With the Australian Federal Supreme Court preparing to hear a case on the legality of the McArthur River mine expansion and river diversion plan, a group of 50 men, women and children boarded a bus in Boroloola and traveled nearly 1000 kilometers to Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory.

They went to observe the court proceedings and pray, sing and dance in front of the Parliament Building. When they first arrived they burnt eucalyptus leaves and moved around the area smudging the buildings out of respect for an elder who had recently passed away. The smoke billowed around the group purifying all of the places where the elder had been during his last visit.

Australia’s booming economy depends in large part on resource extraction, and the powerful mining industry flaunts its economic and political clout with the current federal and Northern Territory governments. In April 2007, the Aboriginal people of Boroloola won a court case charging that the McArthur River Mine (MRM) permits were illegally issued by the NT government. The Territory Parliament then hurriedly passed a new law within a week that overturned the court ruling and allowed the mine to continue operating.

Barbara McCarthy, an indigenous member of the NT Parliament representing Arnhem Land, opposed the hasty legislation. She told me, “We did everything possible in the legal system and when we won the goal posts were moved again. It’s wrong. I’m sorry — it’s wrong.”

Women Dance at Parliament.The community awaits a decision by the Supreme Court while MRM is continuing with the diversion of the river. A finding in favor of the plaintiffs will mean that Xstrata (the parent company of MRM) will not be able to proceed with the mine expansion plan and the diversion of the river. An independent monitor was recently assigned to review all environmental assessments of the mine and to evaluate the impact of the diversion. However, the monitor will be paid by Xstrata, diminishing its “independence” from the viewpoint of the Borroloola community members.

One remarkable and odd thing about our visit in Darwin was that the regional newspaper, The Northern Territory News, rather than running a story on the Aboriginal delegation protesting the mine expansion, ran a story about our film crew documenting the Aboriginal story.

This video was produced by the Sacred Land Film Project, http://SacredLand.org, a project of Earth Island Institute. To deepen public understanding of sacred places, indigenous cultures and environmental justice, the Film Project produces a variety of media and educational materials—films, videos, DVDs, articles, photographs, school curricula and other materials. The Sacred Land Film Project uses journalism, organizing and activism to rekindle reverence for land, increase respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue about connections between nature and culture, and protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices.

Its latest project, Standing on Sacred Ground, http://StandingOnSacredGround.org, is a four-part series that chronicles indigenous people in eight communities around the world standing up for their traditional sacred lands in defense of cultural survival, human rights and the environment. Watch them stand against industrial mega-projects, consumer culture, resource extraction, competing religions, tourists and climate change.

If you enjoyed this clip, please consider supporting our ongoing work by visiting http://StandingOnSacredGround.org/ and clicking Donate.