The end of the walk, but the growing of a movement

Walk update – Poison Creek to Leonora, and the drive to Kalgoorlie.

Its been a while since our last update and much has happened. Our first rest day was beautiful and sunny with swimming at the creek and much art and music in this creatively inspiring land. Rocio, Nate and Dylan arrived with Wiluna, a not-so-little dog who was once a lost puppy in his name sake town. DSC_0360

The second rest day at poison creek was a day of many trips to the goona pit for some of us. Luckily the stomach bug was only a 24 hour thing for most of us, although we decided to keep camp set up at poison creek the next day as people recovered and overnight rain meant everything was wet. Those with stronger constitutions walked in the wind and rain the 18 km we had planned for that day, and then were bussed back to camp in the afternoon. We had a hearty soup for dinner, and an early night, before finally packing down the next day after three days and four nights of rest, illness and recovery at poison creek. It was good to be moving again, and a fresh camp lifted people’s spirits. Uncle Geoffrey brought his friend Henry up from Kalgoorlie and we enjoyed their great company and entertaining stories, not to mention the Kangaroo tails! These I tried for the first time and now understand why it is considered such a delicacy in these parts. The camp was covered in paper flower seedlings, popping their heads up after the recent rains, and you could tell that in a month or so that place will be a field of flowers. Its been so interesting to walk at a different time of year (the last two years we’ve been here in August). For one thing, it is definitely wetter. The last burst of summery mid 30s weather we felt at Yeelirrie gave way to winter, goldfields style – cold winds and some rain.

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The next day was finally farewelled the talented family of Pablo and Sharon, as well as Jono. They are very missed, especially their amazing musical contribution and stories of indigenous community revitalisation projects in South America. More of us were feeling better and ready to walk, and a big crew set out on the road. That day we also walked past an abandoned hotel on the camel route of last century’s gold boom. We stopped for a break here surrounded by big gum trees and the remains a what must have seemed like an oasis on the hot trips up to Lawlers, Agnew and Wiluna in ye olden days. Chocolate left by the Eduardo, our favourite union trainer (and not just ‘cause he gives us chocolate), came out at break time and gave us the extra energy to make it into camp. The camp that night was in an amazing location and a stunning sunset heralded a peaceful night under the stars. As the moon was growing, our destination was getting closer to us, a traditional way of looking at it Kado introduced us to. Uncle Geoffrey and Henry left again with a promise to be back on Sunday for the final day of walking into Leonora.

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We were heading in to our final camp by now, at Kutunatu Ngurra. These camp grounds were established by Kado parents as a place for bush people to continue living on the land as they grew older. There is law grounds there, so the rangers went ahead to set up camp in an appropriate area. Kutunatu Ngurra is a beautiful place, like a garden paradise that has been landscaped by some divine force. More people came out from Leonora for the walk into camp, including Jamu Pete, Kado’s dad. Once the excitement of arriving at our last camp subsided, we got ready for a big weekend of discussions, skills sharing and stories. Eduardo came out again, this time to do public speaking and campaigning workshops with all the walkers, and finish off a project meeting with the rangers. Kado hosted a talk on Native Title, giving a history of the English common law system that Australian laws are based on, the difference between land rights and native title, the struggle to get recognition of native title in Australia, and how it operates today. Kado’s talk was very informative, engaging and accessible even to people with little previous knowledge.

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On Saturday, it was full moon and the stars disappeared before this bright magnificent orb that lit up everything. By Sunday, we were ready for another early night before our final walking day in Leonora. It was a massive circle the next morning with close to a hundred walkers ready for the last 12 km. Steve McCartney, the WA secretary from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union gave an inspiring speech to get us fired up. He spoke about the power of solidarity, and the need to halt mining until there is an investigate on the effects of uranium mining on workers, the local community, communities on the transport route and those affected by the dumping of nuclear waste. He also spoke of his union’s efforts to foster relationships with indigenous communities, and a hope that AMWU involvement with the walk and working with the Walkatjurra Rangers was the start of a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship. Steve’s presence was very inspiring, and we are all very thankful for the efforts he made to be with us (including an early morning drive from Kalgoorlie). So the final walk in Leonora began with Karthi upfront as Safety Flag. We ate more chocolate at our break stop, this time a donation from Loving Earth which was enjoyed by all. (Its not all chocolate eating on the walk by the way, those are just the bits I remember most!) We walked past the old Aboriginal reserve, where local people lived until they moved to make way for a mine. We also saw what was left of a sacred site that was to be rehabilitated – this involved destroying the site and then stacking the rubble into a pile of stones. It was distressing and enraging to see the lack of respect inflicted on the land and traditional owners. We got many toots of support as we walked into town, and started a chant of “Wanti Uranium, leave it in the ground!”. It was a lovely day for our community BBQ and we enjoyed hanging out celebrating the end of our long walk. We finished the day off with a trip to Malcolm dam, and swimming that can only be described as ‘refreshing’ (if not chilly). Some went ahead back to camp to make a delicious dinner of roast vegies and salad, a simple treat for us all. The next day was full of cleaning, sorting and getting the bus, kitchen truck and support vehicle spic and span. Ania cooked a lovely curry, finishing off the cayenne pepper in style. We sat with our desert (another masterpiece from Winiata) around the fire and took the opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings about the walk and what it had meant to each of us.

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There was a lot of gratitude expressed for traditional owners, for rangers who shared so much knowledge, the organisers and everyone who contributed. Today, we began with the challenge of the final pack up of the kitchen truck and a game of tetris trying to fit everyone’s swags, tents, bags, drums and guitars into the trailer. We left early, intending to stop in Kalgoorlie for lunch before heading further down the road for a night camping. But the weather had other ideas and we drove into a rain storm under a dramatic blue-grey sky past glowing salmon gums. So we took shelter again at Wonguthi Birni, and after a day of showers and op-shops, settled into a dry night inside. Right now, we are looking forward to reheated curry for dinner and a big fruit salad (with papaya!), before a night dreaming of the party in Perth tomorrow and our adventures down to the South West for the Festival of Voice in Denmark this weekend. The walking may have finished, but we continue the nomadic community lifestyle.

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The Walkatjurra Walkabout continues to grow and expand across the world. Kado Muir and others will be leaving for France in 3 weeks to join the the French Anti Nuclear movement for a walk and to share with the French the way that the uranium mining companies threatens their culture, community and the surrounding environment.

If you can help with the cost of plane tickets involved with getting people their it would be greatly appreciated.

You can make a tax deductible donation at https://give.everydayhero.com/au/walkabout

Week 2 begins

Saturday 11th May
A well-deserved day of rest at Jones Creek after the group’s first 60 kilometres walking. Reaching a riverbed filled with gumtrees and water was like finding a Western Desert oasis. The camp shared a bbq lunch, followed by an optional walk led by Kado and the Walktatjura Rangers. They took the group to a nearby soak, which is of great significance to the local Indigenous people. They shared Dreamtime stories and those who went were touched by sharing what it means to have a spiritual connection to the land.

We had visits from Roxanne, Vera and their kids who came from nearby Wiluna, and Eduardo from the AMWU (Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.)

Eduardo mediated a meeting with the Indigenous Walkatjura Rangers, and later in the evening a meeting with the whole group. Through Eduardo’s quiet facilitation, the group opened up about why they were on the walk, sharing personal stories around the fire. Eduardo’s visit represented a growing relationship between the union and the anti-nuclear movement. Discussions were aimed at strengthening ties between Indigenous people from the area and folk from far and wide who’d like to be a part of the struggle not just for a nuclear-free Australia, but also moving towards Indigenous sovereignty.

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Sunday 12th May

Mother’s Day! The group has chosen a theme to mediate apon as we walk each day. In honour of Mother’s Day, today the theme was family, and we shared our reflections, many of them raw and moving, around an evening  fireside circle.

We walked 17 kilometres, passing the close to the family home in which Kado grew up. We passed the Xtstrata Nickel Mine which drains water from the region and affects the land. One of the young folk drove a car into a ditch, so a group of us bonded over de-bogging he vehicle, while others looked on as we ate class-A snacks including dates and dark chocolate. Nom.

Dinner was followed by an intense discussion led by Eduardo, asking all of us how we can keep the spirit of the walk and it’s aims alive once the walk has finished. The Walkatjura Rangers began to unravel the difficulties and complexities of life in Leonora.

Monday 13th May

We walked along the last stretch of bitumen – it’s all red dirt from here on in! We passed Lake Miranda, a large salt lake, and the surrounding hills. A few footsteps before reaching Lake Miranda, the group huddled around Kado who told us about the Carpet Snake Dreamtime story.

At dinner the group enjoyed a delicious pumpkin soup by Mika and company. The beginnings of a gastro bug began to take hold of camp, so a quiet evening ensued…

Walk poem by Winiata

 

A Poem from Winiata 14th May 2013-05-15

Winiata

Well, here we are Walking for Country with Ayjindi, a 13 year old boy from Costa Rica, and resting on this Red Earth.

Overcast day but a child skipping along a muddy path.

Wind gently urging him forward.

Flags dancing on shoulders that have strengthened by each day.

And a fire that burns in hearts that have been ignited by love and pain – passion and wonderment.

One step at a time – maybe this cool breeze will respect our inner wish and carry our message of a nuclear-free future to Toro, and the Land will be preserved for these children’s children.

For there’s a song that the ancestors have passed on to some

So the little ones will listen and be warmed by the past.  For the future may not be as fragile as we think.

We are huddled together this grey morning drinking clean water and enjoying snacks and treats, but some sit alone for their dreams are private and quiet but just as important to the group as well,

New faces today energising us.

Same spirit moving forward.

One step at a time.

And the teenagers with their rebel abandonment take the lead banner – running into the wind without a care, forging forward, their silhouettes against this dank sky.

Looking and facing the horizon without hesitation – such bravery – not even knowing it’s brave.

Same spirit moving forward.

One step at a time.

And a beer bottle discarded in the bush – such temptation to smash against rocks by one of the young warriors.

I yell out ‘Your’e not going to throw that are you’

Which shatters his thoughts for a moment and passes it to me.

Different ages, timeless reality.

On this Dreamtime LAND.

Same spirit moving forward.

One step at a time.

Walkatjurra Walkabout heads out

Booklet

The 4th of May 2013 saw the East Perth Train Station farewell about 50 excited Anti-Nuke and Sovereignty activists, bound for the gates of Toro’s proposed first Western Australian Uranium Mine  – ‘Lakeway’ near Wiluna in the Western Desert.

The Aboriginal Peoples of this area have for decades lead much successful and determined resistance to industry and mining and they are once again determined to stop this mine.  People from all around the world have come in support.

And so the convoy stopped for the first night in Kalgoorlie at Wongatha Birni, Aboriginal Cultural Centre, and there met Geoffrey Stokes – Wongai man and inspirational community leader and activist.  KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Another day of traveling and we arrived at the gates of Toro Energy’s proposed mine site – the Lakeway Uranium deposit.  Another proposed first step of the Nuclear chain – the pinnacle of Colonialism’s Ecocidal legacy.

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That night we joined with those already at Yeelerrie (‘Place of Death’ in local Language) and the group numbers doubled, with Leonora and Wiluna locals welcoming all to a happy and comfortable camp.  Kado Muir (Wongai man, Traditional Owner of Yeelerrie area and head of WANFA, the Western Australian Nuclear Free Association), and his lovely family officially welcomed us to Country.  This gentle and amazing man has lead his people and so many others in the movement for sanity for so long.

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Also present was Richard Evans, another Traditional Owner of Yeelerrie area from Leonora, another dedicated long-time leader and many other Elders.  Vicky McCabe, Wongai Woman and Senior Walkatjurra Ranger also met us, again kindly agreeing to lead us through her Country.

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A flock of children and dogs flew about laughing and barking and everyone found a spot for swags under a beautiful sky.

The morning brought realisation of the wonderful Country we find ourselves camping and walking through and how lucky we all to be here.

Desert Circle

The group swelled again on Tuesday with the arrival of a flight full of more campaigners including Scott Ludlum, Greens Senator; Jo Vallentine of ANAWA (Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA); Dave Sweeny from ACF (Australian Conservation Foundation); Piers Verstegen ,Director of CCWA (Conservation Council Western Australia) and other international guests and journalists who had come for the day.

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An inspirational meeting was held with a strong message of unity and resistance to the push for Uranium mining from Geoffrey, Kado, Richard and others. Colourful footage was filmed for media release.

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Wednesday was the much anticipated first day of our long-distance Songline walk and the weather was cool and breezy for a 20km stroll down the road at good pace.  That night though tested the tents with a downpour.  More people arrived from Perth during the rain including Winiata Puru, Aboriginal Rights and Environmental activist who brought wishes from the Tent Embassy.

Healing spirit

Thursday the weather cleared and camp that night was particularly spectacular, another 20kms down the road.  We are lucky enough to hear as we walk, the stories and songs of the Land from Kado and Vicky and others.

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Another 20kms and Friday we arrive at Jones’ Creek, or Ngarlu Wuri Wuri, our rest-day campsite.  The creek is full and we are full of fun and food and music around the campfires.

Stepping out against uranium mining

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Stepping out against uranium mining

Media Release 2nd May 2013


This Saturday 4th of May people from across Australia and around the World will be meeting with local Aboriginal people, Wangkatja people, to embark on a 3 week walk from Yeelirrie – WA’s largest uranium deposit to Leonora.

The 2013 walk will be the third walk through the Goldfields stepping out against uranium mining. This year has increased support and growing opposition to uranium mining after the Federal announcement to give a conditional, but not final, approval for Toro Energy’s proposed Wiluna uranium mine.

This year the walk will incorporate campaign training from the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union to help support communities who want to oppose uranium mining on their country.

Kado Muir chairperson of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance and Yeelirrie Traditional Custodian “Everybody is concerned about the potential for uranium mining. We all want to do our bit – to send the message that we don’t want uranium mining on our country. We’ve fought against uranium for over 40 years. We know uranium is different. Yeelirrie – in my area – is known as the place of death. We’ve always know that uranium must be left in the ground.”

“Between Wiluna and Leonora there is the potential for three uranium mines, that’s all the country we travel across, live on and hunt our kangaroos and goanna and emus on. If these uranium mines go ahead, we’ll lose our country for the next 10,000 years.”

“We’ve already had mining in this area for over 100 years; we’re still waiting to see any significant benefit. It is talked about but there’s no evidence. Every new company comes in with new promises but we never see any change.”

Marcus Atkinson, walk organiser and campaigner for the Anti Nuclear Alliance of WA said “The walk has been so important in connecting people with the local communities and the environment teaching people that the area is important.”

“Since the Federal conditional approval for the proposed Wiluna uranium mine more and more people have joined the walk. This is a new beginning for action and opposition to the proposed Wiluna uranium mine and other proposed uranium mines in the area like Yeelirrie, Lake Maitland and Mulga Rocks.”

“We are determined to keep WA nuclear free” he concluded.

Media Contact:

Kado Muir: Chair WANFA 0477184957 – kadomuir@gmail.com

Marcus Atkinson: Campaigner ANAWA 0400505765 – marcus@footprintsforpeace.org