Fuel, fire, fungus, footprints…acting on our sentiments post Walktjurra Walkabout

Fuel, fire, fungus, footprints…acting on our sentiments post Walktjurra Walkabout

What does it mean to give up a month of your time, to walk with a group of people through the desert with the Traditional Owners of the land?  A simplified synopsis of this year’s Walkatjurra Walkabout admittedly, but with over a month passed since the walk finished, it is a broad inquiry that deserves consideration.  It’s a question that can only really be answered with hindsight, a story that unfolds through our subsequent actions.

It has been well over a month now since the Walkatjurra Walkers arrived back in Perth, and many of us have since returned to our lives in cities and towns across Australia.  Days in the city feel far removed from the red dirt, challenges, routine and reflective environment of the walk.

If participants in this year’s Walkatjurra Walkabout are anything like me, the simple phrase the walk will have morphed into an all-too-common idiom in conversation with friends and family.

The walks last year and this year have become significant life reference points, almost to the extent that I find myself associating my outlook and sense of purpose within the terms of BTW and ATW (Before The Walk and After The Walk).  Not to be trite about overstating the effects of participating in these actions, but for me personally the walks genuinely have been emotional, intellectual and physical learning experiences that have shifted my perspectives.

So how do we reconcile some of the learnings, experiences and drive for change that gripped us while out on country?

I came across a quote last night which feels strangely timely and appropriate for this deliberation:

Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.

Edward Abbey

It may feel that the fire-in-the-belly sentiments shared while sitting grubby, cross-legged in the dirt in our evening circles feel somewhat diluted now – like abstracted desires in the context of suburban living and our occupation with everyday trials here.   More like embers now than a roaring fire.  But as anyone who woke before dawn to start the morning fire for breakfast knows, embers hold much heat and can ignite with the slightest breath of air and fuel.  It may come as a surprise, to realise the strength of emotion and engagement that you still foster now.  The challenge is to be able to add fuel to that fire. 

If we look around, there is a lot to get fired up about.  Soon after the walk arrived back in Perth, the WA State Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, granted State Approval for Toro Energy’s Uranium project at Wiluna.  The Liberal Government has its eye set on making this Western Australia’s first uranium mine.  The people we met at the community meeting in Wiluna will be condemned to living within just a day’s walk from the edge of this uranium mine.

This all comes in conjunction with the larger story of both NSW and QLD recently overturning bans of uranium mining, and our Prime Minister advancing an Australian uranium export deal with India.

When we put it like this, it can all feel a little deflating and suffocating.  So rather then fire, perhaps there is a better analogy for us to use.

Uncle Kevin Buzzacot is an Arabunna Elder, whose land is suffering stark impacts from the nearby Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia.  He joined us at the end of the walk from Wiluna to Perth last year, and gave us an analogy that resonated with many of us.  (Anyone who’s met Uncle Kev will appreciate just how much of an injustice it is to paraphrase him…but here we go…)

He said that as the walk ends, we will each go back to our respective corners where we live.  But that we are somewhat like ….a fungus.  We have been infected with knowledge and a sense of the land and our responsibility to protect it, and as we seemingly quietly return to our cities, we remain linked with the other fungus, through our channels deep underground.  Fungus are resilient, and can often fester underground for a sustained period.  And we will pop up again, all across the globe, when the time is right.  The Fungi Family.  ‘Become the Fungus’ was both the catchphrase and challenge he offered us that evening.

And in the light of these potentially catastrophic announcements, recognising that we have become the Fungus is more necessary than ever.  Because despite the political parade, the reality is that the Fungus Family is growing, and we are linked to the resistance popping up in all areas.

The message is spreading on a ground level.  The walks are growing.  Many of those that walked the land last year helped to organise the walk for this year to get more people out on country and connected with the land and communities.  And we have the pilgrimage marked out to occur again in May 2013.

The walk finished with the re-establishment of Kutunatu Ngurra – an old loreground, where we helped host a WANFA Goldfields strategy meeting.  (See the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance media release on the updates page.)  Soon after, the annual Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) meeting was held near Alice Springs, with a large WA contingency.

A sister city project is being set up between Denmark (in South-West WA) and Leonora – a sign of a relationship and connection that spans a good few thousand kilometres.

Our commitment to visiting rural communities through WA to share information about uranium mining has been strengthened with a recent purchase of a 23 seater bus.  We have a bunch of ideas lined up to utilise the bus, including cultural awareness tours for the public and particularly for politicians, travelling Native Title information sessions, transporting people between communities to share their experience of uranium exploration on their lands….(A blog for the adventures of the bus will be set up on the WANFA website soon!)

Other things are moving too.  We are utilising our creative energy – the Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (BUMP) collective based in Perth is busy creating a monster Godzilla themed float!  This is for the upcoming Fremantle Festival, to creatively highlight the long known dangers of experimenting with uranium.

People are creating art for the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance art auction set for mid next year, and folks in Perth have been working hard on a strategic election campaign in the marginal seat of Riverton to bring to light state party policies on uranium mining.

Last Friday in Sydney a ‘Ajisai (Hydrangea) Friday’ rally was held in solidarity with the hundreds of Japanese people who gather every Friday night at the Prime Ministers residence to protest the restarting of nuclear reactors in Japan.

There are huge rallies in India, particularly in Koodankulam, where people are protesting the construction of nuclear reactors on the coastline.  Five people have been shot by police already, and yet the protests continue with passion, creativity and determination to stand up to voice their concerns.

There are some scary signals out there, with the blind drive from politicians to continue to force the existence of the nuclear industry, and it is true that we are facing a crunch time here in Australia in regards to uranium mining.  But it is even more true, that we are seeing almost unprecedented resistance on a global level from new fronts to stop the madness that is the nuclear industry.

It’s my personal belief that what you say, what you affirm, the story you decide to share permeates to those around you and the reality that we create.  We are part of society, we are part of the present, and we have a role in what occurs now.

So feed the fire, be the fungus, make your footprints count.  Lets act now here at home to keep the uranium in the ground, to do justice to the land here, and people everywhere.

All strength to you, Fungi Family.