|1950s||Discovery of uranium in NT|
|1971||Pancontinental discovers uranium at Jabiluka|
|1975||The Fox Inquiry begins|
|1976||Aboriginal Land Rights Act is legislated with a provision to extinguish the right of the Mirrar to withhold their consent to mining at Ranger|
|1978||The Ranger Agreement is imposed upon Aboriginal people in Kakadu|
|1978||Drilling at Jabiluka, completion of Pancontinental EIS|
|1979||Social Impact of Uranium Mining monitoring project by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies takes place. This project is chaired by Colin Tatz.|
|1980||Mirrar and other clans in Kakadu area launch land claim|
|1981||Pancontinental agree with Northern Land Council not to oppose Mirrar land claim|
|1982||Mirrar under duress consent to an agreement in Northern Land Council and Pancon negotiations|
|1983||Election of Hawke Labor government, three mine policy suspends development at Jabiluka indefinitely|
|1984||Social Impact of Uranium Mining monitoring project concludes it’s report.|
|1988/9||Death of Yvonne Margarula’s father.|
|1991||Sale of Jabiluka from Pancontinental to ERA. Deed of Transfer negotiated with Northern Land Council|
|1992||Yvonne instructs NLC and Federal government that Mirrar do not want Jabiluka to proceed|
|March||Election of Howard Liberal Coalition Government|
|August||Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation becomes operational with an office established in Yvonne Margarula’s loungeroom|
Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation office moves to Executive Officer’s residence
due to lack of accommodation in Jabiru
• Public campaign swings into action, national speaking tour
|April||•Alliance against Uranium formed as a result of a meeting in Alice Springs between Aboriginal people affected by uranium deposits and environment groups|
Meeting of traditional owners to reject of Jabiluka royalty
• Production of the Jabiluka documentary begins
owners drop a banner from Jabiluka outlier indicating their protest against
• Mirrar travelled NT to convey info re: Jabiluka
• Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee meeting at Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist picketted by Mirrar.
Mirrar initiated meetings in southern states with environment groups, student
groups, unions and policitians
• Week of Action held in Kakadu attended by students from all over Australia to protest against ERA activities at Jabiluka
• Mirrar travel around Top End and to Queensland to meet with other Aboriginal people affected by mining.
|August||• Hill approves Environmental Impact Statement despite traditional owners opposition to the project|
Native title claim lodged by Mirrar over Jabiru
• Senator Warwick Parer, Minister for Resources and Energy, approves Jabiluka weakining Senator Hill’s conditions
Alliance against Uranium meet in Alice Springs. First Jabiluka Action Group
formed in Perth.
• Traditional owners seek registration of Boweg-Almudj site complex within the Jabiluka lease.
• Mirrar meet to instruct Northern Land Council to withold consent for ERA milling Jabiluka ore at Ranger
Yvonne Margarula begins action in Federal Court challenging Jabiluka lease
• Launch of ”Jabiluka” video in Jabiru and Gunbalanya, NT.
|January||• European Parliament passes a resolution condemning the Australian government’s approval of Jabiluka.|
|February||• Mirrar launch national speaking tour, campaign grows nationally|
|March||• Blockade Camp established in Kakadu which undertakes protest activity at the Jabiluka lease drawing national and international attention to mining in Kakadu.|
International Day of Action to Stop Jabiluka. Yvonne Margarula arrested
with three other bininj for trespass on
land which she holds title.
|June||• Senator Robert Hill proposes Public Environment Report to investigate Jabiluka Milling Alternative as a result of insufficient information provided by ERA in Environmental Impact Assesment process.|
|June||• Yvonne Margarula attends UNESCO World Heritage Bureau meeting in Paris resulting in a Mission nominated to visit Kakadu to report to the World Heritage Committee.|
|July||• Mass arrests at Jabiluka blockade|
|August||• Yvonne Margarula, Jacqui Katona and Christine Christophersen attend over 40 meetings and conferences in Europe|
|September||• Legal challenge brought by Yvonne Margarula to the approval of the Public Environment Report by Senator Robert Hill|
Senator Robert Hill approves Public Environment Report prepared by ERA.
• Within twenty four hours, amending and weakening conditions Senator Warwick Parer approves Jabiluka Milling alternative
• Federal election is called. Howard re-elected despite intense media campaign
• UNESCO World Heritage Mission visits Kakadu and Canberra to assess threats to World Heritage Listing.
World Heritage Mission report handed down findings
showing significant serious acertained and potential threats
• Yvonne Margarula is awarded inaugural Nuclear Free Future Award for Resistance
• Mirrar travel to Kyoto for WHC meeting
World Heritage Committee accepts the UNESCO Mission findings and recommends
voluntary suspension of
construction at Jabiluka until Australian government respond to Mission report.
• Australian government refuses to comply with recommendation to suspend construction activity.
Yvonne Margarula appeals her conviction for trespass in Supreme Court of
• Jacqui Katona and Christine Christophersen go to gaol rather than pay trespass fines
• Hill rejects Mirrar concerns regarding sacred site threatened by ongoing construction at Jabiluka at a meeting with Yvonne Margarula in Canberra.
Supreme Court rejects Yvonne Margarula’s appeal against trepass charge
• North Limited premises blockaded for four days by protests against Jabiluka
|April||• Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona win the Goldman Prize for grassroots environmental Activism|
The History of Our Struggle
The Fight Against the Ranger Uranium Mine
Uranium was discovered throughout Northern Australia from the 1950’s.
By the mid-1970’s the Australian Government was faced with a major political conflict over uranium mining operations in the Kakadu region. On one hand powerful mining companies were offering jobs and export income. On the other, many Australians were opposed to participation in the nuclear fuel cycle.
Like most Government’s facing a difficult situation, the Australian Government commissioned an inquiry into the issues facing uranium mining in the Northern Territory in July 1975. The Inquiry was chaired by Justice Fox and became known as “The Fox Inquiry”.
the same time as the Fox Inquiry was taking place the Australian Government
passed legislation which allowed traditional Aboriginal people in the Northern
Territory to gain legal title to their land (the Aboriginal Land Rights
Act (Cth) 1976) . It was clear that the Kakadu region was one of the
areas likely to be successfully claimed by
traditional owners and so the Fox Inquiry looked in some detail at local Aboriginal attitudes to uranium mining in the Kakadu region.
In the Second Report of the Fox Inquiry a summary of Aboriginal attitudes to uranium mining was included:
evidence before us shows that the traditional owners of the Ranger [uranium]
site [the Mirrar] and the Northern Land Council (as now constituted) are
opposed to the mining of uranium on that site ... Some Aboriginals had
at an earlier stage approved, or at least not disapproved, the proposed
development, but it seems likely that they were not then as fully informed
about it as they later became. Traditional consultations had not then taken
place, and there was a general conviction that opposition was futile. The
Aboriginals do not have confidence that their own view will prevail; they
feel that uranium mining development is almost certain to take place at
Jabiru, if not elsewhere in the Region as well. They feel that having gone
so far, the white man is not likely to stop. They have a justifiable complaint
that plans for mining have been allowed to develop as far as
they have without the Aboriginal people having an adequate opportunity to be heard ... it is not in the circumstances possible for us to say that the development would be beneficial to them. There can be no compromise with the Aboriginal position; either it is treated as conclusive, or it is set aside ... In the end, we form the conclusion that their opposition should not be allowed to prevail (Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry 1977, 9).
When discussing the land claim, the Inquiry made a number of other comments in relation to Aboriginal attitudes to mining:
While royalties and the other payments referred to in (b) are not unimportant to the Aboriginal people, they see this aspect as incidental, as a material recognition of their rights ... Our impression is that they would happily forgo the lot in exchange for an assurance that mining would not proceed (Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry 1977, 269).
So it was clear that Aboriginal people did not want mining in the region and clear that the Government was determined for mining to go ahead.
The Government’s intentions to proceed against Aboriginal wishes were confirmed when it exempted the Ranger uranium mine, which is on Mirrar land, from the traditional owner “mining veto” provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976. As a result, negotiations between the Aboriginal representative body (the Northern Land Council) and the Australian Government with regard to the Ranger uranium mine proceeded as a fait accompli in 1978.
However the Mirrar continued to voice their dissatisfaction with the idea of the Ranger uranium mine proceeding. It was reported that a meeting of 40 traditional owners at Gunbalanya in early October 1978 had told the NLC that they did not accept the draft Ranger mining agreement. According to newspaper reports 12 of the traditional owners “spoke at length on their dissatisfaction with the present agreement”.
The then Mirrar Senior Traditional Owner, Toby Gangale (Yvonne Margarula’s late father) was quoted as saying: “I don’t like that [Ranger] agreement. I wish it would go away for six months ... I wish it would go away for five years” (The Northern Territory News, 12 October 1978).
the end, when the agreement was finally signed, the evidence demonstrates
that the NLC did not act on the instructions of the traditional owners.
Stephen Zorn, who was one of the negotiators of the agreement, wrote to
the Chairman of the NLC arguing that “Mr Yunupingu and the NLC staff
had pressured members to ratify
the Ranger agreement”.
was indeed pressure, and there was not the sort of real, effective consultation
that is required both by Section 23 of the Land Rights Act and by ordinary
common decency”, Dr Zorn said ... “For all of these reasons, I think it
quite reasonable for people to conclude that the NLC leadership and staff,
pushed, it is clear by the Commonwealth government, have created a situation
in which many Aboriginals are not satisfied...”
(quoted in The Northern Territory News, 30 October 1978).
At the so-called signing of the agreement the Mirrar Senior Traditional Owner, Toby Gangale, when he was finally asked to speak, was quoted as saying:
"I've given up. It's been six years now. I'm not fighting anymore" (National U, Special Supplement, November 1978).
Ranger uranium mine has continued for twenty years against the wishes of
the Mirrar. In 1998 the Mirrar were informed that the Ranger mine would
require an extension of its 21 year lease which expires on January 9, 2000.
They were informed that their right to say “no” to Ranger remained exempted.
Once again Mirrar opposition to mining will not be allowed to prevail.
The Jabiluka Fight Begins
In 1971 Pancontinental Mining Ltd and Getty Oil Development Company Ltd entered into an agreement for uranium exploration. The first of the Jabiluka ore bodies was discovered in November 1971. The Environmental Impact Statement was submitted in 1979.
The Jabiluka Ore Body is approximately 25 km from the existing Ranger uranium mine. Both are wholly within Mirrar land.
Aboriginal opposition to the Jabiluka project was well known from the outset. According to business magazine Rydge's in September 1978:
There is well-known [Aboriginal] opposition to the Jabiluka development. This opposition is more deep-seated than that to Ranger (Rydge's, vol 51, September 1978).
Land Rights News had commented on the views of two of the senior traditional owners of the area in early 1978:
If there is to be any mining, it should be kept to the Ranger mine which should be kept small. They did not want the Pancontinental mine at Jabiluka. Toby Gangale and Bill Neidji said they did not want the Pancontinental mine (Land Rights News No 20, April 1978).
Commonwealth Government gave approval in May 1978 for Pancontinental to
drill at the proposed mine site so that it could complete the Environmental
Impact Statement (see The Canberra Times, 13 May 1978). The Government
pointed out that there was no legal requirement for Aboriginal people to
consent to the
Strong opposition was expressed by Aboriginal people, the NLC and the Australian Labor Party spokesman on Urban and Regional Affairs Mr Uren. The Government's approval for the drilling was given during the negotiations over the Ranger agreement and the work included an extension of the Arnhem Highway to the Jabiluka project area.
The announcement surprised and angered the chairman of the Northern Land Council, Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who has told the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, that Aborigines in the region are totally opposed to the Jabiluka project because of the dangers it poses to the environment (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 1978).
The NLC Chairman conceded that mining would probably proceed at Ranger:
"... but we will fight it to the end at Jabiluka ... There is no way we are going to give in to Pancon, we don't want to see any development there ... the traditional owners of the land are already moving back to the area after having been displaced by the whiteman" (Northern Territory News, 2 June 1978).
One of the problems confronting Pancontinental was how to get permission from the traditional owners to undertake certain preliminary activities on the proposed mine site given their opposition to the mining. A number of meetings were organised by the company to “walk over” the site of the proposed mine
Tapes of one of the meetings between the company representatives and a selected group of traditional owners have been obtained and transcribed. The tapes clearly show how:
the traditional owners were pressured into accepting, step by step, the beginning of mining activity on their land; the company presented its proposals in a way that did not explain effectively the full ramifications of what was being proposed; some of the proposals directly related to the mine were presented as though they had no connection to mining.
In 1980 the Mirrar and other Aboriginal people in the region lodged a claim for their land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976. In 1981, Pan Continental agreed with the Northern Land Council not to oppose the land claim if negotiations on Jabiluka proceeded.
Mirrar maintain that over the next eighteen months they were tricked, cajoled
and pressured by the NLC and Pan Continental into believing that mining
at Jabiluka was inevitable - just like at Ranger. A fuller account of this
process is outlined in a publication titled, The
History of Duress and the Jabiluka Project. As a result of this
allegedly unconscionable conduct the Mirrar “consented” to the Northern Land Council and Pan Continental entering into the Jabiluka Mining Agreement in July 1982.
in 1983 the Hawke Labor Government was elected to office with a policy
of halting expansion of the uranium mining industry. The Jabiluka Project
was caught by this policy which remained in place for the next thirteen
The Sale of the Jabiluka Mineral Lease in 1991
By 1991 Pan Continental had effectively given up their hopes of mining at Jabiluka. They informed the Northern Land Council that they wished to sell their interest in Jabiluka to Energy Resources of Australia Ltd - the operator of the nearby Ranger uranium mine.
The terms of the 1982 Jabiluka Agreement clearly stated that the NLC could not reasonably withhold agreement to the sale of the Jabiluka Mineral Lease. However the NLC were able to negotiate terms of the sale which formed a document known as the 1991 Deed of Transfer.
One of the terms in the this Deed of Transfer - that ERA will require the consent of Traditional Owners before being able to mill Jabiluka ore at Ranger - is now of enormous significance. Many market analyists believe that the entire Jabiluka Project is completely economically unviable without the ability to mill uranium at the existing Ranger facilities. In 1997 the Mirrar formally announced the withholding of their consent for milling at Ranger and have since vowed to never to allow ERA to proceed with this option.
the mid-1990’s, ERA attempted to get around the Labor Government’s policy
of not allowing expansion of the uranium industry by renaming Jabiluka
“North Ranger”. Nobody was fooled and Jabiluka remained stalled for the
life of the Labor Government.
Pressure for money: 1991-1994
By the 1990’s it was obvious to all local Aboriginal people that the Ranger mine had failed to deliver any of its promised benefits. Despite the payment of royalties, the Aboriginal people of the region lived in desperate poverty and appalling conditions.
Aboriginal people from the region - not Traditional Owners of the Jabiluka
Lease - were advised to lobby the Government to allow Jabiluka to proceed
in order to raise money for much-needed services. This lobbying effort
took place in 1991. Senior Traditional Owner for the Mirrar, Yvonne Margarula,
attended at least two of
these lobbying meetings to ensure Traditional Owner opposition to Jabiluka was not misrepresented.
has opposed Jabiluka since becoming Senior Traditional Owner in the late
1980’s. She maintains her deceased father instructed her to protect the
Jabiluka site despite the 1982 Agreement. In 1992 she and other Mirrar
instructed the NLC that the Mirrar and other Aboriginal people did not
wish for the mine to proceed. In
1994 she wrote to the Australian Labor Party urging them not to change their policy on the non-development of Jabiluka.
Mirrar opposition prevailed until the election of the conservative Howard
Government in 1996.
The Election of the Howard Government
inferring throughout the 1996 election campaign that Jabiluka would not
proceed, the Howard Government began fast-tracking approval of the Jabiluka
project immediately upon coming to office. The Howard Government decided
to recognise the 14 year old Jabiluka Agreement - signed by a different
generation for a
different project with a different mining company under very dubious circumstances - rather than respect the long-held opposition to Jabiluka by Traditional Owners.
the dire implications of the Howard Government’s policy on Jabiluka for
the future of their people, the Mirrar created a specific Traditional Owner
organisation out of their own funds. The organisation was called the Gundjehmi
Aboriginal Corporation after the language of the Mirrar people. Yvonne
Margarula recruited her
relative, Jacqui Katona, to be the Corporation’s Executive Officer.
conducting much research into the history of the Jabiluka Agreement and
participating in many discussions with Government officials and Ministers,
the Mirrar and their small team of staff were convinced that Traditional
Owner opposition to the project would not of itself achieve any change
in the Commonwealth or Territory
Governments’ policies about the development of Jabiluka. The Mirrar also encountered an inability to exercise their perceived rights to country under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT) 1976.
As a result the Mirrar decided to embark upon a public campaign which has since become Australia’s highest profile land rights and environment case.
the end of 1996 the Mirrar public campaign to stop the Jabiluka uranium
mine was in full swing. There had been National Speaking Tour in September
of 1996 which created unprecedented media and public attention for the
Mirrar. Public forums had been held in the Northern Territory and alliances
had been formed with
other Aboriginal communities facing the prospect of unwanted uranium mines on their traditional country. International bodies such as the World Heritage Bureau had been sent submissions from the Mirrar. The Mirrar had co-produced a feature documentary which was to appear on national television.
In June 1997 the first year of full-scale campaigning activity was marked with the placing of an enormous anti-Jabiluka mine banner on an escarpment located within the Jabiluka mineral lease and visible from the Oenpelli Road.
Also in June 1997 the Senior Traditional Owner, accompanied by other Traditional Owners and staff, travelled to Darwin, Goulburn Island, Croker Island, Maningrida and Waiark with the key purpose of conveying information related to the Mirrar opposition to the Jabiluka uranium mine.
It was also at this time that the Mirrar discussed and responded to the Government-dominated agenda of the supposedly independent Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (ERISS), which culminated in blockading of ERISS premises and picketing of an Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee meeting.
In July of 1997 the Mirrar initiated Public Meetings in Sydney and Melbourne to build community support for their campaign to stop the Jabiluka uranium mine.
Mirrar and staff from Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation travelled to the Australian Universities Environment & Human Rights Conference in Townsville (“Students & Sustainability”) and received overwhelming support for the Mirrar fight against Jabiluka. As a result some 70 students travelled to Mirrar country and from 21-27 July participated with the Mirrar and support groups from around the nation in a National Week of Action on the Jabiluka issue.
August 1997 that Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill handed down his
recommendation for approval of the Jabiluka mine pursuant to an Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) which had been prepared by Energy Resources Of Australia.
The Government received thousands of submissions to the 1997 Jabiluka EIS
the project not to proceed, including detailed submissions from the Northern Land Council and ATSIC. In reporting to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Environment Australia raised serious concerns about long-term damage to the environment, Aboriginal people and World Heritage values.
Nonetheless, Senator Robert Hill recommended that the Jabiluka Project proceed. The Minister for Resources, Senator Warwick Parer, then approved the Jabiluka Project and in the process watered-down 95% of the conditions recommended by Senator Hill.
In September and October of 1997 the Mirrar worked on a native title claim over Jabiru as part of their overall aim of restoring Aboriginal jurisdiction in the region. Jabiru is currently an enclave of non-Aboriginal land within Mirrar country.
It was also at this time that the Mirrar hosted a visit by survivors of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster.
November of 1997 the Mirrar travelled to Alice Springs to meet with other
Aboriginal people and a variety of support organisations in a forum the
Mirrar had organised and titled “Alliance Against Uranium”. Mirrar and
other Aboriginal people also conducted much work in seeking registration
of the Boyweg-Almudj Sacred Site Complex
which is located in part in the area of the Jabiluka Uranium Orebody.
In December 1997 the Mirrar and staff travelled to Sydney to appear in Federal Court proceedings challenging the validity of the Jabiluka Mineral Lease.
In February of 1998 the Mirrar and staff spent three weeks on a National Speaking tour associated with the growing national and international campaign to stop Jabiluka and launched the feature documentary “Jabiluka”.
March of 1998 the Mirrar prepared for the arrival of thousands of people
seeking to “blockade” the Jabiluka uranium mine in support of the Mirrar.
Mirrar had to consider protocols, staff allocation, infrastructure, permits
and many other issues associated with an activity of such a scale. In addition
there was major protest activity
led by the Mirrar at this time.
On 19 May 1998 the Senior Traditional Owner was arrested with three other Aboriginal people for “trespassing” on the portion of the Mirrar estate currently subject to the Jabiluka Mineral Lease.
In late May the Mirrar and staff were worked on preparation and proceedings associated with seeking an injunction against the Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy issuing a permit to begin instruction under the Uranium Mining (Environmental Controls) Act (NT).
In the beginning of June of this year the Federal Minister for the Environment announced that a Public Environment Report would be required for the Jabiluka Milling Alternative for the Jabiluka uranium mine. The Mirrar had necessitated this decision by earlier withholding consent for Jabiluka ore to be milled at ERA’s Ranger uranium mine.
Also in June the Senior Traditional Owner and the Executive Officer attended the UNESCO World Heritage Bureau Meeting in Paris and were successful in convincing the Bureau to send a Mission to investigate the dangers to Mirrar living tradition and environment associated with the Jabiluka uranium mine.
Campaign activities involving the Mirrar escalated in July 1998 with the impending Federal Election, mass arrests at the ongoing blockade, a plethora of media requests and a National Campaign Meeting. Meetings commenced with the Shadow Minister for the Environment.
In August the Senior Traditional Owner and the Executive Officer attended over 40 meetings and media conferences in Germany, Holland and England as part of the growing international aspect of the Jabiluka campaign.
On September of 1998 the Mirrar organised a meeting of Senior Traditional Owners from throughout the region to discuss ERA growing “divide and conquer” tactics within the region. There was also considerable media attention and activities associated with Jabiluka being the major land rights and environment issue in the Federal Election campaign. In October of 1998 the Mirrar participated in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee Mission to Kakadu and Canberra.
In November of 1998 the UNESCO Mission handed down its report finding that the Jabiluka mine posed serious threats to the cultural and natural values of the Kakadu World Heritage Area. Mirrar and staff travelled to the World Heritage Committee meeting in Kyoto, Japan.
In December of 1998 the World Heritage Committee accepted the UNESCO Mission Report and resolved that construction at Jabiluka should cease until the Australian Government could prove that the identified threats to Mirrar culture and country were being avoided. The Australian Government refused to comply with the UNESCO resolution.
February of 1999 the Senior Traditional Owner appealed her conviction for
trespassing on her own land. Mirrar and staff met with Minister Robert
Hill who rejected Mirrar concerns about the impending desecration of the
Boyweg-Almudj Site Complex.
Why the Mirrar Oppose the Jabiluka Uranium Mine
The Mirrar are very concerned about the environmental safety of the Jabiluka uraniun mine as detailed in other parts of this website. However the most pressing concern of the Mirrar is the destruction of Aboriginal living tradition which will result from continued mining on Mirrar land.
Mirrar country encompasses the Ranger and Jabiluka Mineral Leases, the mining town of Jabiru and parts of Kakadu National Park. This is confirmed by bininj (Aboriginal) law and by balanda (non-Aboriginal) law under the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976.
The enclave boundaries of the Jabiluka and Ranger Mineral Leases are not recognised under bininj law. The mineral leases do not concur with any “borders” established by the Mirrar or other bininj. This has been reiterated in recent discussion between senior bininj at a meeting held in Kakadu where it was stated:
lot of argument is caused by balanda making lines on maps to show how Aboriginal
land ownership is represented. It isn’t like that...Arguments are forced
on us when we are forced to make decisions in the interest of some group
of balanda or government...we are continually forced and harassed until
they get what they want.”
(minutes, Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, 15/9/98)
Mirrar are the only clan group with ultimate rights and obligations to the land within the Jabiluka excision. Other clan groups are affected by the area and the Mirrar owe responsibilities to these groups.
The Mirrar and other bininj have dreaming tracks which traverse country. These dreaming tracks cross both the Jabiluka and Ranger Mineral Leases and the World Heritage Area. These spiritual connections to country should only be described by particular Traditional Owners and Custodians to particular people at particular times.
The Mirrar and other bininj have many sacred sites all over country. These sacred sites exist within the Jabiluka and Ranger Mineral Leases and are interconnected with the spiritual and cultural significance of the entire Mirrar estate and other bininj country, including the World Heritage Area. Again, these spiritual connections to country should only be described by particular Traditional Owners and Custodians to particular people at particular times.
There are many sacred sites which are not afforded “protection” by the mining company of Government.. One that has been publicly identified by the Traditional Owners and Custodians is the Boywek-Almudj Sacred Site Complex which is very close to the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine. There are many other sites on the Jabiluka excision which have not been identified by bininj for a range of cultural reasons. Some of these sites are at present being directly and severely impacted upon by the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine.
Mirrar and other bininj have traditionally hunted, gathered, held ceremonies,
lived and died at places all over the Mirrar estate, including the Jabiluka
Mineral Lease. Balanda scientists have “proved” this by discovering ancient
remains and rock art all over Mirrar country, including the Jabiluka Mineral
Lease. The Australian
Government believed one of the archaeological sites inside the Jabiluka Mineral Lease (Malakananja II) to be so important that it specifically referred to it when seeking inscription of Kakadu National Park on the World Heritage List.
The Mirrar and other bininj believe that culturally significant sites will be damaged by the construction of the Jabiluka uranium mine. Damage to these spiritual sites not only destroys living tradition from a balanda anthropological viewpoint - the Mirrar believe that damage to these sites will have actual cataclysmic consequences.
Mirrar are less likely to go to the area of the Jabiluka Mineral Lease because it is country which has been taken from them and damaged in a way which makes the country dangerous.
The Mirrar believe that mining activity on the Jabiluka Mineral Lease presents a genocidal danger to their living tradition. The Mirrar base this belief on their knowledge of land and culture inherited from ancestors since time immemorial and from their experiences of the Ranger uranium mine over the past twenty years.
The Mirrar believe that their living tradition has sustained an extreme attack as a result of the process by which industrial development has taken place. This attack lies in the refusal by the Australian government to recognise fundamental Mirrar rights to land and the exercise of those rights by the Mirrar.
The Jabiluka uranium mine project will bring more balanda to the region and entrench the power of balanda organisations and systems in the region. It is the opinion of the Mirrar that balanda cultural, economic and political systems destroy bininj living tradition. Further, the Mirrar believe there is a cumulative impact of the Jabiluka mine proceeding at the same time as the Ranger operations.
This loss of cultural significance impacts negatively on all aspects of Mirrar living tradition, including food collection, ceremony, customary law, spiritual connection and socio-political systems.
The Mirrar and other bininj recognise that the practice of living tradition is declining at a disturbing rate. There are many social problems associated with a decline in living tradition - including alcoholism, community violence, chronic health problems, disinterest in education, structural poverty and collective despair and hopelessness. These social, economic and political problems impose further constraints on Mirrar and other bininj exercising their living tradition and have served to create a dangerous cycle of cultural decline.
Mirrar and other bininj have been identifying the dangers to living tradition
since first contact with balanda. The Mirrar believe that nearly all these
dangers to living tradition are products of the failure of the balanda
world to recognise bininj law and jurisdiction. They include government
practices such as stealing children and
ignoring established political systems; church practices such as preventing the observance of traditional religions and customary law; and individual actions such as rape, murder and enslavement.
However in recent times the Mirrar and other bininj have identified one particular balanda activity as the primary source of danger to living tradition in Kakadu - mining.
Mirrar do not argue that mining alone is impacting on living tradition
- the Mirrar argue that mining and its associated social, economic and
political impacts are the single greatest impact and that an additional
mine will push bininj culture past the point of cultural exhaustion to