Elders take nuclear dump fight to court

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Aboriginal landowners have protested in Resources Minister Martin Ferguson’s electorate to oppose the establishment of Australia’s first radioactive waste dump on their land.

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The traditional owners have launched a legal challenge against the federal government and the Northern Land Council over plans for the nuclear waste dump at Muckaty station, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.

Elders from Muckaty travelled to the seat of Batman in Melbourne’s north, calling for the waste dump to be stopped.

Mark Lane Jangala, a senior traditional owner of Muckaty, claims he and senior elders from four other traditional owner groups were not adequately consulted before the station was nominated as a possible dump site.

Traditional landowners have been promised about $12 million in government compensation if the waste dump goes ahead.

The Ngapa clan have volunteered a four-square-kilometre area to be considered for the facility, which is expected to require one-square-kilometre of land.

Elder Doris Kelly says a waste dump would destroy her people’s culture.

“It’s very cultural and spiritual land,” she told reporters. “We need our land to be safe and in one piece.”

Lawyer Martin Hyde says only one interested landowner group was consulted over the proposed dump.

“When you’re going to put a nuclear waste dump on people’s land and it’s going to be there forever, there’s a legal obligation on the government to ask everybody for their consent and to make sure they’re informed about the pros and cons for having a waste dump on your land,” he said.

But he says a Northern Land Council anthropological report identified only one part of one traditional group as land owners.

That flies in the face of what the Land Commissioner said after his extensive investigations,” Mr Hyde said. “So far we haven’t seen this secret anthropological report.”

Muckaty station was returned to indigenous ownership in 1999 after use as a cattle station.

The case is due back in the Federal Court in October before Justice Tony North.