Australia’s Northern Territory has a rich history of resistance and collective action. This overview provides snapshots of some of the campaigns that had an impact. Of course, there are many more. If you would like to contribute a case study contact the Commons librarians.
This resource is made possible by support from the Alf & Meg Steel Fund of the Australian Communities Foundation.
Campaign Case Studies
Gurindji Workers and Land Rights – Wave Hill Walk Off, 1960s
- Gurindji Land Rights Struggle: Case study & training guide
In August 1966, Aboriginal pastoral workers walked off the job on the vast Vesteys cattle station at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, sparking the Aboriginal land rights movement. A summary of the campaign case study is included along with a process for use in training workshops.
- Wave Hill Walk Off — 50 Year Anniversary – Documentary (2016, 8min)
In 1966 Gurindji elders walked off Wave Hill cattle station to demand workers rights and ultimately win land rights. 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk Off, with thousands celebrating the historic campaign which brought together members of the land rights and union movements.
- Australian Aboriginal workers strike for fair wages and equality, 1946-1949
- Land Rights Movement in the Northern Territory – Yirrkala Bark Petitions and Wave Hill Walk Off, AIATSIS
Pine Gap Peace Protests, 1980s and Ongoing
Excerpt from Blockades that Changed Australia:
From November 11th 1983 onwards 800 women camped outside the US run military base at Pine Gap, which is used to spy on Australian and overseas communications as well as target nuclear and other weapons. Over a period of two weeks numerous activities in favour of peace and Aboriginal land rights were held including a march to the base with Traditional Owners, site invasions, street theatre, balloon releases, workshops, solidarity protests at the Alice Springs courthouse, graffiti and de-fencing. The 111 women arrested for entering the site all gave the name Karen Silkwood, an American union activist who survived plutonium contamination only to die under suspicious circumstances in 1974 while delivering documents exposing lapses in nuclear safety at her workplace.
The protest was successful in drawing attention to the base’s then largely hidden role in the US war fighting machine and in showing solidarity with women’s peace camps at Greenham Common in the UK and Cosimo in Italy. It was also part of a broader campaign which invigorated and brought together feminist peace groups from around Australia under the banner of Women For Survival. Branches and affiliates were regularly involved in local actions against nuclear warships, national conferences and regional actions at the Salisbury Defence Centre, Cockburn Sound naval base, Lucas Heights nuclear reactor and Roxy Downs uranium mine.
- Hundreds attend Pine Gap ‘Women’s Peace Camp’ in 1983, ABC News, 2017 (Video)
- ‘Women act to close the Gap’, Tribune, 9 Nov 1983 (Newspaper article)
- Prophetic Witness Against the War Machine [The Peace Pilgrims and Pine Gap]. 2020, (Article)
- ‘Minding the Gap’, Arena Magazine No. 149, Felicity Ruby, 2017 (Magazine article)
- Why do protests keep happening at the Australian-US Defence facility Pine Gap near Alice Springs? ABC News, 2023
- Protesters block Pine Gap road over Middle East war, Alice Springs News, 2023
Kakadu National Park, Jabiluka Mine – Campaign to stop Uranium Mine, 1998
The Mirarr people have fought to protect our country and people from uranium mining for many years. Now we are defending our country against the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine. We invite you to come to our country to join our struggle to uphold the cultural and environmental values of Kakadu – Mirarr Clan, March 1998
Excerpt from Blockades that Changed Australia:
This message from the Mirarr called on people to join a huge blockade which began on 23rd March 1998, eventually bringing more than 5000 to Kakadu to engage in non-violent direct action. Following years of protest and court proceedings, the blockade provided a focus for action acknowledging the Mirrar’s sovereignty over the area and their opposition to the construction of a uranium mine on their land. Months of protest, both at the construction site and in cities and towns across Australia, followed. Delayed in completing work and opening the mine due to the Mirrar people’s implacable campaigning the mine’s owner Rio Tinto eventually caved in, officially recognizing and admitting in 2002 that it could not be built with the consent of traditional owners.
- The Jabiluka Blockade – 22 years on
Do you know about one of Australia’s most effective anti-nuclear blockades? The Jabiluka blockade in 1998 stopped the Ranger Uranium Mine in Australia. This article includes the campaign timeline and many further resources.
- Jabiluka Fight for Country
In 2005 the Mirarr succeeded in halting the development of the proposed Jabiluka mine. It was the culmination of an extraordinary decade-long campaign which saw people across Australia and the world stand up and support Mirarr in their opposition to uranium mining on their land.
- Stop Jabiluka Mine Handbook
This handbook gives a fascinating insight into an important part of Australian social movement history as well as an overview of the kinds of issues to consider when organising a large-scale direct action convergence. Over 500 people were arrested in the course of an eight-month blockade at Jabiluka in 1998.
- Fight for Country – Documentary
Fight for Country follows the Mirrar’s historic campaign for land rights in Kakadu. In 1998 they established one of the biggest blockade camps in our history with over 5,000 people joining them over eight months to stop the construction of the Jabiluka uranium mine. Pip Starr’s doco follows the actions at Jabiluka and charts the growth of the movement across Australia and worldwide in support of the Mirarr people. This film gives us a glimpse inside the blockade camp and includes a banging homegrown soundtrack.
- Uranium mining in Kakadu National Park, Australia
The injustice of uranium mining in Kakadu National Park is not the only one in Australia against aboriginal communities. By 2019, the Ranger uranium mine is facing enormous rehabilitation costs.
Anti-gas and Fracking Campaigns, 2018 – Ongoing
- Water is life: A documentary about our fight to protect country from fracking in the NT , 2018, 25min)
Seed Mob’s excellent film about Aboriginal community resistance to fracking in the NT. Features interviews with mob in the NT and First Nations activists standing up against fracking in the US.
- Protect Country Alliance
The Protect Country Alliance brings together impacted landholders, communities, and civil society groups concerned about gas fracking proposals or projects in the Northern Territory.
- Arid Lands Environment Centre
Beetaloo Basin and Middle Arm
- NT doctors and parents protest against Beetaloo fracking and Middle Arm Project at Parliament House, ABC, 2023
- Explained: Middle Arm Industrial Precinct – a climate disaster in the making, Australian Conservation Foundation, 2023
- The Beetaloo Sub-basin: Communities and environment under threat, Protect Country Alliance
- In a win for Traditional Owners, Origin is walking away from the Beetaloo Basin. But the fight against fracking is not over, The Conversation, 2022
Timor Sea – Anti-Oil and Gas
It doesn’t matter to them if something goes wrong. But that’s my country and they have no right to be making choices and decisions about it like that. Marie Munkara, Traditional Owner of Cape Fourcroy, Tiwi Islands
The Barossa offshore gas projects seeks to exploit a gas field in the Timor Sea to supply the Darwin LNG onshore terminal for 20 more years after the Bayu-Undan field is exhausted in the 2020s. Dangalaba and Larrakia people were not consulted and then sued Santos defending their traditional territory. Climate justice organisations oppose the project as the most carbon-intensive gas field in Australia.
Australia is the largest exporter of LNG in the world, narrowly followed by Qatar. This position is sustained thanks to the unwavering support of the Australian government policies and a resource-hungry national gas industry. Santos is the largest gas supplier company in Australia, and they enjoy governmental favour thanks to their effective lobbying activities and a revolving door between the political world and the company boards. Santos operations are opposed by the environmental justice movement across Australia as they disrespect local and indigenous communities, biodiversity and the climate.
- The Stop Barossa Gas campaign
A collaboration between the Environment Centre NT, Jubilee Australia Research Centre, Solutions for Our Climate (KO) and Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society.
- Montara Oil Spill, Australia
The Montara Oil Spill in Timor Sea highlighted the controversies of fossil fuel extraction and legislative weaknesses in Australia dealing with complex transboundary issues. Indonesian seaweed farmers embark on class action law suit to claim for damages.
Other Cultural Heritage and Anti-Mining & Development Campaigns
McArthur River – Anti-Mining Campaign
- The story of environmental justice and access to land for Borroloola community, Jodie Pall, Sydney Environment Institute, 2018
- McArthur River Mine (MRM) Campaign and Timeline, Environment Centre NT
Lee Point – Binybara Campaign
- Save Lee Point
- The Save Lee Point – Binybara campaign has united people right across Australia, Environmental Justice Australia
- Endangered Gouldian finch returns to Lee Point, prompting campaign to stop Defence Housing Australia development
Uluru – Handback and Protection
- Uluru Handed Back to Anangu People, Deadly Story
- Handback of Uluru to the Anangu people, National Museum of Australia, 1985
- Anangu Aboriginals stopped tourism expansion and the climb to the top of Uluru rock, Australia, Environmental Justice Atlas
Water Justice – Drinking Water
- Water Justice For Ali Curung Community
- Remote NT Community wins legal battle for safe drinking water, National Indigenous Radio Service, 2023
- What’s wrong with our water laws in the NT, Arid Lands Environment Centre, 2022
- Northern Territory Drinking Water Report 2003-2022, Friends of the Earth, 2022
- Meet the grandmas of the Central Desert, saving one child at a time
- Meet the First Nations Grandmothers Creating Brighter Futures for Indigenous Youth
- In my blood it runs, Documentary by Maya Newell
- Campaigns that changed South Australia
- Campaigns that changed Tasmania
- Campaigns that changed Western Australia
- Campaigns that Changed Australia (Commons Project)
- Movements_Campaigns - Anti nuclear_Uranium
- Movements_Campaigns - Anti nuclear_Uranium - Jabiluka, Northern Territory
- Movements_Campaigns - Indigenous Peoples_First Nations rights
- Movements_Campaigns - Northern Territory
- Movements_Campaigns - Peace