Customs House, Manuwangku: Under a Nuclear Cloud

Jagath Deerasekara
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In 2005, the Australian government named three Department of Defence areas in the Northern Territory (NT) as potential sites for the first purpose built national radioactive waste facility. The then Minister for Education, Science and Training Dr Brendan John Nelson remarked, “Why on earth can’t people in the middle of nowhere have low-level and intermediate-level waste?” In 2007, the Northern Land Council contentiously nominated Muckaty, 120km north of Tennant Creek, as another site to be assessed for a nuclear waste dump. In exchange, some Muckaty Traditional Owners were offered funding for essential services and infrastructure such as education, housing and roads. Called Manuwangku by Traditional Owners, it remains the only site under assessment by the federal government.

For Warlmanpa Traditional Owners, this place is far from ‘middle of nowhere’. They maintain a deep spiritual and cultural connection to the area. Supported by people across the NT and country, the community has maintained protest actions to defend their right to live in a clean and safe environment, free of hazardous waste.

“Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud” is a photographic narrative of the spirit, the connection to land and the collective voice of the community. It is a testimony of resilience in the face of an overwhelming conflict and captures the determination of people bound together through a common struggle to keep their traditional land free from nuclear waste.

Photographer Jagath Dheerasekara who moved to Australia in 2008, received the Amnesty International Human Rights Innovation Fund Grant Award in 2010 to capture this compelling photo series, Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud.  

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