Walkatjurra Walkabout – Walkatjurra Ranger Vicky sending an invite our to Bill Marmion – WA’s State Environment Minister – “we got a lot to say to you, mate”
WA Nuclear Free Alliance Conference Statement 2012:
The Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA), made up of Aboriginal Traditional Land Owners who are concerned about uranium mining on their country, from the Pilbara, the Kimberley, the Goldfields, the Great Victorian Desert, the Central Desert, the Gascoyne, Perth and the South West and their allies. WANFA met from 15th-16th of September at Kutunatu Ngurra camp just outside of Leonora.
Kutunatu Ngurra camp is a registered sacred site and has long been a central meeting ground for protection of country, culture and people. The re-establishment of Kutunatu Ngurra for the 2012 WANFA meeting is a testament to the continuing dedication and union of Traditional Owners opposed to uranium mining on their lands.
The West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance supports Aboriginal Sovereignty across all Aboriginal territories in Western Australia. WANFA demands that the Government and Industry respect the basic Human Rights of Aboriginal peoples and adhere to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, respecting our right to self-determination and engaging with Aboriginal peoples within the framework of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed consent.
With the current fast tracking of the Toro Energy Wiluna Uranium Project assessment, WANFA invited WA State Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, to attend the conference to meet with the people this mine will impact. After several requests the Minister continues to refuse to meet with representatives of WANFA and local Elders showing unwillingness to engage with community.
On September 19th, Bill Marmion announced that he has dismissed the appeals regarding Toro Energy’s Uranium Mine proposal. The Government is now in the process of finalising State Approval for this to become Western Australia’s first uranium mine, the proposal still has a number of approvals and licenses before it can proceed and WANFA along with other NGO’s and groups are investigating options to challenge the mine.
The Ministers conditions on the mine do not cover mine tailings and mine closure, long after Marmion’s term in Government and long after Toro has gone bankrupt the radioactive mine waste will sit on our country threatening and poisoning our lands and bush tucker. This mine is a risk to the environment, the water and the local community. Whether you’re a shareholder or a tax payer this mine will cost us as West Australians.
Bill Marmion’s announcement comes within a week of the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Free, prior and informed consent are pivotal human rights encompassed within this declaration – rights that are achievable through adequate access to information, and community consultation. Both of these aspects are continually being withheld and ignored by the WA Government.
The West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance demands that the Government adhere to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and respect our right to self-determination.
We are determined to stop the poison of uranium mining in Western Australia by:
– Sharing information and our stories to educate people about the true risks of radiation
– Peaceful protest to demand the truth from Government
– Demanding transparency and community consultation during both the State and Federal Government’s mining approval processes
– Challenging the Australian Uranium Association’s Indigenous Dialogue Group who are representing the industry rather than a true Aboriginal community view
– Exposing anthropologists, archaeologists and pro industry consultants that attempt to validate negligent practices of the mining industry
– Demanding that our Land Councils, Native Title representative bodies and Native Title service organisations fulfil their legal requirements to be accountable, transparent and representative of the community’s views.
We call for:
– The WA Government to uphold the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and fulfil the basic right to free, prior and informed consent by consulting with communities along the proposed uranium transport route
– The WA Government to immediately commission an open, and independent public inquiry into uranium mining
– The federal environment minister, Tony Burke, to block any proposed uranium mining project in Western Australia
– The Western Australian ALP to remain committed to the policy formed at the last ALP State Conference to ban any uranium mines in Western Australia and to close any uranium mines that may be approved under the current Government
– Those who finance the uranium industry, to avoid the uncertainty and contamination of this trade, and instead invest in renewable, clean energy
– Governments and the nuclear industry to stop minimising and trivialising the dangers radiation.
Traditional Owners demand consultation on uranium
The Walkatjurra Walkabout started at Yeelirrie on the 24th August, led by Traditional Owner, Kado Muir. Days after leaving Yeelirrie, BHP Billiton announced that they had sold their uranium project to Canadian company, Cameco.
Kado Muir, Chairperson of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA) stated; “Cameco has just wasted $430 million in buying the uranium project from BHP Billiton. As the Traditional Owners we will never allow uranium to be mined at Yeelirrie or anywhere on our country.”
After walking for four weeks through country, the Walkatjurra Walkabout is now on the homestretch to Leonora. They will arrive just after the Appeals Committee hands down their recommendations to the State Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, regarding Toro Energy’s proposed uranium mine at Wiluna.
Kado Muir continued, “We are seriously concerned about the impending approval of the uranium mine at Wiluna and the impacts and risks of transporting uranium through our country. Toro Energy’s Managing Director Greg Hall’s flippant remark that the uranium will only be in communities for ten minutes a month shows blatant disregard for our safety.”
“It takes just ten seconds for one truck to have an accident, which would spill radioactive material into our town. We, the Traditional Owners of this land, are totally opposed to the mining and transportation of uranium in our territories.”
It is timely that the Walkatjurra Walkabout is out on country listening to the community concerns as there has been absolutely no community consultation from the Government on these issues.
Kado Muir concluded, “if Bill Marmion is interested in complying with free, prior and informed consent, we are inviting him to attend the WANFA meeting in Leonora on the 15th and 16th September to hear the concerns of our community”.
WALKERS CELEBRATE END OF WALK WITH JAPAN NUCLEAR PHASEOUT
After walking for four weeks and over 270kms, the Walkatjurra Walkabout is completing the last ten kilometres this morning to reach their destination in Leonora. Starting from Yeelirrie, the walk is a collaborative effort of people from across Australia and local Traditional Owners to build resistance to the threat of uranium mining in Western Australia.
“Over one hundred and fifty walkers have participated in this event, and we have received messages of support and solidarity from people across the world. Globally communities are resisting the nuclear industry at every stage, and it is our responsibility here in Australia to ensure that uranium stays in the ground.”
The walk is a celebration of the strength of the community in Leonora who have successfully fought to stop uranium mining at Yeelirrie for over forty years.
News of the recent acquisition of the Yeelirrie deposit by Canadian company Cameco has been a catalyst for renewed opposition.
Traditional Owner of Yeelirrie, Kado Muir: “Yesterday the Walkatjurra Walkabout joined us in re-establishing Kutunatu Ngurra a traditional camping place and sacred site where we have maintained our cultural practice and connection to country. The West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA) will meet here this weekend, and bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to continue to work in solidarity to uphold our right to protect country”.
As we meet on our lands to build momentum WANFA, the walkers of the Walkatjurra Walkabout and Traditional Owners send our messages of support and solidarity to the four thousand protestors in India protesting nuclear power. Our thoughts are with the family of the individual shot during this protest. We are heartened to hear that Japan has now decided to phase out nuclear power and we call on the Australian Government to stop promoting the sale of uranium to these countries.
Kado Muir: 0477 184 957
Laura Hogan: 0421 816 846
Marcus Atkinson: 0400 505 765
(Or it’s easier for a poor man to enter the kingdom of heaven than to get a camel on the back of a trailer)
After a beautiful star filled evening I awoke at around five o’clock to the sound of rain and Gail forced winds. Quickly springing into action (well euphemistically speaking) I clambered out of my swag rolled it up and headed for the fire to greet Justin and get a cupper on.
It was our farewell to Justin, Vivian, Roderick, Ulreka and our two camels that we had grown to adore. But there was no time for sentimentality as we had camels to load and winds and freezing rain to contend with, such is the life of walkers and for those matter cameleers.
Now I don’t know if any of you have had the pleasure of loading camels onto a trailer, but I can tell you it’s a titanic battle, a David and Goliath situation. The first camel to be loaded was Ngala and she wasn’t having a bar of it. We roped her from the halter and with Roderick and Justin pulling hard, shouting “hut hut” to keep her moving whilst Vivian, Dylan, Locky and myself pulled ropes around her behind to give her a extra push in. Ngala nostrils flaring and frothing at the mouth was jumping and wailing like a camel possessed. All the while the wind was driving the icy rain in to our faces and hands until we where numb with cold. I looked around at my fellow cameleers to see Vivian ashen faced and shivering with cold. After a 40-minute struggle we finally got the camel on the trailer and sitting down, Justin hobbled her and tied her front legs with leather straps to keep her sitting down. However she wasn’t far enough to the left and we had to pull her across to the correct position.
At the front left of the trailer there is a small door barely big enough for a person to get through. Justin said to me “cobber if I untie the harness rope and if you open the door slightly could you pull her head over and she should reposition herself,” “no worries mate” I said. However I didn’t figure on Ngala being an expert escapologist and a soon as the latch on the door was opened she flung the door open with her head and proceeded to squeeze through the small opening. I on the other side was trying to hip and shoulder her back in to no avail, I don’t know what I was thinking as a camel is about 600 kg and Ngala breaking her restraints sprung forth and knocked me out of the way.
Anyway after another forty minutes of freezing wrangling we got Ngala back in and tied down and loaded Bijah in with minimal resistance. The sense of relief and achievement took away the biting could as we all laughed and hugged each other ready for the rest of the day and for us to part way with our new friends.
The day of walking in wild squalls and rain began with a 17km hike to poison creek where we will have two days of rest for our final push into Leonora.
Well today was a short day yet! 8 kms to an awesome spot with an old windmill on a shady riverbank. So today we couldn’t decide on one word to reflect on, so we had two reconciliation and awareness. Well ill tell you one thing we were aware that it was windy very windy. It was also the last night for our cameleers and their lift, who we said goodbye and thank you. Ulrike Rodrick, Justin and Vivian you will be missed, oh and of course narla and bijar the camels
The little people of our group got creative in the river bed and architecturally designed and built an entire village for tiny people equipped with streets town halls and many houses made from sticks rocks and grasses check out the pictures it was super cool!
So back to our words of reflection; reconciliation a big one and hard one for a lot of us to make sense of, how do we reconciliate when concilliation was never achieved in the first place! So we all had our own take on that and some decided they were reconcilliating with mother earth.
Dinner people had an almighty challenge of cooking in the wind but managed to rise above and create an amazing dinner for us, with stories shared around the cooking fire (naughty naughty) and off to a windy sleep, that wasn’t without its misshaps, but that’s tomorrows story goodnight!
Reflection word for today is family and lo and behold it’s Fathers’ Day here in Oz, unbeknown to the person who suggested this word for us to meditate and reflect on! Yep lots of phone calls home from Agnew before we got out of range. People are contemplating their lovely friends and family who are going through challenges and ill health and we are sending them all love. Of course we are here with the Wongai family who have in their big heart introduced us to their families, some their customs, language, bush tucker and dreaming stories. We share their aspirations to protect their country and joint responsibility for the planet.
Out and about on our walk today we came across the Heritage cemetery outside Lawlers – once a town of 8000 people. Ironically the only thing remaining apart from that sad cemetery and the broken bottles and other 100 year old rusty things is a bloody intact looking Gunjable Station ( Woorabinda- Qld language for Constables or Police). Yes the authorities have a nice little brick building there after 100 years or so.
We ran into Kado Muir’s cousin Tony with his business associates and ‘celebrity guest’ family members – yes that word again – Ben Cousins and his Dad, Brian. They were out having a look at the country to develop work skill programs for Indigenous Youth. So we did the group photo with this football guru and another retired star Travis, and equipped them with a bag of information about uranium mining and the aims of the walk.
Bush tucker and healing plants included kita (turpentine plants) fruits and many others. Kado spotted a couple of wallabies. Undulating country beautiful rugged I have so much admiration for these desert people who didn’t just live here but developed such extraordinary social systems and co-existed with Nature here. Roo stew by camp cooks was so very tasty and Ari’s crepes were a huge success – she is a novice outdoor cook no longer.
Alls Well Earth Mum. We sleep at your beautiful creek tonight. Peace to you. Yawal.
Today our thought for the day was Vigilance, as one grandmother on the walk described it:
‘Once you’re a mother, you know what the word vigilance means, because you have to be vigilant 24 hours a day 7 days a week, mothers know what vigilance is.’
We walked down Old Agnew Road yesterday, through the deep red sand and amongst the mulgas. Kado walked with us, showing us sandalwood trees, where we collected sweet smelling wood and ate sandalwood nuts. It was the hottest day so far, and the sand slowed us up. Extreme chafing stopped one walker, but after a break and some ointment we were away again. It is so much drier this year and there are far fewer desert flowers as a result. I realise how blessed we were last year, after a wet winter.
A worker stopped and someone went over to talk to him and gave him a flyer. The first thing he said was ‘I’m the guy you hate’. We took the time to explain what we were doing, and why we didn’t hate him. Kado and him talked for quite some time. People from all walks of life are interested.
Once in a blue moon, and today being a day of the blue moon, things go a bit askew. The support vehicle got bogged after the first break, and took a bit of convincing to keep going, by the oldest and youngest walkers seeking a rest. A tyre blew up on the kitchen truck and Marcus and Laura spent most of the day sorting it out, while Bilbo drove Jo, Bernadette and Andrew into Leonora to catch the bus to Perth.
Another car arrived from Leonora with Sheryl, and Walkatjurra Rangers Ethan, Braedon, and Mingan and special guest star Irandia, a junior ranger before she was born.
Aunty Lizzy and Vicky made damper to the delight of everyone. Enough damper for 40 people, for dinner, breakfast and lunch. A load of damper.
While we talked in the evening circle, the blue full moon rose above the mulga trees, the sky darkened into deep purples and pinks, and the stars slowly appeared. Another day of walking done.
Today we walked sixteen kilometres through Ant Dreaming country led by lead Walkatjurra Head Ranger, Gudathada (Zach), and Nathan, proudly carrying the Aboriginal flag. We walked along a beautiful red dirt road through land which overlaps with the other songlines of the Seven Sisters, Carpet Snake and Dragonfly.
On the way Zach pointed out trees and told bush medicine stories, the most memorable being of a lizard with medicine stronger than morphine if you cut off and swallow its head. We also leant how to find nutritious bush nuts and smelt precious sandalwood from one of the few remaining trees. The kids had fun learning some words in the sign language common to the Western Desert like, “what’s up?” and “kangaroo.”
On our last break before rejoining the Goldfields Highway two kilometres from camp we read the latest media reports on BHP Billiton’s sale of Yeelirrie to Cameco in The Western Australian http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/a/-/news/14727454/no-urgency-for-yeelirrie-cameco/ and The Kalgoorlie Miner. There was also a nice picture of us in The Kalgoorlie Miner on page 3.
Back at camp we rejoined the elders and camp setup crew waiting patiently in the shade, gratefully sipping our hot tea and coffee that was ready and waiting. The rest of the day is spent lazing around, talking, playing and working on various camp jobs while the sun slowly tracks across the huge expanse of sky to disappear back into this magical red earth.