Senate committee report re Muckaty

Senate – Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
National Radioactive Waste Management Bill [Provisions]

3.117 A major area of contention in the present inquiry, and in the inquiry by the ECA committee in 2008, is the extent to which all relevant traditional owners have been consulted over the nomination of Muckaty Station as a potential site for the waste facility. This issue also goes to the question of whether the consent to the Muckaty Station nomination was granted by traditional owners with the relevant authority to make decisions affecting, or to ‘speak for’, the land in question. The committee acknowledges the importance of these questions, and notes that the inquiry provided an opportunity for all stakeholders to put forward their views on these issues.

3.118 Despite this, the evidence received by the inquiry was not sufficient to allow the committee to reach a conclusion on these matters, which, fundamentally, must be determined by information which the committee does not have access to or is not competent to assess. In particular, the committee did not have access to the deed of agreement relating to the Muckaty Station nomination, or to anthropological reports relating to the question of traditional ownership of that country.

3.119 Further, the committee does not consider that it is its role to determine whether the consultative processes around the Muckaty Station nomination were adequate or whether the approval of traditional land owners has been adequately sought according to legal and traditional requirements. These disputes revolve around issues to do with Indigenous cultural practice and its interaction with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The committee believes that ultimately these matters must be resolved in a legal forum or through a mechanism that is competent to resolve such disputes between groups of traditional owners.

(emphasis added – songlines)