"They showed us videos about how safe it would be [but] if it is so safe why don't they put it in Sydney?"
Dianne Stokes, Yapa Yapa clan elder, October 28 2007
Sydney Morning Herald ~~ Monday October 29, 2007
Toxic feelings at proposed nuclear dump
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Pressure on clan groups … Dianne Stokes, an elder of the Yapa Yapa clan, and her daughter, Sky in Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek. Photo: Bryan O'Brien
Lindsay Murdoch in Tennant Creek
ABORIGINAL landowners surrounding the proposed site of Australia's first nuclear dump have changed their minds about allowing access to trucks carrying waste as bitter argument rages among indigenous groups about the Federal Government's plans.
"I won't sign any agreement because my mob disagrees with building the dump there," said Sammy Sambo, senior elder of the Milwayi clan, which owns the only road to the site in Muckaty, a former cattle station 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.
"We are upset about the way those government fellas have gone about trying to convince us and are confused and worried about what to do next."
Elders of two Aboriginal clans owning parts of Muckaty, including land adjoining the site, have told the Herald they have not been properly consulted, contradicting the federal Science Minister, Julie Bishop, who said last month she was satisfied that potentially affected Aboriginal groups have had "adequate opportunity to express their views".
Milwayi elder Janet Thompson said meetings with her people to discuss an offer of $2 million to allow trucks carrying waste to cross their land were called at short notice and most of those who indicated their agreement at a recent meeting did not know what was being proposed.
Most of the elders do not speak English as their first language and were not offered translators.
"I walked out," Ms Thompson said. "The process wasn't fair. They have talked to one mob at a time. We want a big meeting to bring all this out into the open."
Mr Sambo said he and other elders had second thoughts because "they tell us the dump will only be for low-level waste, like gowns and blood from hospitals. But we are worried because we hear it will eventually become a dump for nuclear waste from around the world".
Under a deal secretly negotiated by the Northern Land Council, the 70-member Ngapa clan will receive more than $10 million for allowing 5000 cubic metres of nuclear waste to be stored on their land for up to 300 years.
In May, in its only public comment on the deal, the Ngapa clan said Canberra's money would "create a future for our children with education, jobs and funds for our out-station and transport".
Dianne Stokes, an elder of the Yapa Yapa clan, which owns land at Muckaty, told the Herald the dump proposal had put enormous pressure on clan groups, most of whom were unhappy about it.
"There's been a lot of trouble … people arguing and calling others dickheads and things like that for giving away the land and destroying our culture," she said.
Ms Stokes was among a group of Muckaty elders taken to Lucas Heights, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission's research establishment, when the deal was being negotiated in 2006.
"After four days in Sydney I fell for it … I said I supported the dump," she said. "They showed us videos about how safe it would be." But Ms Stokes said that after returning to the territory she became opposed to it when she "began to think, well, if it is so safe why don't they put it in Sydney?"
Experts are now studying the site to see if it is suitable for the dump, which would store spent fuel from research reactors.
Mining exploration applications and grants in the Northern Territory as of August 2007