Australian news, and some related international items

Despite Tony Abbott, Solar Power is shining in Alice Springs

Red Centre keeps shining as solar technology hub  ABC Rural  By Lauren Fitzgerald Central Australia is continuing to attract international investment from the solar industry, despite the Alice Solar City initiative wrapping up more than a year ago. In its five-year history, the program helped hundreds of homes and businesses install solar panels and solar hot water systems.

The general manager of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), Lyndon Frearson, says Alice Springs now also has a reputation as a hub for developing technology.


He says companies from China, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland and America are all installing different solar PV modules at the CAT site. “The range of their investment varies depending on the size of the facility that they want to put in,” he said.

“Some of them are putting in little five-kilowatt systems as a test site, where they might be putting a number of small test sites around the world, through to a Swiss-based company which only has three R & D [research and development] facilities in the world, and they chose to build one of them here.

“And certainly those investments are in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Mr Frearson says local businesses like the Alice Springs Airport are also demonstrating an ongoing commitment to solar. “They received a subsidy to do their original project, but they’ve just [installed] 320 kilowatts off their own bat, completely their own investment. “And that’s both a maturing of the economics, that the solar panels are cheaper and the energy prices have changed.

“But it also shows a degree of confidence that they as an organisation and their board have in the technology to better run their business. “And there are a number of examples within Alice and broader afield throughout central Australia where different entities are making those decisions.

“So I think the legacy of Alice Solar City in central Australia is strong. “Certainly it’s something we see people talking about with pride, and we still see people outside of Alice focus very heavily on and see Alice Springs as a leader in this space.”

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Northern Territory, solar | Leave a comment

Doubts on whether ERA’s Ranger 3 uranium mine can go ahead

Technical hitches bedevil ERA’s Ranger mine by: Matt Chambers The Australian July 12, 2014   URANIUM producer Energy Resources of Australia could face more problems at its Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park, flagging potential higher costs that Credit Suisse says could stop a planned underground ­expansion.


The Darwin-based Rio Tinto subsidiary said its Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline project was experiencing tougher than expected geotechnical conditions. “Some geotechnical conditions have been encountered that are less favourable than assumed,” ERA said in its June quarter report, released on Thursday.

“These findings are being factored in to the mine design and the pre-feasibility study.”

While the market was little moved by the report on Thursday, Credit Suisse analyst Matthew Hope saw red flags.“We believe the results of the Deeps resource drilling are poor,” Mr Hope said yesterday in a note to clients.“The rock is probably heavily fractured, so extensive rock bolting and meshing will likely be required to prevent the access drives from collapsing,” Mr Hope said.

Credit Suisse downgraded its rating on ERA from outperform to underperform, and cut its target price by two-thirds from $1.50 to just 50c.

Mr Hope said value in ERA was almost entirely based on whether Ranger 3 Deeps would be mined. “If ERA announces at the end of this year that Ranger Deeps is not viable, then the share price should collapse to very low levels, with only option value remaining,” he said.

“Ranger Deeps either adds value or there is close to none, and risks are increasing towards the latter.”Ranger shares slipped 0.5c to $1.16 yesterday, giving the company a market value of $600m.

July 12, 2014 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Northern Land Council in 2005 asked Australian government to change law. to faciliiate nuclear dump on Aboriginal land

NT News, 20 June 14 The NLC’s decision to pull out of a Federal Court case, which was arguing the NLC had acted deceptively and had consulted the wrong traditional owners, means the site on Muckaty will no longer be used for a radioactive waste dump. The NT News welcomes this decision, which has also seen the Commonwealth agree to settle the case and abandon Muckaty.

While understanding the nation needs to store radioactive waste, we do not believe the fact we do not have full statehood should see the Territory forced to take a dump on any form of land, Aboriginal or otherwise.

The site should be chosen based on the best scientific advice, not because money is waved in the faces of impoverished Aboriginal people. If the proper scientific advice is that the dump should be located on land within the Territory, we will look closely at the proposal when the exclamation-time comes.

The NLC is, however, hardly above criticism in this saga. It asked the Commonwealth to change the law in 2005, so traditional owners could nominate their land.

It says it used the right anthropology and located the right people, but we will never know: they pulled out of the case before their lawyers were subject to cross-examination in the Federal Court.

They wasted an untold amount of money arguing for the dump, causing a lot of anguish for people in Tennant Creek and nearby Elliott, and a lot of confusion in Darwin and Alice Springs.

We are prepared to take Mr Morrison at his word that the reason the NLC agreed to settle the case was because he did not enjoy seeing such deep fractures among the traditional owners…….”

June 21, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

What will happen next, about Australia’s obligation to take back its high level nuclear waste?

Lucas-wastesAustralia’s first nuclear waste dump in limbo after Muckaty Station ruled out 21 June 14,“……..In 2012, Labor introduced changes to the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act. It broke its promise by continuing to allow Aboriginal groups to nominate land (therefore validating Muckaty) but included another significant clause.

It said if a nomination on Aboriginal land should fail, any private landholder, anywhere in Australia, could nominate their land for the waste dump, as long as vaguely specified community consultations were made.

What is likely now to happen is that some small struggling outback town — preferably one in a geologically suitable arid zone — is likely to get together and go for some of that $12m, or whatever amount the Commonwealth is prepared to offer.

The Beyond Nuclear Initiative will then likely relocate and begin another campaign. And the reality is that it will be able to raise much more substantial popular opposition than it did with remote Muckaty, which was pretty much out of sight and mind…….

Behind the scenes, Muckaty has been deeply divisive. As traditional owners fought each other, it became clear that few had real traditional knowledge of land they rarely, if at all, visited.

And some in the NLC, the organisation that is supposed to represent the interests of traditional owners, wondered why they were involved in a dump nomination at all…….

The case got going in Melbourne several weeks ago and then moved to Tennant Creek where, last Saturday, there was explosive evidence that went widely unreported…….

The Ngapa clan can now nominate another site on the northern part of Muckaty for a dump, and the Commonwealth has given them three months to do so. But the same disputes about who owns that site would almost certainly curse that nomination, as it would any other nomination of Aboriginal land in the Territory……

The government is prepared to store the repatriated fuel rods at Lucas Heights near Sydney in the short term, but this case has only stalled, not ended, the search for a site.

June 21, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

Muckaty still at risk of getting radioactive trash dump

wastesMuckaty could still house nuclear dump, 9 News 20 June 14 Opponents of a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory have won the battle, but perhaps not the war. The Northern Land Council has three months to nominate another site for Australia’s nuclear waste storage facility after abandoning the Muckaty site, following a seven-year battle with Aboriginal traditional owner groups who launched a Federal Court challenge against the NLC for what they said was inadequate consultation and a failure to obtain informed consent from all traditional owners.

The NLC settled with opponents of the dump midway through a trial that had travelled from Melbourne to Tennant Creek and Muckaty, and was due in Darwin next week. “The NLC have walked away without being held truly accountable,” said Gerry McCarthy, local member for the Barkly tablelands, of which Muckaty is a part.

He now hopes for a scientific approach to locating the dump, which previous reports said would suit conditions in the northwestern corner of South Australia.

“Science will prove this facility needs to go to the driest part of this continent, (with) a water table very deep and preferably contaminated by salt, and also an area of minimal infrastructure that provides access to what will be low to intermediate-level waste coming home from France shortly,” he said.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney told AAP that for 20 years, successive governments had tried to find a “remote and vulnerable community and a remote place to dump Australian waste”. He said the federal government needed “an open, inclusive, evidence-based assessment of the range of radioactive waste management options available” for responsible and effective long-term storage.

Clan members think the NLC capitulation is not the end of the matter, with Marlene Bennett saying they were “still feeling slightly apprehensive”…….. Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion told ABC he hoped for another nomination of a northern site at Muckaty, not susceptible to the conflicts of the first.

Mr McCarthy said the NT couldn’t refuse the dump, which “should never be forced on a community due to constitutional exploitation”.Spent nuclear fuel rods are due to be returned to Australia from France by mid-2015, and traditional owners are ready to continue their fight if Muckaty is circled again.


June 21, 2014 Posted by | Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

A new battle could be coming, to save Aboriginal land from radioactive trash dumping

handsoffMuckaty battle won, but war far from over  Crikey Paddy Gibson  Friday, 20 June 2014  After much wrangling, yesterday the federal government agreed not to continue with its original plans for a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station, a win for the local Aboriginal community. But another fight could be coming.

The Northern Land Council and federal government yesterday announced their … (registered readers only)

June 21, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Ray Aylett, Muckaty cattle station manager supports nuclear waste siting there

MuckatyMuckaty manager will support second nuclear waste nomination ABC News 20 June 14 The manager of Muckaty cattle station says he doesn’t care where a nuclear waste facility is put on the property, because it will mean more infrastructure.  The Northern Land Council (NLC) has withdrawn its original nomination of a small section of Muckaty Station, 600 kilometres north of Alice Springs, as the site for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump.

But the NLC has not ruled out the possibility of making a second nomination on behalf of Traditional Owners from the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust.

The Federal Minister for Industry, Ian McFarlane, has given the NLC three months to come up with a second nomination, and says it could possibly be an area on Muckaty known as the ‘Northern Site’.

The station manager of Muckaty, Ray Aylett, says while it’s not up to him, he would support a second nomination……Ray Aylett is currently in a dispute with the Northern Land Council about his licence on the property, saying he was given an eviction notice to be out by this month.

A tender for a grazing licence on the property was advertised late last year, but Mr Aylett says he doesn’t know where the process is up to.

The NLC is yet to respond to ABC Rural’s request for clarification on the status of the property’s lease.

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

Muckaty nuclear waste dump plan has been scrapped!

Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative, 19 June 14 Some fantastic news today- the Commonwealth Government has committed not to pursue plans for a national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory!

Lawyers from Maurice Blackburn Social Justice Practice have just announced the exciting development in Melbourne and a delegation of Muckaty Traditional Owners travelled to Alice Springs for a press conference that has just concluded.

The announcement comes mid-way through the Federal Court trial examining the process under which the nomination of Muckaty was made by the Northern Land Council and accepted by the Commonwealth Government in 2007.

Two weeks of the trial were completed with hearings in Melbourne, Tennant Creek and on country at Muckaty outstation. The Northern Land Council and Commonwealth Government have agreed to settle with the Applicants by committing not to act on the proposal or nomination, so the hearings scheduled for Darwin (June 23-July 4) have been cancelled.

A blog of the court proceedings is online at and photos posted

muckaty nuclear waste court case

This campaign has followed the successful campaign by the Kupi Piti Kungka Tjuta to stop a nuclear dump in SA and been built from the ground up in Tennant Creek with help from supporters across the NT. Over the last 7 years, the community has marched in Tennant Creek every year, hosted trade union delegations, written songs and poems, made films and toured photo exhibitions. People have travelled tirelessly around the country to build awareness and support, having conversations over cups of tea in regional areas and walking the corridors of Canberra Parliament House to lobby Ministers.

The community used the May 25 rally and media attention on the federal court proceedings to reiterate they would continue campaigning until the dump was stopped- including blocking the road if needed.

So the deadly news is now public – please tell everyone that together we dumped the Muckaty plan! Traditional Owners and the broader community in Tennant Creek are very excited and relieved and looking forward to a big celebration in the coming few weeks.

We will then set about collating photos, footage and other materials from the campaign, so stay tuned for the call out to copy and/or send these to the Arid Lands Environment Centre for archiving.

There is a lot more to say but we are still all a bit shocked and processing the news so will send more updates and reflections in the coming week.

Media release from today is attached.

I was asked to finish this note with a huge thanks to everyone who has been part of this campaign and supported the Muckaty mob to be heard- every action, letter, conversation, trip to Tennant, fundraising gig and movie night has helped bring about this victory!!

Muckaty will be nuclear free!


June 19, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

The finish for the plan to dump nuclear waste at Muckaty

muckaty nuclear waste court caseMuckaty nuclear dump scrapped  Land council abandons Muckaty dump push SMH,  June 19, 2014 Neda Vanovac”…… the Northern Land Council has decided to abandon its push to locate a national nuclear waste dump on Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory. The NLC announced on Thursday that it had settled with opponents of the dump and that Federal Court proceedings would be dismissed. Settlement talks had been going on since the trial began earlier this month, NLC CEO Joe Morrison said.

Last week, the court travelled from Melbourne to Tennant Creek to take evidence from a number of Aboriginal clans from the Muckaty Land Trust, located 120km north of the town, who said their wishes were overruled by a fifth clan and the NLC, who worked together to nominate the site.

The groups have been battling one another for seven years since Muckaty was formally nominated in 2007……..

Whether a dump would be located on Aboriginal land is up to the Commonwealth and traditional owners, Mr Morrison said…….The $12 million that had been on the table from the federal government as compensation for the community will not be paid, and a second site on Muckaty will not be put forward.

Both sides will pay their own legal costs.

Whether a dump would be located on Aboriginal land is up to the Commonwealth and traditional owners, Mr Morrison said.  The federal government has agreed to an NLC request the site no longer be considered, and it will hold discussions to find an alternative, Minister for Industry Ian MacFarlane said in a statement.

“If a suitable site is not identified through these discussions the government will commence a new tender process for nominations for another site.”

Lawyers for the traditional land owners at Muckaty Station said their clients were overjoyed with the outcome.

“Every step of the process was opposed by people on the ground, and that may be one reason why they’ve decided to no longer rely on litigation,” Maurice Blackburn lawyer Elizabeth O’Shea told reporters in Melbourne.

June 19, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Senator Nova Peris sticks up for the Aboriginal Land Rights Act

Peris,-NovaLand Rights Act not an impediment: Peris Herald Sun 17 June 14, NORTHERN Territory Senator Nova Peris has rejected claims the Aboriginal Land Rights Act is holding indigenous people back. THE NT Minister for Community Services Bess Price said at a development conference in Darwin on Monday the Act has locked Aboriginal land away……..

Senator Peris said there were a number of things preventing Aboriginal economic development, such as a lack of infrastructure. “For someone in Bess Price’s position, when she opens her mouth she does speak for Aboriginal people but what she’s saying is totally untrue,” she told ABC radio, but admitted the approvals process was too slow.

Under the Land Rights Act in the NT, landowners must negotiate with a land council for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement before they can sell or use their land for commercial purposes, and lending institutions prefer longer 99-year leases in order to guarantee funds for people to buy their own homes or launch businesses, which can only be approved by the federal minister.

But land councils do not always act in the interests of traditional owners, said Senator Nigel Scullion.

“Sometimes a land council has a particular agenda and can assist with economic development; other land councils have other agendas and perhaps might not be so helpful because they have some fundamental opposition to independence from particular groups,” he told ABC.

“There’s no doubt that the system needs some adjustment but I don’t agree with Bess that it’s in the actual Land Rights Act. I can’t see any circumstance that the (Act) can’t assist with; it’s supposed to be enabling legislation.”

Both the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council have indicated that they don’t like 99-year township leases “and they’re actively working against the interests of traditional owners in some cases”, Senator Scullion said.

“It’s my task to make sure that land councils as commonwealth agencies dance to the beat of the traditional owners’ drum, that’s their role……..

June 18, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

AUDIO: latest report on the Muckaty nuclear waste dump court case

Hear-This-wayMuckaty Court Case heads to Darwin 17 June 14 Damian Williams  The federal court case on the planned Muckaty nuclear waste dump has now adjourned. Paddy Gibson for the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning is following the trial:

The court is now adjourned. The last sitting was on Saturday. The judge travelled again out to Muckaty.  Aboriginal people thanked the court judge for coming to Muckaty out-station coming to country to hear from the elders directly and other Aboriginal people who are opposing nuclear waste dumping on their land. The  case will now move to Darwin to take evidence from Northern Land Council

justiceCrucial day of evidence, we  heard from –  a very senior man,  Dick Foster known as reliable authority on who owns this land. NLC was relying on  this man, Dick Foster.   In their early nomination they actually used Mr Foster’s name.  Whereas Dick has been crystal clear since 2007 that the NLC is wrong  The NLC are relying on the wrong idea that a small piece of Muckaty belongs to just on e family group. Not alright for this family to sell one piece of the and  made it clear that this was wrong.  The anthropology used was not correct. They needed to slow the process down. NLC should have heard from all of the groups on how decisions would be made for that small piece of land. NLC forged ahead in 2007  far too quickly according to Mr Foster. Sold Muckaty out without the consent of Aboriginal owners.  Far too much pressure.

Needed to encourage proper discussion on how that should be done. Sold Muckaty out

His evidence crucial. Process was far too rushed.

He made it clear that there was a lot of pressure on senior people like himself.  with a number of government people on senior Aborigines,

That evidence was very significant. No one in this case is questioning the cultural knowledge of Mr Foster, though not  a traditional owner himself. No question that he is not an authentic witness on Aboriginal culture, and the land around Muckaty

handsoffThe NLC and government should back off now. They really should listen to these people. People have been saying – “You’ve got it wrong. You’re rushing us”

The other point about the evidence that came out on the country –  people have not been told the real story, right back to 2007.  Even the individuals who nominated the land were never told. had no idea of the true nature of what was planned. No one was ever told that there could be accidents.  Those sorts of question are in the legislation, but this was never explained to the people.  People were not told of possibility of drastic accident. People were never properly informed that they may lose their land forever.

The government  is trying to say that it’s only for 200 years.  But there are provisions sin the legislation, that the government could hold that land forever. Never explained to any traditional owners in the consultation process. That is clear from the evidence which has come out. They’re trying to say that this will be  at temporary facility.

Relying on faulty flawed anthropology. Enormous amount of pressure was put on the traditional owners. They were relying on faulty, flawed anthropology. Iy was rushed through inn order to do a deal. Rights systematically stripped away from the traditional owners.   Very strong case coming out now from the  people who are opposed to the nuclear waste dump.. Quite shocking to learn how the government and NLC have treated these people, through this process.

Evidence is now wound up in Tennant Creek and Muckaty

Next is a trip to Darwin.  The focus now will be on the NLC and the Commonwealth. They will be subject to the same cross examination that the Aboriginal people had to go through.

The Aboriginal people are happy and proud with what they have achieved.  They have been so strong, so articulate.-  that they have stood up to these non indigenous very highly paid, highly educated barristers for the Land Council and government attacking them in the witness stand.  Some of the Aboriginal witnesses were cross examined for 3 hours – with lawyers for the government and NLC trying to trick them trap them  The truth has come out on how this nomination came about back in 2007.  Evidence is now wound up

We’ve had to go through 7 years of heartache, pain, stress sickness, and many people have died. A lot of people not alive now to give evidence on how they were treated. A very sad stressful thing that has happened to this community. In Darwin the pressure will be on the NLC and Government.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Audiovisual, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

AUDIO: Report on Day 8 of Muckaty Nuclear waste Dump Court Case

Hear-This-wayAUDIO Report on Day 8 of Muckaty nuclear waste dump court case.

The Muckaty mob have been so strong in this court-room. It’s an intimidating system. Gladys Brown – strong indigenous woman, grilled by white men in an intimidating manner. Australian govt and NLC didn’t want the court case to come to Muckaty and Northern Territory.  Awful to watch the NRC lawyer denigrating the cultural knowledge of these Aboriginal women.  Trying to trip them up all the time – about their dreaming stories. But these witnesses are holding their ground, sticking to their guns. That the Land council anf govt did not listen to them A very disturbing process to watch.

Confronting for these women to be surrounded by white men – challenging their cultural knowledge.

White law is given absolute upper hand, through these whole proceedings.. It’s the Aboriginal women who are on trial. These women being put through the ringer. No acknowledgement of the strength of the law and knowledge in this area.

So much is being revealed about the consultation process.

muckaty nuclear waste court case

One of the darkest aspects – The government and lawyers always emphasise the low level waste –  medical equipment etc. They never talk  the spent nuclear fuel – from Lucas Heights, currently overseas, but coming back as its the most dangerous industrial waste of all. It is never discussed in detail

Very obvious that in the early consultations –  the people were not told a true account of what nuclear waste is. None of this contained a genuine discussion about the spent nuclear fuel rods.

As soon as the traditional owners started to get information, from the Environment Centre, they started action against the dump.  From Day one it should have been explained. It was never brought up by the Northern Land Council.  The NLC claim the protest comes from outsiders. Not so.

June 16, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Audiovisual, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory | 1 Comment

Nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land: a step towards importing the world’s radioactive trash?

justicehandsoffNuclear dump will end heritage links:court The West Australian , NEDA VANOVAC June 12, 2014,An Aboriginal woman who opposes the construction of a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory says it’s a stepping stone to Australia storing the world’s waste.

The Federal Court is sitting in Tennant Creek to hear from members of four clans who say they were not properly consulted by the Northern Land Council (NLC) and the Commonwealth, which they say wrongfully acknowledged the Lauder family of the Ngapa clan as traditional owners of the site, 120km north of the town.

The court must sift through the criss-crossing songlines and dreamings of the seven clans who claim land within the 221,000ha Muckaty Station to decide who owns the two square kilometres that would house the facility.

Marlene Bennett told the court on Thursday that if the dump went ahead, the local people would lose their connection to heritage forever. “The world wants to store their nuclear waste somewhere. I have no doubt in my mind that parcel of land will get bigger and bigger. We won’t be able to get there any more, hunt there any more. It’s going to impact on the whole area,” she said.

“The songs, stories, ceremonies, culture, everyone is dispossessed again.”

Her uncle was part of a group of traditional owners taken to see the Lucas Heights storage facility in Sydney in 2006, but Ms Bennett says he thought they were planning to build a rubbish dump to create jobs for the community.

“(His) understanding was a commercial rubbish tip, which is quite different to a nuclear facility,” she said. “To see him so distressed, saying, ‘We agreed to this, but we didn’t understand what it was about’. Obviously they weren’t informed correctly.” She said indigenous people were often too intimidated to speak out in the face of authority.

“I’m concerned about the level of information that was imparted, not just showing the community the dollar signs,” Ms Bennett said.

Whether the federal government and the NLC consulted the community properly is a key element of the case…….

June 14, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory | 1 Comment

Muckaty nuclear waste case: Commonwealth law may prevail over Aboriginal owners’ wishes

The Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (2005) states that even if an Aboriginal community or group that might be affected by the proposed nomination has not been consulted and does not consent, the nomination can go ahead.

And even if Justice Anthony North rules that the NLC behaved improperly, the facility might still be built at Muckaty.

justiceMuckatyNuclear waste dump may still go ahead NEDA VANOVACJune 13, 2014, The news is always a little old at the Tennant Creek newsagency.It takes a while for the papers to be transported to the town, 1000km south of Darwin and about 500km north of Alice Springs in the rocky, semi-arid Barkly tablelands.

At 283,648 square kilometres, the tablelands are one-fifth of the Northern Territory and bigger than New Zealand. However, even eight years after the battle over the proposed Muckaty waste dump began, this dispute is anything but old news. The Federal Court this week took evidence from locals in what many hope will be a long-awaited resolution to a situation that has split the town.

In 2006, a small patch of land on Muckaty Station, 120km north of Tennant Creek, was put forward by the Northern Land Council (NLC) to the Commonwealth government to become Australia’s national radioactive waste storage facility. The council had the permission of the Lauder family of the Ngapa clan, which it determined were the rightful owners of that spot.

However, seven clans lay claim to land within the 221,000ha station, and all have dreamings and songlines that overlap and intersect, meaning the court will have to untangle what it can to determine which group can claim to the roughly two square kilometres that would house the facility if it goes ahead.

The case is arguably the biggest of its kind since the Jabiluka mine blockades of the 1990s. Continue reading

June 14, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Maningrida’s Aboriginal landowners fight plans for offshore fracking

Offshore fracking fight washes up on the pristine shores of Arnhem Land, Guardian, 13 June 14,  As a US gas company eyes the potential in the shallows around Maningrida, the traditional owners have vowed to protect their ancestral land – and they’re prepared to go to the high court The first Alice Eather knew of Paltar Petroleum’s plans for her ancestral land was when she read a square-inch notice buried in the back pages of the NT News. The August 2012 announcement detailed an application by the US giant for a license for exploratory oil and gas drilling. If successful, it planned to carry out hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, around the coastline of Maningrida in West Arnhem Land.

“It was the most horrible day of my life,” says 24-year-old Eather. “No one was told a thing. There had been no consultation and the ad said we would be given two months to object.”

Objections from the region’s myriad Aboriginal clans and some 13 language groups have since been vocal and persistent. Almost two years on, leaders from the Protect Arnhem Land campaign say they will take their battle as far as the high court if necessary.

“I had never done any of this in my life,” says Queensland-raised Eather, whose mother is from the Kunibidji people of Maningrida. “But our job is to protect country. If we don’t do this, we are not doing our duty.” The 10-million hectares of Arnhem Land represent a fraction of the some 80% of the Northern Territory which is currently under application for unconventional oil and gas exploration. But the local campaign to halt fracking by Paltar highlights the complexity of trying to protect land in this resource-rich territory.

The town, whose name derives from the phrase “where the dreaming changed shape”, sits on an estuary at the mouth of the Liverpool river and is home to around 2,600, many of whom live on its some 30 homeland centres or “outstations”………


Most of Arnhem Land falls under the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act that grants inalienable freehold title to traditional owners under federal law. This includes the right to veto applications for development or exploration. However the jurisdiction of the Act ends at the low-tide mark and therefore gives no clear rights over sea activity like the seismic and acoustic sampling proposed by Paltar in the shallows around Maningrida….

“The Land Rights Act does not give Aboriginal people a lot of chance to say no to production,” says Stuart Blanch, an environmental lawyer and director of the Environment Centre NT who is advocating for the campaign. “Even if they refuse a license to explore, every five years the developer has a chance to come back and reapply. If they say yes to exploration, they can’t have a change of heart.”

As Blanch notes, this has led investors to offer strong incentives for traditional owners to license their initial applications in the form of generous royalty payments. The Northern Land Council (NLC), the body responsible for mediating applications, has also been accused of keeping traditional owners offside in development negotiations. Where local clan members often have little access to the technicalities of proposals or related legislation in their own language, the remunerative rewards of $10,000-20,000 per owner for granting a license can be alluring.

“The NLC is a creation of the white man under federal law. It survives financially by facilitating developments on Aboriginal land that are recognised under the Act.” he says. “The history is that traditional owners are under pressure to say yes to exploration.”……

Paltar’s application for now remains in limbo in the hands of the NT government who hold the power to approve an offshore exploration license. State bureaucrats have given reassurances that they will take account of traditional owners’ claims, but Eather and others remain sceptical that Paltar will relinquish their plans. Nonetheless, she says the grassroots nature of the Protect Arnhem Land campaign has afforded local clans some agency in what is often an arcane and unnavigable legislative sphere.

“I don’t think Paltar will budge. But the most vital thing is that [the campaign] is community-driven,” she says.

Blackfellas have always felt like they are kept in the dark, that it is the ballandar [white people] who have all the law and all the knowledge. We can make a big change to that.”……

June 14, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment


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