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KASAMA Vol. 12 No. 1 / January–February–March 1998 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

"The Jabiluka deposit is ten minutes from our communities, 500 metres from major wetland systems and is enclosed by Kakadu National Park. One spill from the proposed mine will mean that natural and cultural values of Kakadu National Park will be lost forever. Genocide will be the result for our community and ecocide for the World Heritage Kakadu National Park. We want the Australian Government to understand and act on the obligations which belong to all of us and protect country." —Yvonne Margarula, Senior Traditional Owner, The Mirrar People.

The right of traditional owners to negotiate about mining is fundamental for the Native Title rights of Aboriginal people. The Mirrar people, recognised as traditional owners of the Jabiluka land, by the Ranger Inquiry, are unequivocally opposed to uranium mining on their country.

The Ranger uranium mine has been plagued with water management problems since the mine began. Jabiluka would result in significantly greater volumes of water and in an extra 20 million tonnes of radioactive tailings being stored at the Ranger mine.

The right to negotiate with mining companies must be kept and even strengthened in the Native Title Act. Meanwhile, the Mirrar people are asking for help NOW. They need money, physical support for their blockade of the proposed mine site, the National Day of Action on April 5th, lobbying of political groups and the media.

An excellent video made by award-winning David Bradbury, shows the existing mine, the site of the proposed new mine and interviews with some of the people involved in the decision-making process.

Contact: Jabiluka Action Group (JAG), c/- QCC, Box 12046, Elizabeth St, Brisbane 4002, or Phone: 3221 0188 – Fax: 07 3229 7992 – or email: qccqld@powerup.corn.au

In the hot afternoon the 800 empty chairs on the lawns of King George Square seemed impossible to fill. My heart sank as I contemplated the arrival of the Kul-gun Darlo-bol'pa (The Journey Home) March from Musgrave Park. Would they arrive to an almost empty square?

At 6pm, the compere explained that members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community had gathered at Musgrave Park and were on their way.

By 7pm anticipation was palpable and electric. Everyone was on their feet as several hundred Indigenous people came into view led by the Elders of the community. Some were walking tall, some shaken with emotion. They flowed into the square to be welcomed by the clapping and cheering of more than 4,000 people.

Aunty Ruth Hegarty, taken from her mother when she was 4 years old, spoke of the strong emotions being felt amongst the participants. She asked for a silent tribute to the many people who were not able to take part in this event, many having passed on. She also reminded us that some wounds are so deep they are very hard to heal. Such ceremonies as this one are too painful for her own mother. Aunty Ruth's main message was that this symbolic ceremony showed the Indigenous community that many people do empathise with them, people do care and they do want to take positive steps to achieve real reconciliation.

Lord Mayor, Jim Soorley, used the ritual of handing the keys of the City of Brisbane to Elder Herb Bligh to symbolise that Indigenous people are welcome in the City. He expressed the sorrow of the people of Brisbane for the pain and suffering caused by past injustices and of their determination to work together for reconciliation and healing. Uncle Steve Mam handed Indigenous scrolls in return to the Lord Mayor and representative of Qld. Churches Together, Russell Morris.

Boundary Streets in Brisbane marked the areas within which Indigenous peoples were forbidden to enter at night. A suggestion to rename them received strong support.

As we sat in the middle of the crowd that night, we really felt that we were taking part in a turning point in history. The 4000+ Brisbane people taking part in this ceremony seemed symbolic of a determination to try to do better in the future.

As Auntie Ruth said, "We are no longer alone, people do care and it really does help."

— by Monique Bond

Is YOUR local Council taking similar action? For more information contact: ANTaR, 4th Floor, 16 Peel St, South Brisbane 4101 or Phone: 07 3857 6555 – Fax: 07 3857 2173 – or email: chowes@mpx.com.au

Articles on this page were extracted from the ANTaR (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation) Newsletter, No. 3, March 1998.