Explainer: Muckaty Station nuclear dump – a closer look at key issues, events and players
Marlene Bennett might be “popping out of her skin” with relief that a national nuclear waste dump will not be located on her ancestors’ lands, but her people remain wary.
The Northern Land Council (NLC) announced on Thursday that it had settled with opponents of the dump and that Federal Court proceedings currently underway would be dismissed.
“We’ll probably have one of the first good sleeps we’ve had in eight years,” Ms Bennett told AAP.
“However, we’re still wary.”
Plans to locate a national radioactive waste storage facility at Muckaty have been in development since 2006, with several Aboriginal clans from the Muckaty Land Trust challenging the NLC’s determination that the Lauder family of the Ngapa clan were rightful owners of the land that would house the dump, 120km north of Tennant Creek.
After 8 long years of struggle Dianne Stokes and @natwasley taste victory. Muckaty nuke dump has been defeated pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/qaZsCl7tZp
— Padraic Gibson (@paddygibson) June 19, 2014
There has been no admission of liability in settling the court case, with the NLC maintaining it consulted properly and obtained informed consent.
Opponents say it was secretive and shut out rightful owners of the site in favour of the Lauders.
“I think NLC should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves,” Ms Bennett said.
“They’re supposed to be there to protect the interests of indigenous people, protect the land, law, culture, rights. They’re not there to try and divide family groups, damage their relationships, all for that big dollar sign.”
The federal government offered $12 million, including a charitable trust for the whole community, a new road and
educational scholarships, but that will now be scrapped.
Kwementyaye Lauder, who has since passed away, was key in negotiating the dump.
“Like many people in this region she understood poverty and understood the importance of opportunity; it was this she was trying to create for the families of the region,” NLC CEO Joe Morrison said.
Healing a fractured community was the main reason given for dropping the case, but may be easier said than done.
“We need to forgive that cousin for what she’s done, because she was used,” Ms Bennett said.
“Rich and powerful people will do what they want because they have the money; they don’t care who they hurt, they just have to find the right person for the right price. I think it’s insulting that they targeted her and had discussions with her under the table.”
The NLC maintains these claims are fraudulent.
“I feel sad we have been fighting all these years,” said senior Milwayi traditional owner Bunny Nabarula, 84.
“They tried to separate people. This hurt my feelings.”
It took a Federal Court challenge to make the NLC listen, said Kylie Sambo.
“If you keep committing to the fight and keep going and never stop then the victory will be yours,” she told AAP.
But she echoed the comments of a number of family members that the NLC had broken their trust; they are seeking a boundary shift so Tennant Creek might once again be part of the Central Land Council, which has been sympathetic to their battle against the facility.
Although the federal government has accepted the withdrawal of the Muckaty site nomination, federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion told the ABC he hopes a second nomination can be made.