There is no doubt that talking about country on country empowers First Peoples. It has not been clear that this would happen in the Muckaty Federal Court Case. Giving evidence about country in Darwin introduces a host of complicating factors, since First Peoples are on other peoples country.
When I enquired about this previously I was informed that the lawyers, Maurice Blackburn, were waiting for the anthropological report. That report has now been filed with the Federal Court.
The Federal Court sitting to take evidence in advance, from people who may not be able to give evidence at a later date, is set down for a week in Darwin, almost 1,000 km distant, starting 23 September.
This makes it extremely difficult for those senior people attending to properly manage their complex family affairs.
Additionally I know many of these people are extremely stretched for funds. Last time I visited Aunty Bunny in Tennant Creek, she needed, amongst several other things, some firewood. Her son-in-law had a Toyota ute – but no money for fuel. A typical situation.
A Federal Court sitting in Darwin, and not in Tennant Creek also means that many other local First Peoples cannot witness what is being said about who has rights in country. This is an important aspect of communal life for First Peoples in this area.
As it is, the odds have been greatly stacked against these First Peoples by Commonwealth Governments determined to implement their plan to use First Peoples country as a radioactive storage facility.
Concerned that Warlmanpa people opposing the proposed radioactive storage facility would have to travel to Darwin I asked their legal representatives, Maurice Blackburn lawyers, for some clarification.
1. Has your anthropologist recommended that evidence be taken on country and/or at Tennant Creek?
Our anthropologists recommend that evidence about country be taken on country.
2 if so, What has been the Court’s response?
We anticipate that part of the trial, which has been listed to start on 2 June 2014, will take place at Muckaty so evidence can be given on country.
3 If not, does the Court provide funds or other assistance for Warlmanpa people to travel and have food and culturally secure accommodation in Darwin in September?
Given that the case has now been set down for trial, we are pressing for early, preservation evidence to be taken from just two witnesses in Darwin in September, with the rest of the evidence to be given at the trial.
4 Will the NLC or other official body be providing travel, accommodation and sustenance assistance for the applicants to be able to attend Court in Darwin?
The Attorney General’s department has provided some funding for expenses.
Thanks to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers for these answers.