For the Mirrar Aboriginal people, a new era may be opening up, if ERA’s Ranger uranium mine finally closes
Uranium mining in Kakadu at a crucial point, SMH, 29 Nov 14 Peter Ker Resources reporter “……..place facing an uncertain future. Jabiru is a town in limbo. Four decades after arriving, uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) will decide soon whether it will continue digging here. There is a chance it will choose not to, which will bring down the curtain on perhaps nation’s most controversial mine, Ranger.
Built on the faultlines of environmental and indigenous land rights policy, Ranger is at a defining moment. It has provided fuel to nuclear power stations of the world but the end of its working life is in doubt.
The end of mining at Ranger would be cause for celebration for some. Continue reading
Federal government cuts to Aboriginal legal services and frontline organisations and attempts by state and territory governments to water down land rights and other Indigenous legislation are also on the agenda
Indigenous leaders to meet at First Nations Summit for Freedom, Guardian, Helen Davidson, 27 Nov 14 Summit aims to reclaim Indigenous rights agenda and representation from a few high-profile voices First nations leaders and elders are holding a summit to establish a community-elected committee which would reclaim Indigenous rights and representation from a few high-profile voices.
About 100 people from across the country are expected to gather at the First Nations Summit for Freedom to discuss the major issues facing Indigenous people and address a feeling that the federal government is not speaking with Indigenous people when making decisions which have a direct impact on them.
The summit is being held on Thursday and Friday at the Old Telegraph Station in Mparntwe/Alice Springs. The site is the birthplace of the Aboriginal social activist Charlie Perkins.
“This is all about the local issues first and how the national agenda is responding to them, and how we’re not very happy about it,” said one of the summit organisers, Tauto Sansbury.
Sansbury pointed to attempts by the WA government to amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act, stripping traditional owners of a say over the cultural heritage value of their land and sacred sites, as well as a recent announcement that remote communities would likely be closed.
“The heritage act is having a big impact on Western Australia,” Sansbury, who is a long time Aboriginal advocate and was heavily involved in the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, told Guardian Australia.
“The closures of the communities over there … Aboriginal people are going to be removed off their land and there are suggestions that the SA government is thinking along the same lines.”
Federal government cuts to Aboriginal legal services and frontline organisations and attempts by state and territory governments to water down land rights and other Indigenous legislation are also on the agenda…………….http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/27/indigenous-leaders-to-meet-at-first-nations-summit-for-freedom
The Dog Catcher of Jabiru, About Place Journal, Margaret Spence 24 Nov 14 “……….Uranium was discovered in Kakadu in 1953 and for the next decade much of the ore was bought by British and American governments for the development of atomic weapons. If the Aborigines knew of the potential fate of their ancestral earth, their objections were overruled.
But the nineteen seventies were a period of change for civil rights, and Aboriginal people campaigned to have their lands returned to them. In stages, the Australian Federal Government acquired title to the tracts of land that had been taken over the years by private, non-Aboriginal settlers. The land was returned to Traditional Owners under the newly established Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) and most of it was leased to the Commonwealth to become the joint managed Kakadu National Park.
Three areas were excised from the National Park due to the presence of significant uranium deposits. While this land was granted to Traditional Owners as Aboriginal Land, the legal right to veto mining projects which the new laws provided was explicitly removed in the case of Ranger uranium mine and mining commenced there in 1981 against the clear opposition of the Mirarr Traditional Owners……… Continue reading
Western Australian government’s high-handed changes to Aboriginal Heritage Act anger traditional owners
Traditional owners rally against changes to WA Aboriginal Heritage Act, Guardian, Helen Davidson, 290 Nov 14 Proposed amendments could see owners stripped of say over sacred site listings, which will have lower standards than buildings Proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act in Western Australia could see traditional owners stripped of any say over the heritage listing of their sacred sites in a lowering of standards compared to built heritage sites.
A representation of about 50 traditional owners from across Western Australia travelled to Perth to deliver a petition signed by 1,600 people calling for the amendment to be dropped and redrafted. Ten people also met with the Aboriginal affairs minister, Peter Collier, to discuss their concerns.
The proposed amendments would give the final say on the heritage value of cultural sites on Aboriginal land to the CEO and minister of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, speeding up the approval process for mining and development applications. There would be no avenue for appeal by Indigenous groups, the delegation said.
They also said there has been no consultation with Indigenous people in the designing of the amendment, which has no requirement for an Indigenous person to be on the Aboriginal cultural materials committee and has removed a previous requirement for at least one anthropologist.
“We want the legislation removed, brought back to the table and properly negotiated and consulted on with Aboriginal people,” Simon Hawkins, CEO of the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, told Guardian Australia.
“We want the legislation to reflect modern legislation in other states in terms of how they manage cultural heritage issues … even just brought up to the standard of built heritage legislation of WA, which has very strong controls on conservation management, protection, education on sites. Why is cultural Aboriginal heritage treated so differently and [with] such lower standards? We don’t understand that, it seems so unfair.”……..
The delegation follows a meeting of 250 traditional owners, elders and community members in Port Hedland in September, to which the minister was invited but did not attend…….
The chair of the Kimberley Land Council, Anthony Watson, was left still wary of the government’s plans after the meeting.
“We pushed the minister to try and have the discussion, but due to the timeframe it looks like they have their mind set [on introducing the bill]. It’s a very dangerous the position we’re in,” Watson told Guardian Australia.
“If the bill is getting pushed through, rushed through, without consultation then it’s discriminatory and there is going to be problems across our region for Aboriginal people.”……….http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/20/traditional-owners-rally-against-changes-to-wa-aboriginal-heritage-act?utm_source=PoliticOz&utm_campaign=2cdc26cb18-PoliticOZ_21_November_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_673b6b002d-2cdc26cb18-302705445
Kirsten Blair, 19 Nov 14 Jeffrey Lee spoke powerfully about his work to protect Koongarra from mining at the closing plenary of the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney yesterday and received a standing ovation. People were coming up to him all day congratulating and thanking him for his efforts, he was gracious and generous as ever.
Kakadu is Australia’s largest National Park and is dual World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural values. Encompassing tropical wetlands, extensive savannah and soaring sandstone escarpments and waterfalls this region has been sculptured and shaped by people and nature for many tens of thousands of years.
Jeffrey Lee, the Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan in Kakadu fought for many years to see his country at Koongarra protected from the threat of uranium mining.
In 2011 he made the long journey from Kakadu to Paris to see the World Heritage Committee include Koongarra in the World Heritage estate and in 2013 the area was formally included within Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from uranium mining.
For decades Jeffrey was pressured to allow uranium mining on his land at Koongarra and for decades he resisted – refusing millions of dollars in promised mining payments. Now he is seeking something. After generously allowing his land to be included in Kakadu National Park Jeffrey has a modest ask of the Australian Government in return: please build a house on his country.
Today Jeffrey spoke to thousands of delegates at the closing plenary of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress in Sydney and told the story of his long fight to protect Koongarra. He concluded by calling on the Australian Government to come good on their promise to build him a house on his country.
“I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us.” said Jeffrey Lee
“While I’m down here at this Congress, I want to tell people about Koongarra and remind the Government that I did all that work to protect that country. All I’m asking is for a place to live on my country. I don’t want to wait until I’ve passed away, I want to live on my county now.
“I don’t want the Government to forget me, they came to visit me, they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I’m happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for.”
Aboriginal activists rallied on the steps of parliament house in Perth on November 12 to protest against the Western Australian government’s plan to close 150 remote Aboriginal communities. The rally also condemned the federal government’s plan to cut funding to 180 remote indigenous communities in Western Australia. Bropho, from the Swan Valley Nyungah community, told the rally: “Closing down these communities will only make more people homeless and [in] despair.
“The way we choose to live should be our choice. We shouldn’t have the domination of government people telling us how to live and where to live. We will fight to get our community and our land back. Our fight will continue.”
In an open letter to Colin Barnett on November 17, Nyungah activist Iva Hayward Jackson said that only a small amount of the revenue from the mining would be needed to cover the costs of maintaining these communities and other improvements and that “it’s only fair to share in the richness of the land with the idea of equality in the treatment of Aboriginal people.
“After all, Aboriginal people are the traditional ‘owners’ of the land and waterways that holds all the precious resources that made Australia a rich and wealthy country in the modern world.” Amnesty International released a statement urging the Western Australian government not to forcibly evict Aboriginal people from the communities, as demolishing houses and denying indigenous people the right to practice their culture is a breach of human rights and international law.
Tammy Solonec, a human rights lawyer working with Amnesty International, slammed the hypocrisy of Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett for admitting that closing the communities will be traumatic for the people involved, while continuing a policy that will force indigenous people to break their connections to land and culture and force them to move to larger towns where they will have greater exposure to drugs, alcohol, violence and crime……….https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/57858
Muckaty landowners say nuclear dump fight is ‘back to square one’ http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/13/muckaty-landowners-say-nuclear-dump-fight-is-back-to-square-one Helen Davidson in Darwin The owners feel the only way to protect the station is for it to be within the borders of the neighbouring Central Land Council The proposal of a second site for nuclear dumping at Muckaty Station sends the fight “back to square one,” traditional landowners say. They feel the only way to protect the area is to be within the borders of the neighbouring Central Land Council, which decided not to make a nomination last week due to local opposition.
Last week the case for a storage facility on Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory was reopened when one of the clan groups proposed a second parcel of land, just months after a bitter seven-year dispute appeared to have ended.
The Northern Land Council (NLC) had abandoned its nomination to the federal government to store low and intermediate radioactive waste in the area north of Tennant Creek as part of a settlement reached outside the federal court. It is now considering the new proposal.
One of the traditional owners, Dianne Stokes, told Guardian Australia the new proposal takes the fight “back to square one.” Continue reading
Mr Abbott did not mention the hundreds of Aboriginal nations who made this land home for almost 60,000 years, who managed the vast swathes of country under an extraordinary and complex land management system that incorporated aspects of their spirituality.
He also did not mention that the belief there was nothing in Australia but bush was overturned in the 1992 Mabo High Court decision, which paved the way for the Native Title Act, a weaker form of land rights.
Tony Abbott Says ‘Nothing But Bush’ In Australia Before White Settlement https://newmatilda.com/2014/11/14/tony-abbott-says-%E2%80%98nothing-bush%E2%80%99-australia-white-settlement By Amy McQuire In the presence of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Abbott doubled down on previous remarks about the unsettled nature of Australia before white invasion. Amy McQuire reports.
The self-appointed “Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs” Tony Abbott has reiterated the legal fiction of “terra nullius” stating that Australia was “nothing but bush” before British invasion and called pre-colonisation civilisation “extraordinarily basic and raw”.
Mr Abbott made the comments to an international business breakfast in Sydney this morning in an audience that included British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in town before the G20 summit in Brisbane this weekend. Continue reading
Cost of closing remote communities greater than tackling issues, Aboriginal leaders say, ABC News, 13 Nov 14 By Nicolas Perpitch and Anna Vidot Aboriginal leaders and advocates are warning the “chaos and dysfunction” caused by closing down remote Indigenous communities will cost the West Australian Government far more than addressing existing issues.
Premier Colin Barnett has acknowledged his decision to shut about half the state’s 274 remote communities will cause distress to the more than 12,000 Aboriginal people living there and cause problems in the towns they move to………
Amnesty International’s indigenous peoples’ rights manager Tammy Solonec said there was no plan to help people evicted from Ooombulgurri integrate into Wyndham or other towns, leaving them “highly traumatised”……..
She said governments needed to support communities rather than shutting them down.
Greens MLC Robin Chapple has gone one step further, accusing the Government of peddling a racially-motivated agenda. “It’s smacks of the assimilation policies over the early 60s,” he said. “It’s horrendous. This is a diabolical, in my view, highly racially motivated agenda.”
The Barnett Government has said it was forced to accept a $90 million payment from the Commonwealth to take over responsibility for the remote communities.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-13/closing-remote-aboriginal-communities-cause-chaos-leaders-say/5889278
Aboriginal land council shuns Mundine over Wallarah 2 negotiations, Australian Mining10 November, 2014 Ben Hageman Warren Mundine has proven a poor choice to negotiate with local aboriginal groups, who have voiced their distrust in him for dealing with the Wallarah 2 coal mine.
After compensation negotiations with the Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council broke down this year, Korean government-owned miner Kores hired the chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council to represent the company, SMH reported.
A spokesman for Kores said Mundine had been engaged by the company “to facilitate the resumption of discussions between Darkinjung ALC and Wallarah 2 on a land access agreement.”
However, land council CEO Sean Gordon said the ALC did not want to negotiate through Mundine. “From our end there is distrust in his position as chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council and his general support for the mining industry,” Gordon said……..http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/aboriginal-land-council-shuns-mundine-over-wallara
Central Land Council rules out nuclear dump in Tanami region of Central Australia, ABC News 6 Nov 14 By Xavier La Canna The Central Land Council has ruled out the possibility of a nuclear waste dump being built over a large part of central Australia due to opposition from some traditional owners.
Traditional owners in the Tanami region were considering nominating land to become a dump, but at a meeting this week delegates heard of opposition to the move from traditional owners and affected communities, the CLC said.
Federal Government Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has said there has to be unanimous support for the move for a site to be successful.
“The delegates heard that the CLC has received formal correspondence and public statements from the traditional owners and residents of affected communities who are opposed to a nuclear waste dump in the area,” the CLC said.
Given that a nuclear waste dump is forever it’s just not fair to ask people to make this decision without a comprehensive proposal – CLC director David Ross
“Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s requirement of a site ‘free from dispute’ cannot therefore be met,” it said. The CLC, a statutory body tasked with a duty to consult traditional owners and other Aboriginal people about any proposals, covers an area of about 776,000 square kilometres, with the Tanami region a sizeable part of that.
The entire Tanami is 178,000 square kilometres.
The CLC also dealt a blow to Federal Government hopes of finding a new site to build a nuclear waste dump, saying the nomination process was unfair and would have seen Aboriginal groups make a decision without enough information.
“The process enshrined in the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 expects traditional owners to volunteer a site without knowing all the information,” a statement from CLC director David Ross read.
“Yet once a site is nominated they cannot change their mind when they find out the full story.
“Given that a nuclear waste dump is forever it’s just not fair to ask people to make this decision without a comprehensive proposal.”……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/nuclear-dump-ruled-out-over-tanami-region-in-central-australia/5875202
The NSW Aboriginal Land Council said the Baird Government had withdrawn its controversial Crown Lands Amendment Bill.
“Moving forward we’re happy to talk to the Government, but this Bill was divisive and discriminatory and undermined Land Rights” NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chairman Craig Cromelin said.
“We call on the Government to respectfully deal with Land Rights and start from scratch by genuinely consulting with Aboriginal people before any changes are made to the way Crown Lands in NSW are managed.”………
Cromelin said a community rally held to fight the Bill had helped lead to its withdrawal.
“It means a lot to us to see such a great turnout from mob at such short notice, especially as many people travelled great distances, as well as those who sent letters, emails and tweets to protest against the Bill” he said.
“The rally shows the power of mob uniting for Our Land Council, Our Mob and Our Future.” http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2014/11/aboriginal-land-rights-safe-now#sthash.0IfywKIB.dpuf
Secret Outback nuclear testing site handed back to traditional land owners 50 years after British did HUNDREDS of nuclear tests causing fatal radiation poisoning
- The British nuclear testing site in outback Australia has been returned to its Aboriginal owners
- Seven atomic bombs were detonated on ‘Section 400′ in the 1950s
- There were also about 600 smaller nuclear tests on the area
- The land traditionally belonged to the Maralinga-Tjarutja community
- Britain’s nuclear tests in Australia caused widespread radiation poisoning
- Aborigines and Australian and UK soldiers suffered disease and death
- Radioactive fallout in remote Australia was three time greater than predicted
- Australia spent $100 million cleaning up the traditional lands
- The government held on to the 1782sq km testing range until this week
By CANDACE SUTTON FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA and AAP, 6 November 2014……………………Hundreds of nuclear trials were carried out. Britain dropped twelve nuclear bombs at Maralinga, and then went on to test nuclear warheads.
Although many Aboriginal people were forcibly removed from their land, more than a thousand were directly affected.
The widespread radioactive fallout of the bombs across the environment, which the local Aboriginal people called ‘puyu’ or ‘black mist’, caused disease and death……..http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2822906/Secret-nuclear-testing-site-Australian-outback-known-Section-400-finally-handed-Aboriginal-traditional-land-owners-50-years-British-dropped-atomic-bombs-causing-radiation-poisoning-death.html
The government’s hurried assault on Aboriginal land rights – albeit followed by a hasty retreat – is a deeply unfortunate development, and has badly damaged any trust Aboriginal people can have in the Baird government in treating matters of Aboriginal rights with honesty and integrity.
Aboriginal people must not negotiate with politicians who assault their land rights, Sol Bellear The Guardian 5 Nov 14 The NSW government’s hurried assault on land rights – followed by a hasty retreat – is deeply unfortunate and has damaged any trust Aboriginal people can have in the Baird government The NSW government’s decision earlier this week to abandon legislation aimed at another wave of dispossession of Aboriginal people is welcome. However, the fact that we even got to this point is a matter of grave concern to Aboriginal people across NSW, and the country.
In October, minister for western NSW Kevin Humphries announced his intention to introduce legislation to parliament which extinguished land claims under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act on beaches and coastal reserves. It would have affected have affected more than 600 current Aboriginal land claims around NSW. This is the legilsation which was withdrew on Monday. Continue reading
Scientists working together with indigenous land-managers have reduced Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by half a million tonnes. IMPROVING FIRE MANAGEMENT in the tropical savannah of northern Australia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500,000 tonnes over the past year.
By reintroducing traditional fire knowledge and practices, local land managers have benefited through the sale of carbon credits, as well as helping the environment.
“Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from savannah burning represent about three per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” said the CSIRO’s Dr Garry Cook at the 2014 annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia in Alice Springs in September.
“Since European settlement, fires in the north have increased in size and severity. This has threatened biodiversity as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Australia’s tropical savannah landscape is enormous — it covers an area of some 1.9 million square kilometres, or about one quarter of the entire continent. The landscape is mainly forests and woodlands consisting of wide fields of grass with scattered eucalypt trees.
The savannah stretches from Rockhampton on the Queensland coast up to the tip of Cape York and across to the Kimberley region of Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.
Frequent fires are a characteristic of the landscape, and the vast majority are deliberately lit without any authorisation. Tens of thousands of square kilometres burn every year during the northern dry season.
Many local Aboriginal communities have retained their traditional fire knowledge, and these communities hold deep aspirations to fulfil long-held cultural obligations regarding country. Dr Cook said the Commonwealth’s Carbon Farming Initiative provided the impetus to restore traditional fire management practices on aboriginal homelands, combining modern environmental and fire science with traditional mosaic burning practices.
“In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the methodology, land managers need to burn early in the dry season to protect the landscape from the more intense fires that would otherwise occur later in the dry season,” he said.
“Early dry-season fires are generally low in intensity; they trickle through the landscape and burn only some of the fuel, creating a network of burnt firebreaks. These stop the late dry-season fires sweeping through large areas and releasing large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide.
“Most savannahs burn on average once in every two to four years, in the late dry season, and it’s these fires that produce between three and four per cent of Australia’s accountable greenhouse emissions. The methodology helps reduce these emissions by using low-intensity, patchy early dry-season fires to reduce the overall fire frequency and proportion of late dry-season fires, which tend to be much larger and more intense,” Dr Cook said.
The savannah burning methodology for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions was developed by a team from CSIRO, the Charles Darwin University’s Centre for Bushfire Research, the Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, and Aboriginal landowners and rangers in northern Australia.
Dr Cook said, “It’s lovely to see science being applied to improve land management in that part of the world: we’re talking very remote country, very limited resources for land management, and very sparse populations. It’s had a great impact.”