Walkatjurra Walkabout: The end of another year

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IMG_3017Thanks so much to everyone who came and supported the Walkatjurra Walkabout this year..

We have finished doing all the finances and we have come up $1,000 short.. (which is actually better than we expected) We also have the kitchen truck registration that is due at the end of October that is another $650..

We have a tax deductible donation site at https://ccwa.nationbuilder.com/walkatjurra

If you could write a personal message to friends and family about your experience and post on facebook or by email with the link to the tax deductible donation site it would be greatly appreciated.. lots of people donating small amounts soon add up 😉

Donation

The last week of the walk saw us leaving Poison creek after two well deserved rest days and some bathing and washing. There was a small billabong at Poison creek that the cows had fowled, so Aunty Lizzy a local traditional owned showed us all how to dig for water in the creek bed. We dug three waterholes, two for washing clothes and ourselves and one that was pure water for drinking, its amazing the knowledge that Aboriginal people have gathered over thousands of years and is still alive today.

With four walking days and 88km’s to cover to Kuthanaru camp we set off for the first day of walking to cover 20km’s, with the temperature soaring to 35 degrees Celsius. The day was long and hot with little shade, but the walkers walked with high spirits to our camp on the side of the road near the Sinclair mine turn off. It was also blowing a gale with dust storms and small willy-willy’s dissecting the road, we arrived tired but in good spirits.

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Marcus and I had to do a water run to Leonora that took five hours and 170km so we had enough water for the rest of the walk. We arrived back to camp at 9pm, to the sounds of birds, the flicker of campfires and snoring. It was surreal, as usually people would be up laughing around the communal fire, but I guess not unexpected after the days walk.

The next day we awoke tired and sore, but still in good spirits, for an early start, another 20km day with temperatures again in the 30’s. Marcus and I decided to drop the km’s down from 23km’s to 20km due to the previous days walk and the temperature, but also so we could camp at Doyle’s well.

Doyle’s well is a massive creek system with eight creek crossings, gum trees and an oasis of green grass, it also has allot of bullocks and cows, which have been a constant during the walk. Just near our camp is the ruin of the old settlement at Doyle’s, where there was a thriving community. Not much exists there now except the ruins of buildings and the old swimming pool, with some old Bougainvillea vines that house a colony of Kangaroo rats, we didn’t see them but there where plenty of tracks.

We have never camped at Doyle’s before but it was one of the best camps on the walk. The dry arid conditions that we had become accustomed to seemed to be held at bay by the grass and gum trees that provided a respite from the sun and wind and rejuvenated our spirits.

The next two days saw the temperature drop to a comfortable degree which was good as we had two long days of 24km’s until our final rest day. It also saw the arrival of Uncle Glen Cook, a local senior traditional owner who has been a part of the walks every year since we started in Wiluna in 2011.

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Uncle Glen has been a constant opponent of the Uranium mines in the region often at odds with some people in his own community that are willing to negotiate with the mining companies. Uncle Glen had been delayed due to community commitments and deaths in his family, funerals and deaths in Aboriginal communities are far too frequent and the commitments of Aboriginal people to their communities, families and nations is a foreign concept to most non-indigenous people, but I hope to some degree that the participants on the walk gain a better understanding of what its like for Aboriginal people and the things that have to deal with on a daily basis.

The first thing Uncle Glen did when he got out of the car and started to walk with us was to stop at a Mulga tree and talk about it. For us we might just see a tree, but to him he sees boomerangs, spears, tools and food he sees life. He sees the past, the present and the future; he sees a continuation of knowledge and survival. It’s a rare gift to be included so openly in his knowledge but that’s the kind of man he is, open, generous and willing to share his love for country.

That night we camped near an old gnarled peppercorn tree, in a rocky quarts camp, gold country. it was a change from the previous camp at Doyle’s, back to the stark beauty of the desert. We also had a night of wind and showers to wash away the dust as people quickly charged their phones to talk to loved ones in the outside world, its a rare patch of mobile reception out here.

One more day of walking to our base camp, Kuthanaru, saw the walk cover another 24km, leaving only a 12km day to Leonora. It’s a place that feels like home to most of us who have been walking for the last few years, and a significant part of the local Aboriginal history. Kado Muir’s mother and father set up the camp so that the last of the elders in the community who had lived and grown up in the bush could live out their last years in peace, surrounded by the country that is so ingrained in their souls and traditions, and has become the spiritual home of the walk. There are many old traditional camps and ceremony grounds on the site so we always pay special attention to camp set up, flagging off areas we cannot go into due to cultural sensitivities.

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This would be our home for the next three days and four nights, an opportunity to regroup, wash and welcome the Aboriginal community from Leonora for the last push into town. We where met there by local elders Richard and Sandra Evans and rejoined by Aunty Shirley and about a million kids. It is always a great last few days where we get to meet all the people from the local Aboriginal community who cannot attend the walk due to work and other commitments.

On the evening of the first rest day, the day before we walk into Leonora, Uncle Glen organized some dancers to perform an Emu corroboree. Uncle Richard, described the dance and what it means, “Emu’s when they mate, the female lays the eggs and the male sits on the nest and raises the children. It’s a lesson to us males to look after or children like the Emu does.” The dance was performed by Troy a local Aboriginal man with the kids performing the role of the young Emu chicks and with Uncle Glen singing in language accompanied by Marcus on didgeridoo.

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The final day walk into Leonora is a short day, only about 12km but it’s an opportunity for all the walkers and the Aboriginal community (many of whom couldn’t make it to the walk) to show a united and strong voice against the proposed uranium mines. Walkers where met at the Leonora town boundary for the walk into the local park where we all settled into for a long lunch and BBQ. After the lunch the bus whisked some of the walkers off to Malcolm dam, a local swimming spot for an afternoons swimming and relaxation before heading back to camp for dinner of Emu, damper and sing-along’s at the fire.

The final rest day before we head off to Kalgoorlie and then Perth is hardly a rest day. It a frantic day of cleaning the truck and buss, stocktaking, packing bags, dealing with lost property and the last closing circle.

The closing circle is always an emotional time, its an opportunity for us the walk organizers to hear about peoples experiences, the good the bad and what needs improvement, but also a somber moment where walkers can speak from their heart about their experiences and the eventual reintegration to the outside world. We have all spent the last month in a moving community, living side by side, sharing food, walking country, talking, singing, cooking cleaning and learning to love the flies, dust and each other, its hard to let go of all that, to readjust to the outside world, that for a brief moment in our life didn’t exist.

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I was honored to hear about every ones thoughts and stories and to see the great changes in peoples lives since we started, the personal growth that was expressed by many is for me, as an organizer, one of the best aspects of doing walks like this. Its an emotional circle, a closure and a beginning, and I hope that the walkers continue to create change both inside themselves and around them drawing on the experience and connection they have gained on country.

The next two days are days of driving, covering almost 900km back to Perth with a one night stop in Kalgoorlie at Wongath Bini cultural center where we stayed on the way up. We where joined by Libby and Debby Carmody, who had to leave the walk due to the sudden death of their father, Uncle Geoffrey and Christine Stokes, and Auntie Marcia and her husband Trevor and their family as well as many others from Kalgoorlie.

It was great having all of these people back together for one last night, it felt as if the walk had come full circle. It was especially great to see Libby and her family again after the great shock of the death of her father, another time to reconnect, reflect and share. The night was filled with gospel music, guitar jams and of course Ruben on his saxophone, the city lights seemed to fade under the glow of our campfire and the noise of the mining town drifted off as the voices of singing and music filled the air. It was a great last night before the long drive to Perth and the craziness of the city and the end of the journey.

The long drive back was grueling, and as we broached the hills to see the city in the distance it filled me with a sense of confusion, on the one hand clean clothes and showers awaited, but on the other hand, the serenity and bush would soon disappear under tar and cement. Luckily we landed in Fremantle at Lian, Claire, Olivia and Lucy’s house, greeted by a camp fire in the back yard, a yummy diner and the local community, it was a nice homecoming and a gentile way to reenter the city, thanks to all those who opened their homes and brought food and great conversation. We also got to see a sneak peek at Rez’s film about the walk; it was amazing, his film style and footage was inspiring.

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Well that’s another year of the Walkatjurra Walkabout, for me it was a really inspiring group of people and one of the best walks. But it is far more that just walking, so I would like to take this time to thank the too numerous to mention, people who donated, time, money and energy to the walk. To all those who read the updates and posted online, to those who came from Australia and overseas, to the Aboriginal people of the region and through out Australia and the world who are striving for a future free from the nuclear industry and to all the walkers be they there for a day or a month, I would like to extend my deepest respect and love. We will continue to walk for a nuclear free world, one step at a time, and one story at a time, together we can create the change.

Yours in peace and solidarity,
Bilbo Taylor.

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P.S. AND THAT’S HOW MARCUS RUINED MY LIFE!

Walkatjurra Walkabout completes 5th walk against uranium mining in West Australia

MEDIA RELEASE 

16th September 2015

 

Walkatjurra Walkabout completes 5th walk against uranium mining in West Australia

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The Walkatjurra Walkabout, which started in 2011, finished its 5th walk in the North Eastern Goldfields town of Leonora on Tuesday. The walk, a collaboration of Aboriginal and non-indigenous people, is a moving community protest against the proposed uranium mines in the region.

The month long walk, lead by local Traditional Owners, covered almost 450 kms from Wiluna to Leonora, passing Toro Energys Wiluna uranium mine proposal at Lake Way and Camecos proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie Station.  

Walk participants included local Traditional Owners, people from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, England, Sweden, Aotearoa (New Zealand), America and France. The walks continue to attract people interested in learning about Aboriginal culture, caring for country and to share a united vision for a nuclear free world. 

The walk was also joined at Yeelirrie for two days by Federal Greens senators Rachel Siewert and Co-Deputy Greens leader Scott Ludlam along with state Greens MLC Robin Chapple. The visit included a tour of Toro Energys uranium project at Lake Way near Wiluna with walkers and Toro Energy.

Many of the participants have first hand experience of the dangers of the nuclear industry, especially those from Japan and Taiwan, whose nuclear industry are fuelled by Australian uranium.

Local Traditional Owner Vicky McCabe from Leonora, who walked the whole way said We have been walking for five years against these Uranium mines, and we will continue to walk and invite people to our country to tell Toro and Cameco that there is no way they will be taking this poison out of our country.” 

Mandjindja Koara woman Sandra Evans said You would think that the government and mining companies would have learnt from the lessons of Hiroshima, Fukushima and Chernobyl. This poison has done nothing but killed and hurt millions of people. Uranium is deadly, we have always known that, it should stay in the ground where it is.

Koara Tribal Leader, Richard Evans said As the traditional owners of our land we have never consented to allow the Australian Government, State Government or mining companies to come here and dig up our country, we assert our sovereign rights to care for our land and to stop this destruction. How long do we the Aboriginal owners of the land have to demonstrate that we do not want in any way this uranium to be taken out of our country, and then sent overseas to poison some other peoples country.

The Walkatjurra Walkabout is a celebration of Aboriginal culture and community resistance to the nuclear industry with the aim to keep Western Australia, nuclear free.

For more information please contact:

Marcus Atkinson – 0400505765

Statement from Taiwan Nuclear Free Movement to Walkatjurra Walkabout

There’re things that tear people apart and also bring people together, people from different countries with different languages, histories and cultures. The nuclear industry is also one of those things. That’s what brought us Taiwanese and Australians together.

Since Australia is the main supplier of the uranium used in Taiwan, when Taiwan is using electricity created by nuclear, what’s being sacrificed is the well-being of Australia.

Looking at the uranium mining industry in Australia, and then looking back at what’s been happening in Taiwan’s nuclear power and waste management, we realize the similar challenge we’re facing, we realize this industry is consist of lies, cover-ups and denials, at the price of the sacrifices of the people from the grassroots.

There’re 3 operating nuclear power plants in Taiwan, providing 18% of the electricity. The first nuclear power plan was commissioned in 1978, and the plan of fourth nuclear power plant was brought up in the 80’s. Since then, the general public started to be aware of the injustice and the risks nuclear power has been causing.

Because of the controversy regarding the construction plan, over the past 3 decades, Taiwanese has witnessed the state-owned Taiwan Power Company’s numerous scandals, corruptions, construction accidents and delays. And Tai Power has doubled the budget up to 330 billion New Taiwan dollar which is about 7672 billion Australia dollar.

When it comes to nuclear waste, Tai Power has done more things to deepen people’s mistrust of them.

In 1982, the government sent the nuclear waste to Orchid Island, telling the Tao people those are just fish cans. There are now 10 thousand drums of nuclear waste in total, many of them have started to rust 20 years ago without any management, and the surface water have been discharged out of the waste storage site directly. Even though Tai power assure people there’s absolutely no radiation leakage, it’s been really hard for the public to believe them.

The Paiwan people in Taitung could be the next to face a similar situation, since the Ministry of Economic Affairs have chosen Taitung county, the area that consume the least electricity (only 0.4%) and with the highest percentage of aboriginal population, as one of the two proposed nuclear waste site. If the old nuclear plants get life extensions and the newest nuclear power plant get to operate in the future, there could be up to 1 million drums of nuclear waste kept in the storage site.

Tai Power and the government have been giving promise about the safety and the prosperity brought by the nuclear waste site. However, in our opinion, the government has not only been giving misleading information, but they have also failed to implement a site section process under the condition of justice between different regions and ethnicities.

Paules Tjangazavan , the 90 years old traditional leader of the Nantien village in Taitung, has been stand firmly with her position against nuclear waste and protect her ancestor’s land for many years. She said “ This land was given by our ancestor. We can’t just mess it up. We should protect it, take good care of it instead. We don’t want the faeces of nuclear power to come here because we just want our peaceful, healthy life. Compensation and money won’t change where we stand about this thing.”

We know there’s still a long way to go to accomplish a nuclear free future and nuclear waste policy with more social justice, there have been some exciting achievement: There were 220,000 participants in the no nuke rally all around the country in 2013; A complete nuclear-power phase-out received the majority support in various polls; More and more citizens across different ideological spectrums, social position and generations have publicly expressed their supports for a nuclear free society through medias, music, films, literatures, graphic arts; The government has finally suspended the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant in 2014.

It’s getting harder for the government to threaten people, telling people they won’t survive without nuclear power, that nuclear power is clean and safe, since there have been growing movements and awareness against it. And getting to know more about the resistance against uranium mining make Taiwanese to understand about what we are fighting and what we are protecting in a deeper level. We’re fighting against the dictatorship that control and exploit the natural resource, we’re fighting the ideology says that it’s inevitable to sacrifice the people and the whole ecosystem to develop our economy, people can only life a better life if the economies grow, and we just going to consume more and more energy for the economy to grow. What are protecting is our imagination to create a different future, a future with more than one standard of being wealthy and happy, a future that we can consume less and life better without sacrificing other people and destroys the balance of the nature.

We would like participants of Walkatjurra Walkabout to know that we’re deeply moved and inspired by your actions and we hope to learn more your experiences, to connect more people beyond the boundaries of nations and ethnicity so we can achieve a nuclear-free future together.

14th, August, 2015

Coalition of Taitung Communities Against Nuclear Waste
Green Citizen’s Action Alliance

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Update from week three walking for a nuclear free future on the red-earth country of the Northern Goldfields.

Header 2 is a celebration of Wangkatja country, a testament to the strength of the community who have fought to stop uranium mining at Yeelirrie for over forty years, and a chance to come together to continue share our commitment to a sustainable future without nuclear.  It is a chance to reconnect with the land, and to revive the tradition of walking for country.

An update from week three walking for a nuclear free future on the red-earth country of the Northern Goldfields.

Hello again from the desert.

Guitar strumming, bird song, people of all ages calling out to one another and happy spirits flowing freely reprive us of six days walking from Yakabindie station. We’ve had new friends come and go, hunted and butchered our own (much anticipated) tucker. Stories from the world and stories from our hearts have been shared around the campfire every night feeling more and more like family rather then strangers. And flies flies flies.

We’re currently anticipating some sweetness in the form of a double birthday cake. Children running around once again make the camp a very lively place. Every day a new songwriter is discovered when the guitar enters their hands. We were serenaded last night by the slightly haunting chorus of cows in heat surrounding the camp. Nobody complained about “porridge again!” this morning, as our bodies were nourished by sweet rice pudding, as well as generous helpings of stewed dates and apples, and one young man could be seen chewing on the remnants of last nights homestyle kangaroo stew. The meat eaters in camp were very grateful, especially bilbo, who had spent half the day wrestling and bashing a truck tire.

We’ve all got foot sores, some since the beginning. We have a little sickness, but we’ve taken care of each other generously. It’s hard to believe that there are only ten more days and only five more walking days till the end of our journey, as we’ve only just started to find our place within this community. More than just highlighting the issue of uranium, this walk has given us an opportunity to find a way of life that supports us and values us all at the same time.

The way that we’ve come together is a beautiful step towards the world that we’re all working for.

Last night we had a bush cinema and showed pictures from the walk..  It is amazing how pictures from North pool and Yeelirrie seen like so so long ago.. You could hear everyone talking “was that really only 2 and 3 weeks ago..  Time moves very different and in many ways it feels like we have been out here for a couple of months!!!  But now the conversation is shifting within the group and many people are wishing that this was just the beginning and what will we do in one week when this journey comes to an end.

We also watched some talks on the big screen from the Martu people talking about the Kintyre uranium project by Cameo on their land..  Watch here

There are many questions from people about the nuclear chain and the way Australia fits in to the global nuclear industry, how that impacts on Aboriginal communities and ongoing resistance here and around the world.

Stay posted on the end of walk celebrations here in Perth – looking like 18th of September at Earthwise in Subiaco – but to be confirmed.

This year the walk had to spend some extra money on getting a kitchen truck and water trailer – we are still short $2,000 – but this will be really useful gear for the walks- other types of camps needed in the future and to share with other groups – We’d be so glad for any tax deductible donationsYou can donate here.

Always remember to tune in to Understorey –   and the Radioactive Show this week for all the latest nuclear and peace news.

If you have any questions then please feel free to call or email..

Marcus Atkinson: 0400 505 765   email: walk4country@gmail.com

Peace & Solidarity
Walkatjurra Walkabout Crew

Walkatjurra Walkabout: Week two on the road

‘Walkatjurra Walkabout – Walking for Country’

Header 2is a celebration of Wangkatja country, a testament to the strength of the community who have fought to stop uranium mining at Yeelirrie for over forty years, and a chance to come together to continue share our commitment to a sustainable future without nuclear.  It is a chance to reconnect with the land, and to revive the tradition of walking for country.

An update from week two walking on the special red-earth country of the Northern Goldfields.

Hello again from the desert.

Before our visiting plane load of guests had to return we walked together to the gates of the Yeelirrie pastoral station/homestead, which is now owned by the Canadian Mining company Cameco.

While at the homestead one of the Indigenous elders with us reminisced about growing up on and working on the homestead property, which she is now unable to walk onto. We looked at the gates and walked somberly back to camp.

When we returned to camp the group that had earlier attended the tour at Toro Energy’s Lake Way proposed uranium mine reported that the management there were enthusiastic about the prospect of digging up and selling uranium.

One walker reflected that Toro’s attitude was intellectual and unemotional, and that they spoke with no understanding of the significance of the land or the dangers involved in the industry. Their approach encompassed no long-term planning. It was obvious the workers had no connection to the land they worked on in any deep sense. One traditional custodian spoke out strongly to the CEO about what they were doing; a powerful moment.

We are lucky to be joined by two Japanese women activists, one a buddhist nun from Nipponzan Mjohoji, an anti-nuclear focused Buddhist order that works towards a peaceful future by walking, drumming and building peace pagodas. They perform their drumming and chanting as the sun rises and as it sets, starting the day with a sense of purpose and hope. It reminds us that we share this planet with many cultures and peoples and are connected through our living on the land together.

During those rest days we relaxed and got to know the new people. We also heard from various people who would be affected by the mine if it went ahead. The mine would bring devastation to the local environment which would be catastrophic for the traditional custodians and local pastoralists.

We heard from linguists and anthropologists about the language revival programs to record 14 local Indigenous languages which are highly endangered. Some are down to the last speaker. It was shocking to hear that they are not officially recognised by the Western Australian government, meaning that for example interpreters are not provided by the state in hospital or court situations.

We also heard from traditional owners and politicians about the history of the government’s protection of Indigenous sacred sites, many of which have been quietly de-registered and are being destroyed. While the situation is very difficult, the spirit of the people who are sharing their knowledge is strong (and infectious). We were lucky enough to be treated to some kangaroo meat which was donated by a local pastoralist, and gathered bush food from the area to fill our hungry tummies with after the long days of walking. We prepared food together under shade from the hot desert sun and gathered at sunset to regroup and share the prepared food.

After those two days at Yeelirrie we were back on the road. From Yeelirrie we walked South East toward Yakabinde. Some of our overseas visitors were impressed by the number of flies which accompanied us but soon became as accustomed as the rest of us. We reached a beautiful campsite located in a field with few trees, bordered by rocky ridges. This night was an especially beautiful one as we watched the full moon rise just as the big bright sun was setting, creating an outstanding 360 panoramic view.

After having two rest days at Jones Creek to rejuvenate and even showers offered to us by the Managers of the Yakabindie Station 15km’s down the road. We have also been invited by them to camp on their station tomorrow night in return for providing some musical entertainment.

This walk is a physical and spiritual journey. We listen and reflect, we walk and rest, create and sing, and we breathe in the air of the beautiful land. We are sharing our skills with each other. The afternoons have been filled with wood carving (to make spoons and other creations), story telling, musical jams, craft, cooking damper in the traditional way, and even some cake baking in camp ovens. We are privileged to be on this beautiful land and hearing from the traditional custodians fighting to save it, learning culture and watching the birds fly ahead. We will continue to walk steadily for a future where this beautiful land is preserved and the dangerous uranium is left in the ground.

Last night SBS/NITV had a feature piece about the walk with NITV reporter Craig Quartermaine who joined the walk for a few days – you can watch that SBS story online here.

Understorey joined the protestors at Yeerlirie, the “place of wailing and death”, for a couple of days of a month long trek. Listen to their radio report here.

Stay posted on the end of walk celebrations here in Perth – looking like 18th of September at Earthwise in Subiaco – but to be confirmed.

This year the walk had to spend some extra money on getting a kitchen truck and water trailer – we are still short $3,000 – but this will be really useful gear for the walks- other types of camps needed in the future and to share with other groups – We’d be so glad for any tax deductible donationsYou can donate here.

Always remember to tune in to Understorey –   and the Radioactive Show this week for all the latest nuclear and peace news.  

If you have any questions then please feel free to call or email..

Marcus Atkinson: 0400 505 765   email: walk4country@gmail.com