A raft of new and ongoing threats to Aboriginal lives

Always was Aboriginal land

Plans for more uranium mining and storage of the world’s nuclear waste, fracking for gas, oil exploration, coal mining’s potential destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, re-approval for a vast natural gas complex, US militarisation of an island - all on Aboriginal land - make up a raft of ongoing threats to Aboriginal life in Australia. Three months in office, the hugely popular conservative prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, backs all of these plans.


His government has outlined six potential sites to house Australia’s growing stockpile of low to intermediate nuclear waste, a shortlist which emerged after landowners across the nation were invited earlier this year to volunteer their properties to house a national storage facility.


The offer comes with a AUD 10 million sweetener for the state or territory and local community that accepts the waste dump and Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for Resources, Energy, and Northern Australia, has promised to ‘ensure that the community in and around these properties is informed and engaged in this important project’.


The six sites Frydenberg named comprised Sally’s Flat, in New South Wales; Hale, in the Northern Territory; Cortlinye, Barndioota and Pinkawillinie, in South Australia; and Oman Ama, in Queensland.


A group called the Adnyamathanha Camp Law Mob has protested to the minister over the three sites nominated in South Australia, in particular Barndioota on their home country. Speaking on behalf of all Adnyamathanha people and other South Australians opposed to further expansion of the nuclear industry they expressed shock at ‘the imposition of a radioactive waste dump on Adnyamathana country at Barndioota’.


They say that although no native title claim can be lodged over the area, it must still be governed according to the requirements of the Aboriginal Heritage legislation.


‘We demand that the Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg publicly declare whom he has consulted regarding these nominations, and who has the authority to nominate these si­tes. We want to know who are the experts with local knowledge that took part in the advisory panel prior to these sites being nominated as waste sites. Who are the traditional owners that took part in this process? What traditional knowledge from thousands of years of occupation has been incorporated into the decision-making?


‘Our involvement is this industry is nothing new. We were concerned by the government agreeing to uranium mining activities that have now permanently contaminated our land and our groundwater. We want no further expansion of the nuclear industry and we will continue to fight for our rights as traditional owners in respect of the wisdom of our old people that came before us.

‘That’s what traditional owners do. We care for our country. We only wish governments and industries would do the same. Stop playing with our future and care for our country.’


‘Australia currently has the equivalent of around two Olympic-sized swimming pools of such waste, which may include laboratory items such as paper, plastic and glassware, and material used in medical treatments,’ Frydenberg said.


The minister took up the long-running quest of successive federal governments to find a consolidated and permanent site for the waste dump when he was promoted by Turnbull, and he said that ‘more than 100 sites across the country, including hospitals and universities, are [currently] licensed to store this waste on an interim basis’.


The South Australian Royal Commission into the nuclear fuel cycle is considering options for expanding the nuclear industry in that state. This could include an increase in uranium mining, enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, a nuclear power plant or a nuclear waste dump. In the midst of that inquiry, Turnbull has indicated support for an international nuclear waste dump there or somewhere else in Australia.


As South Australia contemplates the renewed prospect of hosting both national and international radioactive waste sites, the stakes are especially high for the local Aboriginal populations, whose collective memories include both the British mainland atomic tests of the 1950s and 1960s, and the successful campaign of 1998–2004 opposing a proposed national dump.


A strong coalition of Aboriginal communities and civil society organisations in South Australia has clearly voiced its opposition to hosting a nuclear waste repository and is prepared to follow in the footsteps of the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta senior Aboriginal women who successfully prevented a repository being foisted on their land.


'We live off the land,' one young man from Coober Pedy wrote informally to the inquiry. 'We go bush, we gather our food out there. We don't want radioactive waste to destroy our land. It's going to contaminate everything — our creeks, our water, our family.'


'We don't want the nuclear waste to be on our lands,' said Mima Smart, chairperson of Yalata, the place to which the people of the bombed Maralinga Lands were removed to in 1952, a year prior to the first mainland explosion in the British nuclear test series.


'Long ago our people didn't have any rights and went through the bomb,' she says. 'That's why we haven't got Old People today. But these days we have our legal rights. How many more people do they want to die like what we seen?'


Kevin Buzzacott, an Arabunna Elder and long-time campaigner against the uranium industry (which draws 29 million litres per day from the ancient waters of the Great Artesian Basin on his lands), puts it another way: 'If we look after this old country, the country will look after us ... How could I cut off my knee or part of my knee? I won't work without parts of me. Same for country. I can't sleep for worrying about the country. I want the word to get out.'


The largest uranium ore body in the world is located and mined at Roxby Downs, 560 km north of Adelaide, the South Australian capital.


A report by the Conservation Council of South Australia says the state could be powered by 100% renewable energy in just 15 years. ‘The benefits of a renewable energy future are not only environmental, but economic – a reduction in air pollution as well as the creation of new jobs.’


The Turnbull government's search for a permanent nuclear waste dump should not proceed until a full review into safe storage has been completed, environmentalists say. A petition against the nuclear plans is available here. The opposition Greens, noting that South Australian uranium was used in Fukushima, debunk arguments in favour of nuclear industry here.


The Australian Greens argue that while the government's comments have focused almost exclusively on the low-level materials arising from radioisotope production, the main game in Australia and around the world is always the spent fuel and fuel reprocessing wastes, which must be safely isolated for tens of thousands of years. ‘The government appears undecided as to whether the dump it is proposing will host these long-lived wastes or not, which is a strange ambiguity given the otherwise public way in which it is conducting the site selection process.’


‘The fossil fuel industry will do anything to muddy the waters around renewables. Attempting to divert the conversation to nuclear is the desperate act of an industry scrambling to remain relevant as the world leaves them behind.’


In the 103,000 square kilometres of Aboriginal-owned arid land in the far northwest of South Australia, called the APY lands, a dispute is raging about upgrading a 210-kilometre road to facilitate mining. It’s alleged that with the collusion of the South Australian government anthropologists are paying a wrong group of local Anangu Aborigines to sign off as traditional owners on clearances for the roadworks.

‘We have blockaded the road with old cars to demand a stop to the destruction of our ancient and sacred lands. We have NOT consented to this mining development nor to this road upgrade for mining exploration,’ claim the legitimate freehold landowners. ‘We sent our written objections to the South Australian government and also requested a list of the people who are supposed to have signed off on this road upgrade for mining, but have not had a reply.

‘It is absolutely immoral and totally unethical for the South Australian government to be ruthless in their dictatorship over our people of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, because we have not had an input into authorising the upgrade of the 210 kilometre long access road for exploration and mining purposes. Clearly, Anangu interests are of no concern to the economic development that is in the interest of non-Anangu.’


Aborigines in Western Australia, the wealthiest state per head of population, also face nuclear worries. All of the state’s mining boom takes place on Aboriginal land. Its conservative government is moving to close down traditional settlements on ancestral lands and Aborigines allege this is to access more mineral resources.


The world’s largest uranium company – Cameco of Canada – is seeking the state government’s all clear to mine Western Australia’s biggest uranium deposit at Yeelirrie in the northern Goldfields.


The Yeelirrie uranium mine in the Northern Goldfields, has been fought against for more than over 40 years. Hundreds of people have walked through Yeelirrie over the last five years to protest against it. They have walked side by side with Yeelirrie’s traditional owners and with pastoralists. The country is beautiful with valleys, spinifex plains, bush foods and flowers and it holds many important traditional stories and sites.


A video in which Yeelirrie traditional owners speak out is here. A submission can be sent to the Yeelirrie Public Environment Review.


Well placed insiders in the resources sector have told investigative journalist Gerry Georgatos that uranium mining will become widespread in the state. The nuclear age will come to Western Australia. There will be at least 40 mining sites around the state in 2030, and WA will have nuclear reactors.’


The mining-addicted Western Australian government, the most ruthless in Australia in violating Aboriginal rights, has recommended re-approval for a notorious natural gas industry at James Price Point on the state’s north coast near the popular tourist destination, Broome.

The news comes two years after Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal opponent won a Supreme Court action that ruled the previous approval of the gas hub unlawful. Huge police numbers were deployed to years of protest, some of it violent. The approval process was deemed unlawful due to the conflicts of interest that existed within the Environment Protection Authority throughout the assessment process.


Just off James Price Point lies the world’s largest humpback whale nursery – thousands of these majestic mammals make the pilgrimage from Antarctic waters every year to calve in this safe haven. The gas plant would have required constant dredging of the shallow seabed to accommodate the biggest ships on Earth – smack bang in the middle of the whales’ sanctuary.


Other threatened species include the snubfin dolphin, dugongs, turtles, northern quolls and the bilby. To the region’s traditional owners, James Price Point has been home and an irreplaceable cultural resource for more than 40,000 years. Songlines, an ancient storytelling practice and part of Aboriginal identity, were set to be destroyed by the gas plant, removing a critical part of Indigenous culture forever.


Dinosaur footprints dot the coastline along the Kimberley and James Price Point possesses the best kept and largest variety of these unbelievable rock impressions. This window into a prehistoric past is widely recognised as the best-preserved paleontological site of dinosaur footprints in the world.


The win by protesters was a testament to people power. It showed that communities can stop inappropriate developments, even when those developments are worth AUD45 billion, led by some of the most powerful companies in the world and backed by governments,’ commented The Wilderness Society Australia.


Whales under threat by potential oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight south of Western Australia are also the concern of Aboriginal man, Bunna Lawrie, who prefers to be called Bunna. Oil company executives rhapsodise about the Great Australian Bight's potential as a last frontier containing massive reserves of oil.


‘The Great Australian Bight is the greatest whale nursery on this planet,’ says the Mirning man. ‘The whale story where I come from is my university, my school. It's the place where our beautiful southern right whales come to calve their young, to teach their young to travel on the next journey,’ Bunna told The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s most prestigious newspaper.


Bunna says his people are descendants of the whale Jeedara who built the cliffs of the Bight and all the tunnels and marine caves beneath the Nullarbor Plain and its ocean. Bunna sings the story of Jeedara to try to stop oil drilling there.


On the opposite side of Australia, the shaky Labor government of Queensland is trying to extinguish the land rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou people to clear the way for Australia’s and one of the world’s biggest coal mines on country lying along a large section of the Great Barrier Reef.


The plans of the Indian-owned Adani company, which has an appalling international record as an environmental vandal, have been stopped by a High Court judgment but have been resubmitted and re-approved by the federal and Queensland governments. A fresh court challenge for Adani’s AUD16.5bn Carmichael mine has been filed.


Adrian Burragubba, senior spokesperson of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners’ Council, has strongly condemned the intention to extinguish native title.  ‘It is beyond comprehension that the government would consider such a shameful and absurd proposal in an era when our rights are sanctioned under international law; and when we are already in the Federal Court contesting the state government and Adani’s attempts to override our rights.’


‘Premier Palaszczuk needs to rule out this outrageous proposal immediately. I assure the Premier she will be bringing on one of the biggest human rights battles we’ve seen in Queensland in a long time. If destroying our rights and handing our lands to a foreign mining company is on her agenda, she better think again.’ Mr Burragubba can be heard here in a radio interview.


The proposal to extinguish native title despite the objections of the Wangan and Jabilinou people appears to fall foul of the international human rights principles of free, prior and informed consent contained in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


The Queensland government has lodged paperwork with the federal government to dredge the sea floor in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area for a coal port expansion at Abbot Point, part of the Adani plans. The final decision on the port’s development is now in the hands of the Commonwealth government.


The expansion of the world’s biggest coal port would be for the ‘unbankable’ Carmichael mine, which has failed to attract investors and been rejected by 14 major banks. ‘This is not the economic solution and not a jobs solution for Queensland,’ Greenpeace Reef Campaigner Shani Tager said.


‘And why? For a coal mine that might not happen, and certainly should never happen. This dredging would risk our fragile Reef for a dying coal industry that will only heighten the risk of climate change.’


In the neighbouring Northern Territory Aboriginal people are freshly worried about fracking, about the US military eying their islands and about the unsatisfactory return to their control of Uluru, the rock connected with the religious beliefs of all Aborigines.


‘Scandal has lapped the shores of the Tiwi Islands  [80 km to the north of Darwin]  since it was discovered earlier this year that a major port had been built without environmental assessment or approval, but the controversy will turn a deeper shade of blue if suggestions the Aboriginal-owned islands are being eyed as a potential military base by the United States turn out to be true,’ reported the online news portal, newmatilda.com.


It was revealed in May that construction of an AUD 130 million development known as Port Melville had flown under the radar, and was about to begin servicing the Top End’s offshore oil and gas industry without any conditions in place to protect the internationally significant local ecosystem.


This extraordinary lack of oversight, and the federal government’s repeated failures to act on tip offs from the Northern Territory Environmental Protection Agency, have invited scrutiny and turned up traces of America’s strategic interests in the region.


A senior union official has told New Matilda the company behind the port had anticipated a base for up to 80,000 US Marines as early as 2012, and the politician who represents the islands in the Northern Territory parliament expects a base to be built to “protect Australia from war in the future”. By the time media began scrutinising Port Melville, though, it was virtually built.


Thirty years ago the Australian government returned Ayers Rock – the ochre monolith in the continent’s centre, now called Uluru – to its traditional Aboriginal owners. The high point of the Aboriginal land rights struggle, the "handback" was expected to bring jobs and tourism income for local indigenous people.


But at recent anniversary celebrations, which featured traditional dances recreating ancestral stories as well as speeches from visiting dignitaries, community leaders – and even mainstream politicians – acknowledged that those dreams have largely evaporated.


Traditional owners point to lost opportunities and call on government to work with local people ‘to make things right’. The two-day handover anniversary event heard that the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people have not seen the benefits they should have. Vincent Forrester, a traditional owner, said ‘When we talk about economic development and self-determination, you look around Mutitjulu now and your eye will tell you no lie. You will see the mistakes of both the governments, Liberal and Labor, but also the territory governments. Still living in third world conditions. We have a long way to go as a nation of people.’


Videos on the handover anniversary events: https://vimeo.com/144163890, https://vimeo.com/143953904https://vimeo.com/13907985, http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/video/2015/oct/26/uluru-handover-aboriginal-women-sing-hymn-on-30th-anniversary-video, http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/25/uluru-bittersweet-handover-anniversary-indigenous-australians.


Elders have praised a man who cut a climbing chain on Uluru during the handback anniversary to try and stop tourists going up the rock, one saying it could be an opportunity to stop the practice for good. A man who wished to be known only as "John" claimed responsibility for cutting the climbing chains, saying he felt a close connection to the sacred site and wanted to set off debate on whether people should walk on it. If permission to repair the chain is not granted by the traditional owners it may put an end to tourists climbing Uluru for good.


There's a fracking battle emerging in Australia's unique and iconic Northern Territory. A delegation from the bush has been invited to speak inside Northern Territory parliament. 90% of the NT is covered by oil and gas fracking licences or applications.


An “Our Land is Our Life” deputation to NT Parliament enabled remote Indigenous community leaders, cattle station workers, food growers, regional tourism operators and drilling experts to meet with every member of the Northern Territory government to share their concerns over fracking's impacts on land, water, public health and regional economies.


‘With mining making up less than 3% of all economic revenue in the Northern Territory its time our elected leaders listened to those landholders and industries who make a far greater and positive contribution to the Territory and whose livelihoods and way of life are now under threat from the risks of invasive gas mining,’ the group argues.


The Northern Territory government has denied a mining permit to a company seeking to frack the Watarrka national park, which encompasses Kings Canyon in central Australia.


The decision on an application first lodged about four years ago was announced on the same day traditional owners petitioned the federal environment minister to step in and protect the land under commonwealth legislation.


A NT fracking inquiry found the environmental risks of fracking could be managed “subject to the creation of a robust regulatory regime”. Kings Canyon landowners want protection from mining: 'What happens if the water gets messed up?' 


Also worrying NT Aboriginal people are ‘paperless arrest’ laws the High Court has just upheld. but human rights lawyers say the ruling has put limits on how the law is applied by police. The High Court ruled that the laws do not authorise police to detain a person for longer than was needed to determine which option to apply. ‘The laws remain a threat to Indigenous health.’

Zeige Kommentare: ausgeklappt | moderiert

There are questions that should be plaguing the WA government after an inquest heard of a brutal and inhuman death in custody.

Aunty Carol Roe is a remarkably strong woman. Her 22-year-old granddaughter, Ms Dhu, died a brutal and inhuman death – slowly over three days while locked up in the South Hedland police station for not paying around $3,500 worth of fines. Despite this tragedy, Carol remains indefatigable. She is determined to see truth and justice for her granddaughter.

Although Ms Dhu died close to 18 months ago, the West Australian government is yet to fix the unjust fines system that saw her locked up.

The coronial inquest into why Ms Dhu died began in Perth last week. The proceedings opened with hours of footage showing Ms Dhu doubled over, wailing in pain.

Full story here.

A vital service provided to Aboriginal people if they are taken into police custody has had its funding extended for three years after the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs stepped in to help secure its future following a period of funding turmoil.

Minister Nigel Scullion announced that the NSW/ACT based Custody Notification Service (CNS) would have its funding extended until mid-2019, shoring up the scheme credited with helping prevent Aboriginal deaths in police custody.

 In NSW police are required by law to contact a lawyer any time an Aboriginal person is taken into custody. The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), which administers the system, takes the call and offers the person advice. Significantly, on top of legal assistance, they also make inquiries about the person’s health and welfare.

Full story.