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NT landowners appoint firm to nuclear waste legal action

A group of Indigenous land owners from the Northern Territory are in Melbourne to challenge a Federal Government plan to build a nuclear waste dump on their land.

user iconThe New Lawyer 27 July 2010 The Bar
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The Traditional Owners have instructed law firm Maurice Blackburn and Surry Partners to commence a Federal Court challenge against the Federal Government and the Northern Land Council over the plan to build a nuclear waste dump on their land at Muckaty Station, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has signalled his intention to continue with the dump despite a 2007 Labor election promise to adopt a new approach, the firm said in a joint statement with the Australian Conservation Foundation.


The Australian Conservation Foundation is supporting the Traditional Owners’ efforts to overturn Minister Ferguson’s nuclear waste dump plan.

ACF’s supporters have funded a large billboard ad which is currently on display in the heart of Martin Ferguson’s Batman electorate in Melbourne.

As reported by The New Lawyer last month, 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 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.

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