Traditional landowners fighting nuclear waste dump get their day in court

The Guardian

The traditional landowners blocking a proposed Northern Territory nuclear waste dump will finally get their day in court on Monday, almost eight years after their fight began.

The owners say Muckaty station was earmarked as the site for the dump without proper consultation and say the "poison" will destroy their land.

Kylie Sambo, whose family has lived on the land for generations, said traditional landowners were seeking simple justice.

"It's a poison. We don't want it to be there," she said outside the federal court in Melbourne on Monday.

"We don't want it to spoil our country because we love our land and we've been there for centuries.

"It's my grandfather's country, it's been passed on from his father and he left it for us to look after.

"My uncle once told me, `You may think you own the land, but in fact the land owns us'.

"This has been going on for seven years, seven years of travelling tirelessly and also struggling to get to different places and talk about our country and why we don't want the waste dump."

The waste dump was originally planned in South Australia, but in the face of local opposition the federal government sought to relocate it to the NT.

Muckaty station, about 110km north of Tennant Creek, was flagged as a possible site.

Legal proceedings have been running against the federal government and the Northern Land council (NLC) since 2010, with the landowners accusing the NLC of failing to properly identify the traditional Aboriginal owners and not getting true consent.

Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation said he hoped the case would prompt the Abbott government to set up a national commission into the best way to deal with toxic waste.

"We hope the court case is a circuit breaker in what's been a failed policy approach by a succession of federal governments," he said outside court.

"This is an issue of maturity and respect, and an issue of long-term environmental protection and indigenous recognition for all Australians."

The case begins in Melbourne, before moving to Muckaty, Tennant Creek and Darwin

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