‘Walkatjurra Walkabout – Walking for Country’
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 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 donations – You can donate here.
If you have any questions then please feel free to call or email..
Marcus Atkinson: 0400 505 765 email: firstname.lastname@example.org