Traditional owners criticise nuclear dump process


Sir – Sixty traditional owners from the Tanami Desert and neighbouring land owners have expressed their frustration with the Federal government’s nomination process for a proposed radioactive waste management facility and with the lack of information from the government.
The public servants were unable to explain many of the details we had repeatedly requested from Minister Macfarlane and his department.
For example, people got no answers about how the nuclear waste would be transported or about the comprehensive benefits package the minister had flagged. No wonder they said they were dissatisfied.
The process enshrined in the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 expected traditional owners to volunteer a site without knowing the full details of the government’s proposal.
Yet once a site is nominated traditional owners cannot change their mind when they find out the full story. A nuclear waste dump is forever, so it’s just not fair to ask people to make such a big decision without a comprehensive proposal.
We told the government since 2005 that its process and legislation were incompatible with the principle of prior informed consent.
The meeting instructed the CLC to write to the minister again, requesting further information.
The CLC convened the meeting with representatives of the Department of Industry, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and an independent radiation health expert so that traditional owners could learn more about the proposed facility.
In August it received a request for information from a group of traditional owners who had been contacted by the NT government, after the minister had told NT land councils they had until 30 September to nominate a site.
The CLC has a legal duty to consult with the wider traditional owner group about any proposal for the use of their land, ensure they fully understand the nature and effect of any proposal and obtain their informed consent before any proposal can go ahead.
It must also give communities or groups affected by a proposal an opportunity to express their views and will therefore go ahead with scheduled meetings in Balgo, Lajamanu and Yuendumu in the week starting 22 September.
The CLC’s governing body of 90 traditional owners will consider the outcome of the consultations at its next meeting in November. Under the current process only the Council can nominate a site, based on the prior informed consent of traditional owners.
David Ross
Central Land Council Director


  1. A nuclear dump in the NT will be a good thing. It will bring millions of dollars to the Territory if it is in the right spot. The Territory needs money.

  2. Are this nation’s most wealthy and powerful manipulating and taking advantage of the most disadvantaged in the centre of Australia?
    Hearing that the federal government are giving till the end of the month to finalise a dump site for radioactive waste in the Northern Territoy makes me ask, why?
    The PM first completing trips to India and Malaysia seems to indicate the real reasons for this.
    The Northern Territory is going to become a dump and transport corridor for the benifit of Western Australia.
    Being very convenient for the Western Australia government.
    The WA government has made it illegal to import radioactive material into the state.
    So you must wonder what choices they have, to extract the great wealth from the uranium mines like the one about to come on line in the Willuna area.
    Selling to India would be one.
    But the problem is WA can’t export from their ports and the history of toxic spills are well know.
    So they have to spread the risk but not the profits, as we all know WA does not want to share their wealth from the mining with the rest of Australia.
    The export risk is, they will have to transport the product either by road transport or rail across Australia, possibly putting South Australia and all of the Northern Territory at risk of spills, accidents and as of today, the risk of potential attacks.
    Not only do they need to use the ports in South Australia and Darwin for their exports, they also have the issue with the return of waste, as stated earlier, it is illegal to import radioactive material into WA.
    They have a problem with another mine as well, as the PM’s visit to Malaysia indicated.
    Maybe their is still the problem with the refinery for rare earths which has seen many demonstrations in Malaysia in regards to waste from this plant as it has to have a site in Australia to return radio active waste to.
    Once again it is illegal to return it to WA, they also need to dump elsewhere.
    Having seen the PM visiting India with the CEO of Toro which has large tenements and influence in the NT, it seems to be all in favour of WA.
    Why should the most disadvantaged group in Australia have to be taken advantage of by the most wealthy?
    This is by no means in the best interest of the NT, the Warlpirri people or the rest of Australia.
    It seems only to be in the best interest of WA.
    Furthermore, it seems the reasoning for the dump to be for a medical waste storage is just a convenient story.
    With the need for WA to have these dumps and transport corridors to export, could it be the manipulation of SA boat building industry is a way of assuring the transport in and out of SA?
    The NT being a Territory will be just overruled by the PM.
    Some answers please.

  3. I think every uranium mine has progressed despite the protests of Aboriginal people. They never wanted it dug up. Now they don’t want the rubbish back. If you want to muck around with such poisionous material it’s your responsibility to look after the waste. Don’t try and dump it in someone else’s backyard.
    This is the problem power companies try to hide. They call it cheap power, but never include in their calculations the cost of storing and maintaing the waste for fifty thousand years or so. Fifty thousand years, is gonna cost a bomb.

  4. If a site is nominated somewhere up the Tanami Track, and I’m not saying I agree with that, only there does seem to be some momentum in that direction, then surely a fair quid pro quo for the rest of us would be to seal the Tanami as far as its intersection with the Savannah Way west of Halls Creek.

  5. Dan and Spot, your posts fly in the face of the facts. No Aboriginal people are being forced to accept a uranium dump, nor are they being exploited.
    They have been invited to nominate their land, and some have jumped at the chance to get hold of the massive royalties being held out to them.
    David Ross is not complaining about the offer to NT Aboriginal groups but about the nomination process.
    Fact is that Minister Macfarlane has had offers from all over the country to host the dump and probably would like to take one of them up.
    He’s tired of groups in the NT squabbling over the dump, to make sure that if one group doesn’t get a cut of the royalty millions then the others also won’t. It’s a bit like torching your broken down car.

  6. Dear Observer
    As per your own quote of: “Post flying in the face of facts.”
    You have stated you have FACTS from Minister Macfairlane stating he has offers from all over Australia and would like to take up one of these offers.
    Please post these facts on this site, in particular in reference to WA, stating he is able to accept one in WA.
    Look forward to some interesting reading.

  7. To contaminate any part of this country, for the sake of money, just seems so outrageous to me. We are not talking about a year, but several lifetimes.
    Perhaps they should store it in a bunker under Canberra, that’s where all this toxic waste comes from, it leaks out of question time.

  8. Dear Spot. The minister says he has had offers from all over the country to host the dump and with the millions on offer I believe him.
    You say that the dump “is by no means in the best interest of the NT, the Warlpirri people or the rest of Australia”.
    I’m unsure whether the dump is in the best interests of the NT, it clearly is in the interests of the rest of Australia and the days where Aboriginal people’s best interests can be dictated to by others are long gone.


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