Nagasaki Day 2008 – "Jabiluka Ploughshares Disable Uranium Mining Equipment – 10 Years on!"

by Ciaron O’Reilly

Walking through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, after the Paul Kelly’s gig last night, I thought I should write this reflection.

It was strange to be in a packed Dublin gig of sentimental swaying Aussies 12,000 miles from home, having been raised in a family home of Irish sentimentality in Brisbane, Australia. My father left County Offaly as a teeneager to score work in London in ’46 and then on to Australia on assisted passage in ’49, intending to spend a couple of years and have a look around. He did not return to his home village Clara for 26 years, made possible by the windfall of a success in the Football Pools with his fellow Everton Park posties in ’75. It was the first time he met his youngest sister born after his departure and now pregnant with her first child.

My dad never really integrated into mainstream Australia – bursting into song in public places, treating Brsbane as one big Irish village welcoming strangers as friends he hadn’t met and getting us kids to sleep by telling us bedtime stories of his mystical faraway village. His rebel songs put us firmly on the side of the Indians while we watched Westerns on Saturday afternoon tv, made us sympathetic to the aborigines which we caught the occasional glimpse of as we trundled to school through the Fortitude Valley red light district and suspicious of cops. My father had his nose broken by the cops in the ’50’s (“I was talkin’, when I shoulda been listenin!”), my older brother had his nose broken in the ’70’s (a case of mistaken identity as Consorting Squad Detective John Frederich Johnson who had bashed me months earlier in a previous street march thought he was in a mismatch rematch). I was relieved to get out of the ’90’s with my schnozel still intact. I had sensed a pattern forming!

The street and society I grew up in felt sterile and foreign to the spirituality and home I was fashioned in – devoid of spirituality, welcome and mysticism. The virgin bushland, part of the Ennogera Army Barracks at the end of the street, where we played was sensory overload – the reptiles, the loud strange bush noises, the heat. What was unfolding in Derry and Belfst in my teenage years was much more significant in our home than what was going down in Saigon and Long Tan where the soldier boys from over the back fence were headed. Today the soldier boys, from over the back, deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. Years before they killed and died at Gallipoli, from where the Barracks gets its name.

What Paul Kelly does in lyric and song is to wring the spiritality and pathos from this strange land and the culturally displaced lives lived in it. Among other snippets, we hear of children pretending to be asleep so to eariwg on parents intimate conversations, long bus trips to mend broken marriages, revenge fantasies on being dumped, and Aussies who have stayed abroad too long. Kely’s people came from County Clare in the 1850’s renaming the place they farmed in Victoria after their abandoned County.


Ten years ago today, we headed up a bush track created by Energy Resources Australia (ERA) into the Jabiluka Mine lease, located in the sparsely populated Northen Territory of Austraia. to disable uranium mining equipment.

Like today, it was the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki. We had been partly inspired by the life and conversion of Fr. George Zabelka the Catholic chaplain to the bomb crew that had pulverised Nagasaki on Augist 9th. 1945, this the oldest Catholic centre in Aisa. The predominantly Catholic bomb crew had used the Nagasaki Catholic cathedral as thei ground zero target.

Fr. George Zabelka’s slow awakening to his complicity in this historic crime, his growing awareness of its roots in the Constantine shift when the church abandoned is pacifism in the 3rd. century and his two year walk of repentance from the Trident nuclear base at Bangor, Washington, USA to Bethlehem inspired us. Our walk into Jabiluka was a contnuation of his walk in the light and the truth. It was a walk into risk responding to the cries of past, present and future victims of uranium mining.

We were careful to follow the ERA track as we had no guide to avoid trespassing on sacred aboriginal sites. It was the same track that weeks earlier, along with scores of protestors, we had blockaded the early morning shift change at the mine. That early morning blockade was high risk as some enraged miners tried to run us down with their trucks, on arrival the Northern Territory cops came in swinging and throwing blockaders off the track into the bush. The scenes are covered well in the unauthorised documentary “Minds and Energy”. I remember striding furiously down the track with the windscreen wiper in hand of a miner’s truck which tried to run us down. My fury is covered well in the same film as I unleash a speech about the little known (by the then movement and public) Depleted Uranium munitions that had been used extensively in Iraq ’91. One million rounds unleashed from U.S. A10 Warthogs and 11,000 7lb D.U. shells from U.S. tanks in those short two months. D.U. had left battlefields in Iraq poisoned for years to come, these rounds and shells continue to kill Iraqis ans U.S. military veterans to this day. Since then, D.U. has been used extensively by the U.S. military in Serbia and Afghanistan. The cutting edge of the Australian anti-uranium movement was largely ignorant of this munition at Jabiluka in ’98 – 7 years after its initial use.

As primarily anti-war focussed activists, we had been a(n initially celebrated) minority at the large blockade camp 10 miles from the lease. Most of those who mustered for direct nonviolent resistance were young white environmentalists outraged that a second uranium mine in opening in a pristine wilderness World Heritage listed National Park. There were also small numbers of indigenous people willing to confront the mine. The small Mirrar tribe had been browbeaten in the late ’70’s by the federal government and the Uncle Toms of the Northern Land Council to relent and let the huge open cut Ranger Mine go forward. They were taking a courageous stand against further desecration of their ancestral homeland by the new Jabiluka mine. Their elder was arrested and incarcerated in Darwin for her resistance.

Previously, the Hawke Labor Government of the ’80’s had failed with its cynical attempt to brand Jabiluka as “North Ranger” to facilitate its opening under its Labor’s “three mine policy”. In ’77 the Labor Party ran an election campaign on banning all uranium mining in Australia. On gaining office under the leadership of Bon Hawke in ’83 they sold out immediately. Initial work on Roxby Downs/South Australia, the largest uranium deposit in the world, continued before the A.L.P. convened to change its policy. The three mine policy adopted was their attempted compromise with the huge anti-uranium movement of the late ’70’s and ’80’s.

Many courageous people put themselves on the line at Jabiluka in ’98. Eco warriors had stopped trucks moving equipment into the site by locking onto their undercarriages. Others explored “black wallaby” actions breaking into the site and locking on to equipment. Many were arretsed and roughed up whille blockading and trespassing. They were hit with multiple hyped up charges – locking on became “car theft” according to the NT cops. There was a broken leg, a broken collar bone and various concussions. One black wallaby affiniity group were placed in a police van, the cops then retreated from the vehicle while the miners conducted a controlled explosion. I wonder if those folks still have Jabiluka ringing in their ears today? Others who were locked on had their hats removed and water poured out by the cops so they would slowly burn and dehydrate.

By Nagasaki Day, the blockade camp was depressed and defeated not by the cops and the state but by the NGO bureaucrats and aspiring movement politicians. With a Federal election looming, the orders came from Labor Party apparachics to deflate the blockade, sideline the issue to – they believed – increase their election chances. The direction was for the nonviolent direct actionists to stand down and make the long journey home. They had served their cannon fodder role to attract initial media attention for the hi drama/low risk taking movement bureaucrats. A deal was made between the blockade leadership and the cops, the old chestnut of white sycophancy wheeled to enforce it and paralyse the resistance.

The deal was the police would be given prior knowledge of all protests, there would be no incursions into the mine site, climaxing on the eve of that year’s federal election with the police facilitating movement bureaucrats entry into the Jabiru police station to order 100 people to cease noncoperation, admit they all really weren’t “John Howard”, give their names and accept bail. Their submission was much to the relief of the prison staff in Darwin where I was by then located who were anxious about this prospective influx into their system and where they were going to put them! A handful of us had already been already a moving and a shaking in the NT jails system drawing attention to the terrible conditions and managing a few reforms.

Anyways, the deal facilitated an easy entry for the Jabiluka Ploughshares into the mine site on the night of the Nagasaki ’98 anniversary.. The security was lax, they must have felt their task subcontracted out. Convinced that the movement was policing itself and seemed to be on a long coffee break that night. We cut through the cyclone fence and made our way to a huge excavator, we lifted the lid and cut the internal cables, we spraypainted “Nagasaki”, “Hiroshima”, “Chernobyl” and a town in Iraq that had been poisoned by uranium. We climbed on top of the huge excavator, broke the glass of the driver’s cabin reached through and hammered away on the ignition. Uranium mining excavator disabled, we sat in prayer in this beautiful bush night.

Labor lost the election, we went to Darwin’s Berrimah Jail, then to court, then to jail again, we were slandered by movement bureaucrats One woman spent a chunk of her PhD slamming us without bothering to interview with us – the low quality of research standards in Australian academe I guess! Time moved on for those who had gathered at Jabiluka some gave up the struggle, some continue, some folks took their lives…apher, others took office to administer today’s Austrlian Labor Government’s uranium mining and export policy that looks something like an international car boot sale with the ethics of a smack dealer “if we don’t sell it someone else will!”

Over 30 years ago (’77), my brother and I headed down to Brisbane’s Hamilton Wharves to blockade a uranium shipment. The consequences of that night, besides the short term aches and pains, were the suspension of civil liberties in the state of Queensland for several years resulting of 3,000+ arrests for exercising free speech, multiple house raids, harassment, frameups, blacklisting and consequent immigration and a police force so corrupt they were discovered running child pornography cottage industry from their Juvenile Aid Department. This child porn/ cop connection brought them undone, it was a bridge to far. It initiated a chain of events that exposed “The Joke”, launching the “Fitzgerald Inquiry into Police Corruption” which saw the Police Commissioner was sentenced to 14 years and five government ministers also jailed.

Relevant to note where that uranium shipment was bound from Brisbane wharves that ’77 night. It was bound to Iran where the U.S. was supporting an aggressive nuclear energy program under their despotic Shah. Ironic that we now stand on the precipice of a nuclear strike on Iran on the basis of Iran’s nuclear program we once noruished with Australi an uranium. Governments, despots, Shahs and clients don’t last forever – nuclear material pretty much does! Do your best to keep it in the ground.

Don’t get fooled again!
Swords into Plowshares!

As Paul Kelly and an old comrade from the Joh daze (it built character) aboiginal elder Kev Carmody remind us

“From Little Things Big Things Grow!”;_ylt=A1f4cfN3X51I._cA…rd=r1…S.htm

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