Walking for country in WA

This year we spent a month walking in solidarity with traditional owners on Wangkatja country on the Walkatjurra Walkabout – Walking for Country. The Walkabout is a one month walk from Wiluna to Leonora, roughly 1000km north east of Fremantle/Walyalup.

The walk is in partnership with the Local Community, FootPrints for Peace Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA), the Anti Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia (ANAWA) and the Conservation Council of Western Australia. It is part of a 40 year campaign, led by staunch Aboriginal leaders, and supported by allies, that has kept WA uranium free for decades and safeguarded many sacred sites.

“While this walk is a valuable personal experience, it is also an action that plays an important role in the broader environmental and Aboriginal sovereignty movements. It is a partnership to share knowledge, culture and environmental awareness in a campaign supporting the sovereign rights of Aboriginal people to protect their lands and support a nuclear free future.”

We are deeply grateful to Aunty Shirley and Lizzie Wonyabong and Vicky Abdhullah for inviting us to join them on country and for the lessons we learned in understanding culture, country and becoming better allies.

Photos, video and words by Eloise.

Time wise we’re about half way through, but distance wise we’ve got many more ks to put under our feet.

The numbers on the walk fluctuate as friends come and go, and tonight it feels like a small family after having over fifty mouths to feed for lunch and dinner this last week. We’ve had tiny children running around the legs of old walkers and young, talent shows and fireside theatre with handmade instruments and makeshift stages.

Every camp site is different – we’ve camped in plains of spinnifex, amongst scrub and gnarled desert trees, beside sacred sites, and in dry sandy river beds. The desert is diverse and full of beauty for those that slow down enough to see and hear it.

Today’s camp has rare phone reception, and as I rest after a long hot walking day I listen to people phoning home. I call my housemate and tell them about the walk. It’s beautiful but hard, and there’s a part of me that is aching to go back home to the city – to housemates, friends, internet, food, music, hot showers and convenience. Back to the comfort bubble.

We’ve been so privileged on the walk to sit round the fire with the elders and traditional owners whose land we’re walking on, to hear their stories, and to share meals together. Today we walked through country where tonnes of core samples for lithium had been mined without consent from the traditional owners, and left abandoned in plastic bags on the hillside.

As massive road trains roar past camp, splitting the silence of the desert, I reflect on my attitude toward the walk. We all have our own stories, struggles and successes to tell of walking on country, but this walk is not about missing hot showers and an internet connection. It’s uncomfortable being out of the bubble, but that’s nothing compared to the reality of what the communities out here are fighting.

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