Secret anthropology reports, masks of respectability – the NLC and the uranium industry, Muckaty

According to one newspaper report i was reading regarding the consent of some of the traditional owners of Muckaty (NT) the Northern Land Council (long in the pocket of the uranium industry) is relying on an anthropological reports to support their position vis-a-vis a possible radioactive dump at Muchaty:
“Ron Levy, the NLC’s senior legal counsel, insisted there was overwhelming support for the dump from Ngapa people with the authority to make decisions regarding the land, based on the still-secret findings of three NLC-employed anthropologists.”
In the (unproofed) transcript the recent sitting in Darwin of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, i was surprised to read:
Senator LUDLAM—It sounds to me as though a number of different people and different groups have obligations that are around that area and on that area. The Northern Land Council has a legal obligation to talk to not just one group of people but to talk to a range of people. Unfortunately we have not seen the agreement that was signed because it was secret, and we have not seen the anthropological study that was done because that is secret as well.
And in a letter read to the Senate Inquiry from First Peoples with afflialiations with the Muckaty area:
“Any land claim under the Northern Territory lands act is commonly owned and is freehold. How, then, was it possible to sell part of our claim? Who was consulted? Who sold the land and who bought it?  How much money changed hands and who were the beneficiaries? We never heard that a land claim can be lodged by one single family group, like the Ngapas have done. Our traditional country holds many  different dreamings. We inherited countries through father and mother. These are known as kirta kurtungurlu family relationships among our people. We are demanding to see the anthropologists’ evidence provided to the Northern Land Council regarding Ngapa clan.” (emphasis added – BR)

MAJOR 21st CENTURY ETHICAL PROBLEM?

STATEMENTS ON ETHICS
Principles of Professional Responsibility
Adopted by the Council of the American Anthropological Association
May 1971
(As amended through November 1986)
2. Responsibility to the public
Anthropologists are also responsible to the public–all presumed consumers of their professional efforts. To them they owe a commitment to candor and to truth in the dissemination of their research results and in the statement of their opinions as students of humanity.
a. Anthropologists should not communicate findings secretly to some and withhold them from others.
g. In accordance with the Association’s general position on clandestine and secret research, no reports should be provided to sponsors that are not also available to the general public and, where practicable, to the population studied.

Which raises the question – how does the situation at Muckaty relate to any code of ethics for professional anthroplogists in Australia, especially in light of the worldwide push to generate more private profits for those in the uranium industry?

This needs to be sorted out before the next move by the uranium industry – to store used radioactive waste from uranium mined in Australia and sold overseas.

See also http://www.aas.asn.au/docs/AAS_Code_of_Ethics.pdf

Bruce Reyburn
22 April 2010