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

About Marcus Atkinson

For over two decades I have been involved in Peace Walks that have covered many different issues. In 2003 I helped organize a 9 month walk from Roxby Downs, South Australia (home to one of the largest uranium mines in the world) to Hiroshima, Japan, (arriving on August 6th.) In 2005 I became a board member of Footprints for Peace and have acted as the International Coordinator in organizing walks through out the world for a Nuclear Free Future.
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