the right to live on and use this land. That native title land was, and is in many cases, closer to the proposed site than the town of Kimba to the site. To be excluded from the ballot on the technicality that the land was not rateable,
was terrible for the Barngarla community. The ballot returned a yes vote whilst excluding over 200 Barngarla persons who would likely have voted no. Clearly the entire legitimacy of the site selection process is, at best, highly questionable in these circumstances. It is Barngarla’s position that the site selection process has entirely miscarried. There is clearly no broad community support and such material suggesting there is, was manufactured by gerrymandering the ballot to exclude the Barngarla. We are also aware that community consultation was not consistent with processes used for the Wallerberdina site and, as a result, also excluded members of the farming
community living and working in the Kimba area from the community ballot.

However, we respectfully submit to the Committee that the introduction of this Bill (in particular Schedule 1 of the Bill) presents a significantly more disturbing issue which goes beyond the exclusion of voters, seeking to have a voice on the NRWMF, from a community ballot.

6. We respectfully state that the issues raised in our submission, outline such a significant matter of principle that it will become evident to the Committee that Schedule 1 of the Bill should not be passed. We understand that Schedule 1 of the Bill seeks to directly legislate Napandee, as the specified site for the NRWMF, following
the policy decision (which was mischaracterised as a declaration) of the former Minister for Resources and Northern Australia on 1 February 2020. BDAC make clear that the Bill is in no way supported by the Barngarla people and is of the greatest concern to us, not only as the First Peoples for the Kimba area but as Australians in general, given that it effectively removes our right to seek judicial review .

Summary of Submission (more…)

Australian government pulled a clever little trick to further dispossess the Bangarla Aboriginal people

April 24, 2020

First Nations communities continue to be left behind,   Eureka Street,  Michele Madigan -22 Apr 20  “………..As well as their own real fears for their health in the COVID-19 pandemic as documented in their recent submission (number 25) to the Senate Standing Economics Legislation Committee of Inquiry the Barngarla peoples of South Australia’s Eyre Peninisula are being forced to counter attempts to further their dispossession in new schemes by federal government. The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Committee (BDAC) plead with the federal government to delay the current procedures so that the public hearings regarding the site of the federal nuclear waste facility in the Kimba region may take place ‘on Country’ rather than by teleconference, which would greatly disadvantage their cause.

Even more seriously, the BDAC submission (among others) denounces the purposeful strategy by the Resources Minister in refusing to make a formal declaration. Instead, the Minister made ‘a policy decision’ in naming the chosen site of Napandee, having ‘presented it as a declaration’.

BDAC points out, ‘The Government is now seeking to legislate directly, as an indirect but very effective means to prevent judicial oversight.’ That is, the Minister is seeking to change the current legislation of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act so that Parliament itself will ‘select’ Napandee as the site and thereby stopping any judicial oversight of anything untoward in the long administrative process to date.

As the BDAC submission summarises, ‘This is highly concerning to the Barngarla people as it should be to all Australians.’

In the last few days, the federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has written a report critical of the treatment of Barngarla Traditional Owners. It is a unanimous report, endorsed by Coalition members of the Committee.

And there we have it. As Aboriginal communities still await the needed funding to ensure their survival during this pandemic, the wheels of another government ministry are confidently seeking to further dispossess and disempower by such proposed legislation. Shameful indeed.

Michele Madigan is a Sister of St Joseph who has spent the past 38 years working with Aboriginal people in remote areas of SA, in Adelaide and in country SA. Her work has included advocacy and support for senior Aboriginal women of Coober Pedy in their campaign against the proposed national radioactive dump.

Australian government’s planned Nuclear Waste Bill discriminates against Aborigines, says Uniting Church

April 14, 2020
Uniting Church of Australia
Synod of South Australia  Submission No.11
Submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee – RE: Inquiry into National Radioactive

Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill

On behalf of the Uniting Church in South Australia, we make this submission to express our views
regarding the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill. The Uniting Church in South
Australia stands proudly in covenantal relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal Islander Christian
Congress (UAICC). The UAICC have expressed distress for the National Radioactive Waste
Management Act to specify a site near Kimba for a nuclear waste facility. Our paramount concern is
the lack of consultation by the federal government with the Barngarla people, the Traditional Owners
of the site.
The explanatory memorandum of the Bill states, “The Commonwealth engaged extensively with
communities and undertook an evidence-based approach to gathering and analysing the available
information about each of the shortlisted sites to consider various aspects of site suitability and
identify key risks.” The notion that the Commonwealth engaged extensively with the community
regarding the facility in Kimba is not adequate truth telling. The federal government excluded
Barngarla Traditional Owners from a ‘community ballot’ in 2019. The Barngarla Determination
Aboriginal Corporation initiated a separate, confidential postal survey of Traditional Owners,
conducted by Australian Election Company. This resulted in 100% of respondents voting ‘no’ to the
proposed nuclear facility. The Uniting Church in South Australia stands against the oppression of First
People. We urge the Commonwealth to truly engage with the Barngarla people and hear their voices.
The longstanding relationship between the Uniting Church in South Australia and the UAICC has been
life giving. Uniting Church personnel have learnt to see beyond earthly possessions. Likewise, to truly
respect the relationship between First People and their Country. We lament the historical wrongs
done to First People such as the dispossession of land. We stand in solidarity with First People against
stopping such inequalities. We urge the Commonwealth to empower First People by listening to their
  We recommend that:
1. The Senate Economics Legislation Committee should recommend the withdrawal or rejection of the
National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill 2020 (in which case a number of following
recommendations are redundant) and repeal of the National Radioactive Waste Management
Amendment Act.
2. The Committee should recommend repeal of the NRWM Act 2012 Section 12(1)(c) & 13(1), and of
the Bill’s sections 34GA(1)(c) and 34GB(1), as unacceptable draconian overrides of existing State and
Commonwealth legal protections for Indigenous people’s heritage and traditions.
3. The Committee should undertake a review of the potential impact of the existing Act, the proposed
 amendments and the proposed  nuclear waste facility on Aboriginal rights, interests and traditions …..
4. The Committee should assess the compatibility of the Act, the Bill with the UN Declaration on the Rights
 of Indigenous People, in particular the right of free, prior and informed consent..
5 The Committee should recommend that the federal government adopt the proposal from the then
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherell, in 2017, that traditional owners should have a right of veto
over any proposed nuclear waste facility on their lands…….
6. The Committee should recommend withdrawal or rejection of the Bill on the grounds that the
government’s own benchmark for broad community support has not been met (43.8% support
among eligible voters in the combined ballots)
7. The Committee should recommend that the Bill is withdrawn, and the federal government’s nuclear
 waste agenda put on hold, until such time as public opinion among other relevant stakeholders is

determined (including state-wide opinion in South Australia, and opinion along potential transport


Australia’s Aboriginal people stopped a huge uranium mining project

July 18, 2019

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine, Red Flag Fleur Taylor, 15 July 2019  “…… The election of John Howard in March 1996 marked the end of 13 years of ALP government…..

Australia’s giant mining companies – major backers of the Coalition – got their wish list. Howard immediately abolished Labor’s three mines policy, and the business pages crowed that “25 new uranium mines” were likely and possible. And in October 1997, then environment minister Robert Hill blew the dust off an environmental impact statement from 1979 that said mining at Jabiluka was safe. Approval of the mine quickly followed.

The Jabiluka uranium deposit, just 20 kilometres from the Ranger uranium mine, is one of the richest in the world. The proposal was to build a massively bigger mine than that at Ranger, which would be underground and therefore more dangerous for the workers. It was projected to produce 19 million tonnes of ore over its lifetime, which would be trucked 22 kilometres through World Heritage listed wetlands.

The Liberals hoped to make a point. After all, if you could put a uranium mine in the middle of a national park in the face of Aboriginal opposition, what couldn’t you do?

The fight immediately began. The traditional owners of the area, the Mirarr, were led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula and the CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jacqui Katona. They were supported by anti-nuclear campaigners around the country, most notably Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, as well as a network of activist groups.

The most important objective was to delay construction of the mine, scheduled to begin in 1998. To do this, the Mirarr called on activists to travel to Jabiluka in order to take part in a blockade of the proposed mine site until the onset of the wet season would make construction impossible.

The blockade was immensely successful. Beginning on 23 March 1998, it continued for eight months, attracted 5,000 protesters and led to 600 arrests at various associated direct actions. Yvonne Margarula was one: she was arrested in May for trespass on her own land after she and two other Aboriginal women entered the Ranger mine site.

The blockade also attracted high-profile environmental and anti-nuclear activists such as Peter Garrett and Bob Brown. This helped signal to activists that this was a serious fight. The sheer length of time the blockade lasted created a fantastic opportunity for the campaign in the cities. Activists were constantly returning from Jabiluka with a renewed determination to fight.

The Jabiluka Action Group was key to building an ongoing city-based campaign in Melbourne, and the campaign was strongest there of any city. It held large – often more than 100-strong – weekly meetings, organised endless relays of buses to the blockade and  took the fight to the bosses and corporations that stood to profit from the mine.

We were determined to map the networks of corporate ownership and power behind the mine. But in the late 1990s, when the internet barely existed, this wasn’t as simple as just looking up a company’s corporate structure on its glossy website. It took serious, time consuming research.

A careful tracing of the linkages of the North Ltd board members showed that they were very well connected – and not one but two of them were members and past chairmen of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) – one of Australia’s leading bosses’ organisations. So our June 1998 protest naturally headed to the Business Council of Australia. We occupied their office, and the two groups of anti-uranium protesters, 3,800 kilometres apart, exchanged messages of solidarity, courtesy of the office phones of the BCA.

We were also staggered to learn that the chairman of a company that owned two uranium mines and was Australia’s biggest exporter of hardwood woodchips was also a member of the Parks Victoria board, the national president of Greening Australia and the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board president!

The EPA, and corporate greenwashing in general, thereby became a target for the campaign. Another target was the Royal Society of Victoria, which made the mistake of inviting Sir Gus Nossal, a famous scientist and longstanding booster for the nuclear industry, to give a dinner address. We surrounded its building, and the organisers, somewhat mystified, cancelled the dinner. This action once again made headline news, helping to keep the issue of the Jabiluka mine in people’s minds.

We held regular protests at the headquarters of North Ltd on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road. On the day that Yvonne Margarula was facing court on her trespass charge, a vigil was held overnight. When we heard she had been found guilty, the protest erupted in fury. Cans of red paint – not water-based – materialised, and the corporate facade of North Ltd received an unscheduled refurbishment. The Herald-Sun went berserk.

The leadership of the Mirarr people gave this campaign a different focus from other environmental campaigns of the time. It was fundamentally about land rights, sovereignty and the right of Aboriginal communities to veto destructive developments on their land. In Melbourne, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation appointed long-time Aboriginal militant and historian Gary Foley as their representative. Gary worked tirelessly to provoke and educate the many activists who turned up wanting to “support” or “do something” for Aboriginal people.

At a time when “reconciliation” was strongly supported by liberals and much of the left, Foley told us that reconciliation was bullshit. He argued native title (supposedly a key achievement of Keating) was “the most inferior form of land title under British law”, and that the ALP was every bit as racist as One Nation – if not worse. He insisted activists must educate themselves about sovereignty and the struggles happening right here, not just those happening 3,800 kilometres away. The way the Jabiluka Action Group activists approached this challenge was an example of how people’s ideas change. Many came into the campaign primarily as environmental activists, but almost all left as committed fighters for Aboriginal rights.


When the blockade wound down at the onset of the wet season, it was an opportunity to fight on some other fronts. Representatives of the UN World Heritage Committee visited Kakadu in late 1998 and issued a declaration that the World Heritage values of the area were in danger. They called on the government to stop the mine. Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona travelled to Paris to speak to the European Commission about the mine.

John Howard, at the time mired in ministerial scandals and resignations, had called an election for September 1998, and there was hope in some quarters that Labor might win and stop the mine. But Howard scraped back in on only 48.3 percent of the vote, and it was clear that the fight on the ground would have to continue.

In the meantime, an important legal loophole had been identified. North Ltd had failed to secure agreement for the Jabiluka ore to be trucked to the Ranger mine for processing. It turned out the Mirarr did have the right to refuse this, and by exercising this right they would increase the cost of the project by $200 million (the cost of building a new processing plant at Jabiluka). This, combined with the ongoing protests, became a huge problem for the company.

Something we enjoyed doing at the time was monitoring North Ltd’s share price. It started out high when the Liberals took power. But after a year of protest and controversy, it had started to sink. The slump world uranium prices were going through didn’t help. But what the share price correlated to most closely was the major protests – it showed a drop after every single one.

Fund managers everywhere had absorbed the simple message that Jabiluka meant trouble, and early in 1999 this formerly prestigious blue-chip mining stock was described as one of the year’s “dog stocks”. Encouraged by this, the campaign launched its most ambitious action to date – the four-day blockade of North Ltd, from Palm Sunday until Easter Thursday 1999. This was the beginning of the end for the mine. In mid-2000, Rio Tinto bought out the struggling North Ltd. With no appetite for a brawl, the new owners quietly mothballed the Jabiluka project, signing a guarantee with the Mirarr to that effect. The campaign had won.


The Jabiluka campaign was one of those rare things – an outright victory. It was a win not just for the Mirarr people, but for every community threatened by a devastating radioactive mine. And it was a win for humanity as a whole, protected from more of this deadly substance. Our chant – “Hey, North, you’re running out of time! You’re never going to get your Jabiluka mine!” – for once came true.

The victory inspired a neighbouring traditional owner, Jeffrey Lee, single-handedly to challenge the development of the Koongarra uranium deposit, resulting in the cancellation of that entire mining lease. In Melbourne and other cities, the Mirarr resistance inspired sustained and creative campaigning from a wide variety of participants – from vegan Wiccans and revolutionary socialists to doof-doof rave organisers and corporate-philanthropist Women for Mirarr Women. The campaign was chaotic and argumentative, but united by a commitment to challenging corporate power and standing up for Aboriginal sovereignty.

It still serves as an inspiration for anti-nuclear and anti-mining campaigns, such as the brave and determined opposition of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners to the Adani mine. It stands as a great example of how blockades on country can nourish and inspire actions in the cities.


Australia’s one great river system being destroyed by corruption and mismanagement

January 21, 2019

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations, 21 Jan 19 MDBA Water management: “Don’t leave Dracula in charge of the Blood bank”

  1. Support for a Royal Commission
  2. Representation at the decision making table of MDBA
  3. Acknowledge Legal Rights of First Nations as determined in Mabo (2)
  4. Explain why different standards are set for First Nations’ Organisations
  5. Demand Criminal Prosecutions be an integral part of Royal Commission findings

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) Deputy Chair, Ghillar Michael Anderson and NBAN Director Cheryl Buchanan announce NBAN’s support for Sarah Hanson-Young’s call for a Royal Commission into the mismanagement and over extraction of the waters of the Murray Darling Basin. [The Guardian, 16 January 2019]

NBAN has now learnt that the disaster that we are experiencing in the Murray/Darling Basin is a perfect electric dry storm of massive fish kills and drying riverbeds.

It is NOT caused just by the drought but is also a culmination of man-made mismanagement; corruption at the highest levels; and major development without scientific evidence-based planning in the formative years of the MDBA.

NBAN has great difficulty in understanding why the so-called experts water planners would attempt to normalise our current circumstances. First Nations now demand urgent answers and to be included in all future top-level water planning within the Murray Darling Basin……..

NBAN is critical of the fact that NSW Water planners admit that from 2012 to 2018 they did nothing to properly prepare for evidence-based planning in relation to water management in the northern basin, and that their assessments in terms of quantities of water are based on hypothetical values and assumptions. Now there is a mad rush to review water planning on the basis of A, B and C water licencing in the Barwon/Darling and there is a suggestion to amalgamate these water licences into two or one licence. NBAN’s problem with this is that there are too many vested interests in the process calling for this to happen. Water planning from NBAN’s point of view needs to be reviewed so as to plan on the basis of what real volumes of water are in each valley catchment. With all the science and technology we have in today’s society there is no excuse for hypotheticals and assumptions.

From NBAN’s perspective these admissions clearly demonstrate that there are failures by the Water Ministers responsible for due diligence in their portfolios and departments.

Playing the blame game and shirking responsibility will not help our dying rivers. Clearly, corporate water users, irrigators and mining companies are driving the agenda. For example, the Broken Hill pipeline is for the mining interests rather than the community. Then we need to take into account the Proposed Uranium Mining near Menindee.

The Board of the MDBA is made up of members who have vested interests. A clear example of this is the Chairman, Brian Andrews, (former Speaker of the House of Representatives under PM John Howard) who is an orchardist dependant on irrigation waters from the Murray River in South Australia.

NBAN further expresses deep concern for the integrity of politicians and MDBA authority members. Clearly, there is an inference in recent media reporting that what is currently going on in the MDBA is a major defrauding of the public purse, which can never be condoned. This is in tandem with water theft by irrigators who were never investigated and escape prosecution for their criminal acts. As the Sydney Morning Heraldreported on 8 March 2018:……….

Also there was the warning of water theft by irrigators in the northern basin by a former MDBA staffer Maryanne Slattery, who now works for the Australia Institute, testified to this effect at the South Australian Royal Commission, based on satellite imagery tracking the fate of environmental water flows. This experimental project called Data Cube was rudely interrupted and shut down by MDBA, because Ms Slattery was exposing the theft of environmental water by illegal diversion. It was also reported MDBA staff were denied by the MDBA Board the right to give evidence to the Royal Commission and Minister Littleproud refused to co-operate with the Commissioner, Brett Walker QC,

The greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, is correct to call for a Commonwealth Government Royal Commission into the water management and expenditure of public funds in the MDB. The question that is on everybody’s lips right now is: What have they done with the $13B. Clearly, cotton growers and irrigators are getting money for nothing and continue to live on their lands drawing on other Commonwealth funds under Works and measures programs through ‘Toolkit’ measures for water efficiency.

NBAN is seriously concerned about what was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 March 2018 in . In this article it was reported that:Cry me a river: Mismanagement and corruption have left the Darling dry.

Surely, what Barnaby Joyce has done is criminal. When the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) bought Yulara village, the Commonwealth financial regulators questioned why the ILC acquired the village resort for $60M above market price. To this end the Commonwealth government chastised the ILC and lowered the market price to its correct value, thereby denying the right ILC to sell their interest at the price they paid for it, which denied them millions of dollars.

This demonstrates that there continues to be two standards: one for First Nations Peoples and one for non-First Nations Peoples. What makes this worse is the fact that sitting politicians are involved in a major profiteering scam on a scale never seen before in this country.

Clearly having people like the Minister David Littleproud being given the portfolio of Agriculture and Water and coming from the same location where Barnaby Joyce first gained his start in Politics at the Commonwealth level does raise serious concerns about the integrity of portfolio allocations in the Commonwealth government. People like Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud can be accused of not disclosing their full interest in farming and irrigation. There is much to be desired in these appointments as Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud are sitting members of the national party. They are elected to look after the interests of their constituents and in the case of the appointment of Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud to the Water portfolio is likened to the appointment of Dracula being appointed to be in charge of the Blood Bank.

This demonstrates that there continues to be two standards: one for First Nations Peoples and one for non-First Nations Peoples. What makes this worse is the fact that sitting politicians are involved in a major profiteering scam on a scale never seen before in this country.

Clearly having people like the Minister David Littleproud being given the portfolio of Agriculture and Water and coming from the same location where Barnaby Joyce first gained his start in Politics at the Commonwealth level does raise serious concerns about the integrity of portfolio allocations in the Commonwealth government. People like Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud can be accused of not disclosing their full interest in farming and irrigation. There is much to be desired in these appointments as Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud are sitting members of the national party. They are elected to look after the interests of their constituents and in the case of the appointment of Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud to the Water portfolio is likened to the appointment of Dracula being appointed to be in charge of the Blood Bank.

On the 16th, the NBAN Delegation then met Dr Lindsay White, Director Northern Basin Section, Lindsay White is also responsible for Wetlands, Policy and Northern Water Use Branch Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, and Hilary Johnson, Director, Southern Basin Section, Southern Water Use, Aquatic Science and Community Engagement Branch Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

NBAN advised the CEWO that within the river systems we have sacred waterholes where our creative water spirits live. These culturally significant water spirits are dependent on regular flows. For First nations Peoples these flows are what we call cultural flows. Without the modern development pre-Christmas rainfalls would have replenished these waterholes and they would have sufficient water to take them through the current drought or until a new rain event within the northern regions. But, with modern development and mis-management these water holes are under serious threat and our Native Fish will lose their refuges. Past river recordings prior to development demonstrate that this is the case with these waterholes. It is important to understand that these Waterholes are critical fish refuges and serve to protect species diversity and are responsible for repopulating rivers in recovery after flooding.

The Delegation sought clarification of the role of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holders. What shocked the delegation was the limitation of the CEWO, because the First Nation held the view that CEWO were responsible for not just managing environmental water flows, but also were responsible for the actual purchasing of any water requirements. Instead we were advised that the purchasing responsibilities lay with the Minister and the Department of Agriculture. Under the Current circumstances much of the responsibilities associated with managing environmental water needs lay at the feet of the Ministers responsible.

The NBAN delegation now demand that First Nations People’s must be at the table in all future water and environmental planning at all levels of government.

In calling for the royal Commission, NBAN demand that criminal prosecution be part of the terms of reference to hold those responsible, accountable, and to bring transparency into the murky process that has persisted to this day.

NBAN Sources: