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Maurice Blackburn, Julian Burnside, charged with waste dump action

The Commonwealth Government and the Northern Land Council will face a Federal Court legal challenge over plans for a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory._x000D_

user iconThe New Lawyer 03 June 2010 The Bar
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THE Commonwealth Government and the Northern Land Council will face a Federal Court legal challenge over plans for a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is working with NSW law firm Surry Partners, and Julian Burnside QC, to commence proceedings challenging the nomination of the Indigenous land, at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek.

Mark Lane Jangala, a senior Ngapa traditional owner for Muckaty Station, claims he and many other senior elders never gave consent and were not consulted over the nomination of their land for Australia’s first radioactive waste dump.


They are particularly outraged that a sacred male initiation site is being threatened by the move.

By law, before a site on Aboriginal land can be nominated by government, the traditional owners must be adequately consulted and give consent.

Lane Jangala has instructed Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Surry Partners and Julian Burnside QC, to commence proceedings the use of the site for disposal of radioactive waste.

Muckaty Station was formally returned to the traditional owners after a long land claim in 2001, Maurice Blackburn said. The Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Justice Gray, determined that five traditional owner groups had joint and overlapping traditional ownership of the Station: the Ngapa, Wirntiku, Milwayi, Yapayapa and Ngarrka clans.

However, the NLC and Government now claim that a single sub-group of one of these clans owns the relevant land for the waste dump, so that only their consent is required, the firm said.

Maurice Blackburn and Surry Partners represent Lane Jangala and senior elders from all five groups of traditional owners.

Lane Jangala has been campaigning along with many other traditional owners against the proposed site because of its cultural significance.

“I am senior Ngapa man for Muckaty and I did not agree to the nomination of the site, along with other senior Ngapa elders for Muckaty Station

who did not agree. We don’t want it. There was not even a meeting in town to consult all of the traditional owners,” he said.

“I want to look after my Country and Dreaming, look after the Sacred Sites I am responsible for and to make sure my children are raised properly in their Country.”

Maurice Blackburn senior associate Martin Hyde said most of the traditional owners were not given the opportunity to make an informed decision.

“If you are going to take away people’s land in perpetuity and fill it with radioactive waste, you have a legal and moral obligation to ask the owners first and seek their informed consent. It appears that simply did not happen”.

George Newhouse, human rights lawyer with Surry Partners said: “This is an important case not only because it is about the dumping of nuclear waste on Aboriginal land but it will set out the principles that will guide the way that Indigenous Land Councils treat the people that they are supposed to represent.”

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