Bearing Witness

Our thought-for-the-day yesterday was ‘bearing witness”.  Many of us have joined this walk to get a better sense of the land out here, the people that will be directly affected by these mines if they are allowed to go ahead.  So often mines and their ramifications like toxic waste piles, poisoned water and constant pressure from mining companies are things happen so far away from our lived experience.  Far away from our day-to-day lives in metropolitan areas.

By being out here on country with traditional owners, talking with people, being open to experiencing the land here, we are opening up ourselves

But the reality is that we all have a responsibility to speak up and speak out against this destruction.  It is a responsibility, but it is a privledge too, to enact our inherit role as a custodian of the land that gives life to us.

Many of us have come to develop a personal sense of what it here that we need to be standing up to protect as joint custodians.

This quote, by Arundahati Roy, focused our thoughts.

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”
Arundhati Roy

Walk update Jones Creek rest day

Well, we got some good news, and some not-so-good news.

The not-so-good news is that yesterday a Canadian company, Cameco, bought the Yeelirrie mining lease from BHP Billiton for $430 million.  Quite a price to pay if they have no intention of developing it.  Yeelirrie is the largest known uranium deposit in WA.

Check out http://nuclearfree.wordpress.com/media/ and http://ccwa.org.au/media/yeelirrie-sale-sparks-renewed-community-opposition-uranium-mining-wa for some statements from the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance and Traditional owners about this takeover.

As is reinforced in these articles, the good news is the community here near Yeelirrie has successfully fought to stop uranium mining at this site for over forty years now.  It feels good to be a part of the Walkatjurra Walkabout which is physically walking this land and meeting with the locals here to show our support to their resistance to these mining companies.  They are not alone in their fight so it is good to be here with them when they get this news.  It is inspiring and strengthening to remember our past.  The odds have been stacked against this community before with manipulative and strong pushes from mining companies to dig up this land here, but the community has fought back with perseverance and creativity to safeguard this place for many years.  That history inspires us.  This news of Cameco buying the mining lease only reinvigorates our passion and revives our deep sense of purpose as to why we are here.

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So, even the not-so-good news is good news.  Bad investment Cameco, you’d better watch your share-prices plummet as we build the movement to shake any confidence of a social license to operate.

The real good news is that we are joined by more of the Walkatjurra Rangers late last night!  More elders sitting on country with us, young Rangers arriving and the energy in the group is high.  Delicious banana pancakes were made on the fire for breakfast – pretty lush! And we even got an opportunity to give a few of our essential clothes a wash!

This afternoon, once it cools down a bit, we will be separating into a women’s group and men’s group, and will be guided to a few near-by places by some of the Rangers.  Looking forward to spending time with them in the bush – feel very privileged to have them share some of their knowledge with us.  Also can’t wait to sit around the campfire with them tonight – finding quite spaces between the moonlight (almost a full moon now!), the stars and the flickering of the campfire to let their words and stories soak in.

 

 

Walk update Sunday

At our morning circle today we began with a reflection about mindfulness.  This walk is in some ways a pilgrimage, and so each day we will be carrying a thought with us, to reflect upon in our conversations, walking, or quiet space we can find during the day.  So far we have focused on “gratitude” and “hope” – core words which have provoked many considerations from different people in the group.

Today’s concept was “mindfulness”.  People went around the group and shared a word or thought about what they wanted to be mindful of.  Some words shared included the birds, our words, the children, our energy levels, our breath, the wind, our hygiene, our five senses, not taking things so seriously, the spirits that have walked this land before us, how we place our feet on the ground…

Needless to say, it was an inspiring way to focus and start our day.

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Today we had another 15km day, along the red sandy back-road heading south east towards Leonora.  We hit the Goldfields Highway at the end of the walk today, a good signpost of how far we have come, but the group will miss the red roads.  We all have developed peculiar desert chic style in our efforts to remain comfortable and sun-protected with our long days out in the sun – perhaps a fashion parade will be in order!

The most amazing part of today was the privilege of walking across to the start of the Barr Smith Ranges.  Peter Muir came out to join us this afternoon, and he is one of the elders who has fought to protect this area.  The Barr Smith Rangers were set out to be decimated by mining in the late 1980’s, and Peter was one of the people on the front line of the charge to ensure that the area, with heritage sites and sacred grounds, was protected.

Walking through the edges of these ranges, you got a sense of how small we are as we pass through this ancient land.  It is ancient, many have gone before us, and while we are here we need to respect this space, respect this land, respect our past, respect the future.

Yeelirrie Road

 

Day 1

Day one started at Yileerrie with a spectacular desert sunrise, helped along by light cloud cover that we would learn to be very thankful for once we started to walk. With camp packed and breakfast had, we formed a circle and shared names, a thought for the day, hugs and a happy 8th birthday to one of the youngest walkers. And we were off, flags held high in the air and the Aboriginal flag setting the pace up front. Our mob of 30 something looked pretty good, wrapped in colour, of all ages and phases, escorted by three dogs and two camels, walking on the red sand.

 

And we walked and walked and stoped and walked and stoped. While it took us a fair few hours to trudge out the 15kms, there were plenty of smiles, conversations and reflective faces shared throughout the group, and mutual excitement when we saw camp set up and dinner on the boil. Tent city was erected in more of a suburban sprawl between the spineffex and mulga trees. We shared food around the fire and the luxury of birthday cake for dessert. Kado and this family joined the group and we yarned across the fire. From the snores in the early morning I think the camp slept well that night.

Day 2

It’s warm and dusty and the bandaides have started to appear for day two of walking. Even still we were packed up early and rearing to go. We said fair well to a few walkers who headed back to the city and then we set off again. With Kado in the lead we made a cracking pace, filled with stops for spotting out tracks and learning about the country we are walking through. The sun picked up it’s heat today and the group kept on, making camp at 2:30, where more bandaides and tending to feet was needed. There was a group reclaiming the road by practicing qi gong, stretching out to the lowering sun and others yarning under the shade of the trees, the smell of dinner drifting through camp. It’s pretty nice out here!

 

All in a days work

All in a days work

Its only just after lunch here right now, everyone is settling in for the day at Yeerlirrie, and we have already achieved so much. We got up at 6am for an early morning media photo opportunity outside the entrance to Lake Way, site of toxic Toro’s proposed uranium mine, just a few kilometres up the road from Wiluna. We made a bit of spectacle of ourselves, chanting, waving flags, holding our banners and putting a big CLOSED sign across the gate. Hopefully it’ll make for some good TV. Then back in the bus and on to Yeelirrie, to start our walk from the entrance to BHP’s stalled project there. Here we met the two camels who are joining us for the walk. They are beautiful looking creatures, with long lashes, and as we discovered enjoyed finishing off our apple cores. More filming, more photos, flag waving and banners as we took our first steps, led by Traditional owner Kado Muir and his father, Peter Muir. Kado has been the driving force behind Walkatjurra Walkabout, and it was a great blessing and privilege to walk with him and his father on our first day. At our first camp, an easy 3 kiilometres down the road (breaking the new walkers in gently). Kado told us a bit about Yeelirrie, and its significance to his family. We learnt too about his parents battle to stop a nickel mine on the ranges close by in the 90s, which one of the more well known walkers, Jo Vallentine, had been involved in. Together they had been successful, an inspiration and valuable lesson for us walkers.

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A Puppy called Wiluna Rec Centre

The day before everyone was getting to know each other, and their way around the camp – kitchen truck, cooking fire, and of course, the infamous toilet pits. We were camped at North Pool, 10 kilometres up the Canning Stock Route from Wiluna, and another 11 kilometres down a very bumpy dirt road. This road was roaming ground for both cattle and kangaroos and Laura did an amazing job driving everyone in and out of the camp site (twice!) in a bus borrowed from the Great Walk Network, while Bilbo had the truck keys at the ready to get the kitchen truck out at the first sign of rain. He wasn’t going to let it get bogged in the mud, with such a important task ahead of it – carrying out food and water for three and a half weeks in the desert.

After an epic 2 hour circle for introductions and camp info, we made lunch and sat down to eat. We packed down almost all the camp in the afternoon, in preparation for the early start in the morning and headed into Wiluna for a community meeting with Gavin Mudd, water specialist and Senior lecturer of Civil Egineering at Monash University, Melbourne.  Gavin shared his expert knowledge in an interesting and understandable presentation about the lack of success of water rehabilitation at old uranium mine sites. Sadly, it seems ‘world class practice’ doesn’t mean much in Australia. If any of the past efforts (or lack of) of mining companies to clean up sites, there is not much hope for the fulfilment of the legal requirement that radioactive tailings are secure for at least 10,000 years, let alone the 4.5 million years these tailings are likely to stay radioactive.

After Gavin’s talk we had a BBQ with some of the locals, before heading off on the bumpy trip home for an early night. But not before we were joined by our 35th walker, a puppy called ‘Luna, who won the hearts of us and volunteered to escort us on a walk the next day.

 

Two days on the road

The night before (Tuesday) the group from Perth had rolled into camp after two days on the road. We were very ready to get out and stretch our legs by the end of the journey, and thankful to those who went ahead with the Kitchen truck and had started setting up camp for us.
On Monday night, we had the comfort of Wongutha Birni to rest our weary bones, hosted by Geoffrey Stokes and Christine Jeffery-Stokes. They gave us a warm welcome and told us about the Wongutha Birni centre and Geoffrey’s country. They also explained a little of the situation at Coonana community, where an aboriginal community, who owns their own land, are having services cut – denied accessible food and health care – in an attempt to force them to give up their land, which includes a uranium deposit known as Mulga Rocks. It was a disturbing story and clearly a community in need of support to resist the push for profit over people, forcing a radioactive legacy on an unwilling community and denying their right to maintain a life on the land.

 

As I write this, it seems a long long time ago since we were standing at the East Perth Station, meeting new walkers and reconnecting with old ones. Here amongst the Spinifex, red earth and quiet (aside from the sound of the wind, carrying laughter and children singing from the other side of camp), the big city and noise is a distant memory. Lets hope our actions will help can keep this quiet…

The groups experiences

The ‘Walkatjurra Walkabout’ mob is a diverse community of about 45 people currently, which includes 6 kids (who are very excited to be here!) and 3 dogs.  We are busy learning how to build and pack up camp everyday, and share skills that will enable us to support each other in our mobile community for the next three and a half weeks.

Many of the group have travelled a long way to participate -with people coming from Germany, Central Queensland, Darwin, Sydney, Canberra, Alice Springs, and many people from across Western Australia.   For some, it has been a particularly long journey, after travelling across the country to meet in Perth, we then have travelled as a group for two days north to reach Wiluna – where we are about to hold a community meeting.  From here, we head south to Yeelirrie, to start the walking component.

As we are beginning to get to know each other, one of the most inspiring things has been getting a glimpse of people’s journeys.  What is it that drew people to participate on this walk?  There are many different paths that people have followed, and varying levels of prior knowledge and experience of involvement in “activism” or the anti-nuclear campaign.  But one thing is clear – we want to learn from the traditional custodians of this land, walk some of this land, and support the custodianship of this land.  We are all looking forward to travelling slowly with our feet and getting a sense of place out here as we also learn about the history of this land.

As we are writing this we are on our way to a community meeting in Wiluna – a town marked out for Western Australia’s first uranium mine if Toro Energy and the State Government have their way.  Contrary to the line that Toro Energy has been feeding the community here however – this mine is far from a done deal.  There are many avenues to knock back this proposal which are currently being pursued, on legal, economic, and policy based terms.  The avenue which we all can influence (which in turn influences all the other factors), is the social licence to operate.  As a remote community, the only information that Wiluna has access to about uranium mining often comes from the mining companies themselves – “information” like telling people that bananas are more poisonous than the radiation that will be occurring with the operating uranium mine.  By travelling to Wiluna and meeting with the community, the Walkatjurra Walkabout aims to share solidarity with those in these communities who have been speaking out against this mine, and offer factual information to the community which is otherwise not provided to them about the proven risks of uranium mines.

It is exciting to know that it is starting – the Walkatjurra Walkabout is getting us out of our comfort zones and witnessing the country and meeting the people who will be affected by these uranium mines if they go ahead.  Looking forward to learning more and sharing information with the community tonight, and really excited to actually starting to walk through country soon!

 

 

 

Video Message from Walkatjurra Walkabout

Walkatjurra Walkabout is heading off this Monday the 20th of August …

Here’s what some of the walkers have to say about the importance of the walk and the need for a nuclear free future.

Work bee’s, Celebrations and things to do…

Saturday 11th August 7.30pm – Wax Lyrical  – a party/fundraiser at Lucy, Laura, Ailsa, Jez and AC’s house, see attachment

Sunday 12th August 1pm – Kitchen Truck Workbee!  AC and Nez’s house in Shenton park (get in contact with Laura for address 0421 816 846)

This is definitely one of those the-more-the-merrier tasks!  It will involve cleaning out the kitchen truck, maybe having to change a tyre, and then starting to load the food/equipment that has already arrived into the truck.  We will also be constructing our bush toilet 😉

Monday 13th August – Robbie and Laura going down to Nannup to collect the 22 seater bus!

Morning of Tues 14th August – Cash n’ Carry Shopping trip

At the moment, Lucy, Nez and Laura are up for this challenge.  All eager are welcome to join!

Evening of Tues 14th August – NEXT BUMP MEETING 5.30pm Cons Council of WA, Lotteries House City West.  We are having our meeting before hand (5.30-6.30) and then a workshop by EmpowerWA regarding fostering community engagement.  Definitely a good thing to come along to!!

Morning of Friday 17th August – Press conference at Lotteries House (this is just a chance for media to do interviews and touch base and get linked in before we head off to start the walk, we have speakers sorted already from the Walkatjurra Walkabout  affiliated groups – just keeping you in the loop)

Afternoon of Friday 17th August – Shopping trip for food (including fresh produce) to the Organic Collective in Hilton.  Lucy and Laura.

Night of Friday 17th August – Lizard’s Revenge Dinner and Information Night @ Earthwise, 315 Bagot Rd, Subiaco, Perth 6.30pm.  Join BUMP and the unnamed collective for a reportback and discussion on Lizard’s Revenge, including a history of the Roxby Downs uranium mine; photos and video; more information on the convergence and how to support those arrested at Lizard’s Revenge; and where to go from here in stopping the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine and uranium mining in Western Australia.Dinner will be provided, but you’re also welcome to bring food to share. If you can, please give a donation to help support those arrested. See facebook event page:  http://www.facebook.com/events/206433949484141/

Monday 20th August 9.30am East Perth – Walkatjurra Walkabout heads off to begin the journey!

  • Another job – Making up “Welcome” packages for walkers – including Toro Energy Alternative Report, Yellowcake country, Let the Facts Speak, media release, Climate of hope etc. – Nez has volunteered to do this
  • Also keep in mind we might need people who are willing to billet interstate walkers for a night on the 19th August.  Think we’re sorted at the moment for places to stay for people but keep an eye out for shout outs at the last min!
  • Volunteer task that I forgot that would be good to do if anyone’s interested would be to make up a calendar for the walk period, and add events / actions / anniversaries that will be happening while we are on the walk that are linked (linked protestor court cases, environmental decisions, peace anniversaries, Stop Lynas Save Malaysia actions etc etc etc!)  There is a bit of a calendar on the FoE website for anti-nukes stuff happening around the country I think, ANAWA might also have a yearly calendar with things like this marked out.  Might be good to have an initial crack, then set up as a google calendar where people can add stuff to before we head off on the 20th so we have a base.  Solidarity!  J

We still need a big cooking pot that can be used on fire – get in touch with Laura (0421 816 846, walk4country@gmail) if you have one we can borrow!