Muckaty – defeated proposed waste dump site

Muckaty Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory defeat the Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd and Abbott Governments!

Kurlalu yarnmi Majju Majju Manu Wangku ka
Wangangka yama nyirrinjji mana Manu Wangku Kuna 

After abandoning plans for a national nuclear waste dump in SA in 2004, the former Howard federal government announced in 2005 that it would pursue three sites in the Northern Territory, passing legislation to override NT government opposition. The sites were Harts Range, Mt Everard and Fishers Ridge. Amendments made in 2006 allowed additional site nominations from Aboriginal Land Councils.

The Northern Land Council offered an area on the Muckaty Land Trust for assessment in 2007, despite opposition from many Traditional Owners. A determined community campaign led by the Traditional Owners gained support from trade unions, public health and human rights organisations around the country. Annual demonstrations in Tennant Creek pledged direct action against any attempts to build the dump.

The perception of remote Australia as an uninhabited sacrifice zone was captured by comments made by former Science Minister Brendan Nelson, who asked “Why can’t people in the middle of nowhere have a low and intermediate level waste facility” and his successor Julie Bishop, who stated the sites were “far from any form of civilisation.”

The Department of Defence sites were under consideration until 2012, but it was clear that Muckaty was the preferred site, with the government ignoring clear opposition and calling it a voluntary nomination.

In June 2014, half way through federal court proceedings launched by Traditional Owners, the federal government agreed to not further pursue the site.

Traditional Owners released the following statements after hearing their campaign had been successful:

Marlene Nungarrayi Bennett, Warlmanpa woman said, “Today will go down in the history books of Indigenous Australia on par with the Wave Hill Walk-off, Mabo and Blue Mud Bay. The Warlmanpa Nation has won an eight-year battle against the might and power of the Commonwealth Government and Northern Land Council. Justice has prevailed and this is a win for all Territorians.”

Penny Williams Namikilli said “ngulayilpa wanganya ngurru-ku partta-wurru mar-darn- jaku marjumarju kula yanjaku. kuyayi ngurru kirlka kan-jin-mi ,mayi parnta.” [Translated from Warlmanpa: We talked about our land to keep the waste away off the land, not to put it there. We want it to remain clean with bush tucker.]

Milwayi Traditional Owner Gladys Nungarrayi Brown said, “The land is important, we have to keep it clean without radioactive waste. Our ancestors walked around that land and were always looking after it- generation after generation they kept handing that knowledge on. We have to keep passing on that knowledge to future generations.”

Kylie Sambo, a Warramungu/Warlmanpa hip hop artist who wrote the popular track “Muckaty” released a statement of solidarity when it was announced that the Wallerberdina site in SA was the only one shortlisted under the current process.

Muckaty Traditional Owners at a Senate Committee hearing in Darwin.
Muckaty Traditional Owners

Muckaty nuclear waste plan DUMPED!

Nat Wasley, June 19, 2014

Some fantastic news today ‒ the Commonwealth Government has committed not to pursue plans for a national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty!

Lawyers from Maurice Blackburn Social Justice Practice announced the exciting development in Melbourne this morning and a delegation of Muckaty Traditional Owners travelled to Alice Springs for a press conference.

The announcement comes mid-way through the Federal Court trial examining the process under which the nomination of Muckaty was made by the Northern Land Council and accepted by the Commonwealth Government in 2007.

Two weeks of the trial were completed with hearings in Melbourne, Tennant Creek and on country at Muckaty outstation. The Northern Land Council and Commonwealth Government have agreed to settle with the Applicants by committing not to act on the proposal or nomination.

This campaign has followed the successful campaign by the Kupi Piti Kungka Tjuta to stop a nuclear dump in SA and been built from the ground up in Tennant Creek with help from supporters across the NT. Over the last 7 years, the community has marched in Tennant Creek every year, hosted trade union delegations, written songs and poems, made films and toured photo exhibitions. People have travelled tirelessly around the country to build awareness and support, having conversations over cups of tea in regional areas and walking the corridors of Canberra Parliament House to lobby Ministers.

The community used the May 25 rally and media attention on the federal court proceedings to reiterate they would continue campaigning until the dump was stopped- including blocking the road if needed.

So the deadly news is now public – please tell everyone that together we dumped the Muckaty plan! Traditional Owners and the broader community in Tennant Creek are very excited and relieved and looking forward to a big celebration in the coming few weeks.

We will then set about collating photos, footage and other materials from the campaign, so stay tuned for the call out to copy and/or send these to the Arid Lands Environment Centre for archiving.

There is a lot more to say but we are still all a bit shocked and processing the news so will send more updates and reflections in the coming week.

One important point is that Traditional Owners have been absolutely clear that they will wholeheartedly challenge any attempts to nominate any other sites on the Muckaty Land Trust- an idea suggested by NT Senator Nigel Scullion today.

I was asked to finish this note with a huge thanks to everyone who has been part of this campaign and supported the Muckaty mob to be heard ‒ every action, letter, conversation, trip to Tennant, fundraising gig and movie night has helped bring about this victory!!

Muckaty will be nuclear free!


More information:

Beyond Nuclear Initiative

Friends of the Earth

Videos at Vimeo

Videos on youtube

Beyond Nuclear Initiative videos

[This webpage last updated January 2019]