Muckaty station legal challenge set down for Trial amid concerns about health of key witnesses

26 August 2013
The Federal Court has today made orders for a Trial to start in June 2014 over a proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory.

A group of Traditional Owners, including nationally renowned Aboriginal elder Lorna Fejo allege that the Federal Government's nomination of the land for Australia's first national nuclear waste dump is invalid. 

They say the Northern Land Council (NLC) wrongly, and in breach of its duties, did not properly identify the traditional Aboriginal owners of, and the people holding an interest in, the nominated land; did not consult adequately; and did not get proper consent before recommending the site. 

Maurice Blackburn's social justice practice began the legal challenge and has filed expert anthropological evidence to support the case.

Brooke Dellavedova, principal at the firm said the setting down of a Trial date means there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Traditional Owners who have been fighting the dump for over six years.

"Many Aboriginal people with important connections to this land were either not consulted, or their opposition was ignored. We are encouraged by this latest step in the legal process.

Justice North granted leave to the applicants to amend their statement of claim to include information uncovered in recordings of meetings provided by the NLC.

Justice North has also requested further evidence about the health of two important witnesses, to determine whether their evidence should be taken in September.  A further hearing to determine steps leading up to Trial will take place early next year.

In 2007, the Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty as a proposed site for the deposit of radioactive materials under the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005. 

Legal proceedings against the Federal Government and the NLC were commenced in June 2010.  Ron Merkel QC is appearing for the Traditional Owners.