Archive for the ‘aboriginal issues’ Category

Australia’s Aboriginal people stopped a huge uranium mining project

July 18, 2019

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine, Red Flag Fleur Taylor, 15 July 2019  “…… The election of John Howard in March 1996 marked the end of 13 years of ALP government…..

Australia’s giant mining companies – major backers of the Coalition – got their wish list. Howard immediately abolished Labor’s three mines policy, and the business pages crowed that “25 new uranium mines” were likely and possible. And in October 1997, then environment minister Robert Hill blew the dust off an environmental impact statement from 1979 that said mining at Jabiluka was safe. Approval of the mine quickly followed.

The Jabiluka uranium deposit, just 20 kilometres from the Ranger uranium mine, is one of the richest in the world. The proposal was to build a massively bigger mine than that at Ranger, which would be underground and therefore more dangerous for the workers. It was projected to produce 19 million tonnes of ore over its lifetime, which would be trucked 22 kilometres through World Heritage listed wetlands.

The Liberals hoped to make a point. After all, if you could put a uranium mine in the middle of a national park in the face of Aboriginal opposition, what couldn’t you do?

The fight immediately began. The traditional owners of the area, the Mirarr, were led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula and the CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jacqui Katona. They were supported by anti-nuclear campaigners around the country, most notably Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, as well as a network of activist groups.

The most important objective was to delay construction of the mine, scheduled to begin in 1998. To do this, the Mirarr called on activists to travel to Jabiluka in order to take part in a blockade of the proposed mine site until the onset of the wet season would make construction impossible.

The blockade was immensely successful. Beginning on 23 March 1998, it continued for eight months, attracted 5,000 protesters and led to 600 arrests at various associated direct actions. Yvonne Margarula was one: she was arrested in May for trespass on her own land after she and two other Aboriginal women entered the Ranger mine site.

The blockade also attracted high-profile environmental and anti-nuclear activists such as Peter Garrett and Bob Brown. This helped signal to activists that this was a serious fight. The sheer length of time the blockade lasted created a fantastic opportunity for the campaign in the cities. Activists were constantly returning from Jabiluka with a renewed determination to fight.

The Jabiluka Action Group was key to building an ongoing city-based campaign in Melbourne, and the campaign was strongest there of any city. It held large – often more than 100-strong – weekly meetings, organised endless relays of buses to the blockade and  took the fight to the bosses and corporations that stood to profit from the mine.

We were determined to map the networks of corporate ownership and power behind the mine. But in the late 1990s, when the internet barely existed, this wasn’t as simple as just looking up a company’s corporate structure on its glossy website. It took serious, time consuming research.

A careful tracing of the linkages of the North Ltd board members showed that they were very well connected – and not one but two of them were members and past chairmen of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) – one of Australia’s leading bosses’ organisations. So our June 1998 protest naturally headed to the Business Council of Australia. We occupied their office, and the two groups of anti-uranium protesters, 3,800 kilometres apart, exchanged messages of solidarity, courtesy of the office phones of the BCA.

We were also staggered to learn that the chairman of a company that owned two uranium mines and was Australia’s biggest exporter of hardwood woodchips was also a member of the Parks Victoria board, the national president of Greening Australia and the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board president!

The EPA, and corporate greenwashing in general, thereby became a target for the campaign. Another target was the Royal Society of Victoria, which made the mistake of inviting Sir Gus Nossal, a famous scientist and longstanding booster for the nuclear industry, to give a dinner address. We surrounded its building, and the organisers, somewhat mystified, cancelled the dinner. This action once again made headline news, helping to keep the issue of the Jabiluka mine in people’s minds.

We held regular protests at the headquarters of North Ltd on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road. On the day that Yvonne Margarula was facing court on her trespass charge, a vigil was held overnight. When we heard she had been found guilty, the protest erupted in fury. Cans of red paint – not water-based – materialised, and the corporate facade of North Ltd received an unscheduled refurbishment. The Herald-Sun went berserk.

The leadership of the Mirarr people gave this campaign a different focus from other environmental campaigns of the time. It was fundamentally about land rights, sovereignty and the right of Aboriginal communities to veto destructive developments on their land. In Melbourne, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation appointed long-time Aboriginal militant and historian Gary Foley as their representative. Gary worked tirelessly to provoke and educate the many activists who turned up wanting to “support” or “do something” for Aboriginal people.

At a time when “reconciliation” was strongly supported by liberals and much of the left, Foley told us that reconciliation was bullshit. He argued native title (supposedly a key achievement of Keating) was “the most inferior form of land title under British law”, and that the ALP was every bit as racist as One Nation – if not worse. He insisted activists must educate themselves about sovereignty and the struggles happening right here, not just those happening 3,800 kilometres away. The way the Jabiluka Action Group activists approached this challenge was an example of how people’s ideas change. Many came into the campaign primarily as environmental activists, but almost all left as committed fighters for Aboriginal rights.

**********

When the blockade wound down at the onset of the wet season, it was an opportunity to fight on some other fronts. Representatives of the UN World Heritage Committee visited Kakadu in late 1998 and issued a declaration that the World Heritage values of the area were in danger. They called on the government to stop the mine. Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona travelled to Paris to speak to the European Commission about the mine.

John Howard, at the time mired in ministerial scandals and resignations, had called an election for September 1998, and there was hope in some quarters that Labor might win and stop the mine. But Howard scraped back in on only 48.3 percent of the vote, and it was clear that the fight on the ground would have to continue.

In the meantime, an important legal loophole had been identified. North Ltd had failed to secure agreement for the Jabiluka ore to be trucked to the Ranger mine for processing. It turned out the Mirarr did have the right to refuse this, and by exercising this right they would increase the cost of the project by $200 million (the cost of building a new processing plant at Jabiluka). This, combined with the ongoing protests, became a huge problem for the company.

Something we enjoyed doing at the time was monitoring North Ltd’s share price. It started out high when the Liberals took power. But after a year of protest and controversy, it had started to sink. The slump world uranium prices were going through didn’t help. But what the share price correlated to most closely was the major protests – it showed a drop after every single one.

Fund managers everywhere had absorbed the simple message that Jabiluka meant trouble, and early in 1999 this formerly prestigious blue-chip mining stock was described as one of the year’s “dog stocks”. Encouraged by this, the campaign launched its most ambitious action to date – the four-day blockade of North Ltd, from Palm Sunday until Easter Thursday 1999. This was the beginning of the end for the mine. In mid-2000, Rio Tinto bought out the struggling North Ltd. With no appetite for a brawl, the new owners quietly mothballed the Jabiluka project, signing a guarantee with the Mirarr to that effect. The campaign had won.

**********

The Jabiluka campaign was one of those rare things – an outright victory. It was a win not just for the Mirarr people, but for every community threatened by a devastating radioactive mine. And it was a win for humanity as a whole, protected from more of this deadly substance. Our chant – “Hey, North, you’re running out of time! You’re never going to get your Jabiluka mine!” – for once came true.

The victory inspired a neighbouring traditional owner, Jeffrey Lee, single-handedly to challenge the development of the Koongarra uranium deposit, resulting in the cancellation of that entire mining lease. In Melbourne and other cities, the Mirarr resistance inspired sustained and creative campaigning from a wide variety of participants – from vegan Wiccans and revolutionary socialists to doof-doof rave organisers and corporate-philanthropist Women for Mirarr Women. The campaign was chaotic and argumentative, but united by a commitment to challenging corporate power and standing up for Aboriginal sovereignty.

It still serves as an inspiration for anti-nuclear and anti-mining campaigns, such as the brave and determined opposition of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners to the Adani mine. It stands as a great example of how blockades on country can nourish and inspire actions in the cities.  https://redflag.org.au/node/6839

 

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Australia’s one great river system being destroyed by corruption and mismanagement

January 21, 2019

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations, 21 Jan 19 MDBA Water management: “Don’t leave Dracula in charge of the Blood bank”
KEY POINTS

  1. Support for a Royal Commission
  2. Representation at the decision making table of MDBA
  3. Acknowledge Legal Rights of First Nations as determined in Mabo (2)
  4. Explain why different standards are set for First Nations’ Organisations
  5. Demand Criminal Prosecutions be an integral part of Royal Commission findings

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) Deputy Chair, Ghillar Michael Anderson and NBAN Director Cheryl Buchanan announce NBAN’s support for Sarah Hanson-Young’s call for a Royal Commission into the mismanagement and over extraction of the waters of the Murray Darling Basin. [The Guardian, 16 January 2019]

NBAN has now learnt that the disaster that we are experiencing in the Murray/Darling Basin is a perfect electric dry storm of massive fish kills and drying riverbeds.

It is NOT caused just by the drought but is also a culmination of man-made mismanagement; corruption at the highest levels; and major development without scientific evidence-based planning in the formative years of the MDBA.

NBAN has great difficulty in understanding why the so-called experts water planners would attempt to normalise our current circumstances. First Nations now demand urgent answers and to be included in all future top-level water planning within the Murray Darling Basin……..

NBAN is critical of the fact that NSW Water planners admit that from 2012 to 2018 they did nothing to properly prepare for evidence-based planning in relation to water management in the northern basin, and that their assessments in terms of quantities of water are based on hypothetical values and assumptions. Now there is a mad rush to review water planning on the basis of A, B and C water licencing in the Barwon/Darling and there is a suggestion to amalgamate these water licences into two or one licence. NBAN’s problem with this is that there are too many vested interests in the process calling for this to happen. Water planning from NBAN’s point of view needs to be reviewed so as to plan on the basis of what real volumes of water are in each valley catchment. With all the science and technology we have in today’s society there is no excuse for hypotheticals and assumptions.

From NBAN’s perspective these admissions clearly demonstrate that there are failures by the Water Ministers responsible for due diligence in their portfolios and departments.

Playing the blame game and shirking responsibility will not help our dying rivers. Clearly, corporate water users, irrigators and mining companies are driving the agenda. For example, the Broken Hill pipeline is for the mining interests rather than the community. Then we need to take into account the Proposed Uranium Mining near Menindee.

The Board of the MDBA is made up of members who have vested interests. A clear example of this is the Chairman, Brian Andrews, (former Speaker of the House of Representatives under PM John Howard) who is an orchardist dependant on irrigation waters from the Murray River in South Australia.

NBAN further expresses deep concern for the integrity of politicians and MDBA authority members. Clearly, there is an inference in recent media reporting that what is currently going on in the MDBA is a major defrauding of the public purse, which can never be condoned. This is in tandem with water theft by irrigators who were never investigated and escape prosecution for their criminal acts. As the Sydney Morning Heraldreported on 8 March 2018:……….

Also there was the warning of water theft by irrigators in the northern basin by a former MDBA staffer Maryanne Slattery, who now works for the Australia Institute, testified to this effect at the South Australian Royal Commission, based on satellite imagery tracking the fate of environmental water flows. This experimental project called Data Cube was rudely interrupted and shut down by MDBA, because Ms Slattery was exposing the theft of environmental water by illegal diversion. It was also reported MDBA staff were denied by the MDBA Board the right to give evidence to the Royal Commission and Minister Littleproud refused to co-operate with the Commissioner, Brett Walker QC,

The greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, is correct to call for a Commonwealth Government Royal Commission into the water management and expenditure of public funds in the MDB. The question that is on everybody’s lips right now is: What have they done with the $13B. Clearly, cotton growers and irrigators are getting money for nothing and continue to live on their lands drawing on other Commonwealth funds under Works and measures programs through ‘Toolkit’ measures for water efficiency.

NBAN is seriously concerned about what was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 March 2018 in . In this article it was reported that:Cry me a river: Mismanagement and corruption have left the Darling dry.

Surely, what Barnaby Joyce has done is criminal. When the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) bought Yulara village, the Commonwealth financial regulators questioned why the ILC acquired the village resort for $60M above market price. To this end the Commonwealth government chastised the ILC and lowered the market price to its correct value, thereby denying the right ILC to sell their interest at the price they paid for it, which denied them millions of dollars.

This demonstrates that there continues to be two standards: one for First Nations Peoples and one for non-First Nations Peoples. What makes this worse is the fact that sitting politicians are involved in a major profiteering scam on a scale never seen before in this country.

Clearly having people like the Minister David Littleproud being given the portfolio of Agriculture and Water and coming from the same location where Barnaby Joyce first gained his start in Politics at the Commonwealth level does raise serious concerns about the integrity of portfolio allocations in the Commonwealth government. People like Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud can be accused of not disclosing their full interest in farming and irrigation. There is much to be desired in these appointments as Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud are sitting members of the national party. They are elected to look after the interests of their constituents and in the case of the appointment of Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud to the Water portfolio is likened to the appointment of Dracula being appointed to be in charge of the Blood Bank.

This demonstrates that there continues to be two standards: one for First Nations Peoples and one for non-First Nations Peoples. What makes this worse is the fact that sitting politicians are involved in a major profiteering scam on a scale never seen before in this country.

Clearly having people like the Minister David Littleproud being given the portfolio of Agriculture and Water and coming from the same location where Barnaby Joyce first gained his start in Politics at the Commonwealth level does raise serious concerns about the integrity of portfolio allocations in the Commonwealth government. People like Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud can be accused of not disclosing their full interest in farming and irrigation. There is much to be desired in these appointments as Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud are sitting members of the national party. They are elected to look after the interests of their constituents and in the case of the appointment of Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud to the Water portfolio is likened to the appointment of Dracula being appointed to be in charge of the Blood Bank.

On the 16th, the NBAN Delegation then met Dr Lindsay White, Director Northern Basin Section, Lindsay White is also responsible for Wetlands, Policy and Northern Water Use Branch Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, and Hilary Johnson, Director, Southern Basin Section, Southern Water Use, Aquatic Science and Community Engagement Branch Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

NBAN advised the CEWO that within the river systems we have sacred waterholes where our creative water spirits live. These culturally significant water spirits are dependent on regular flows. For First nations Peoples these flows are what we call cultural flows. Without the modern development pre-Christmas rainfalls would have replenished these waterholes and they would have sufficient water to take them through the current drought or until a new rain event within the northern regions. But, with modern development and mis-management these water holes are under serious threat and our Native Fish will lose their refuges. Past river recordings prior to development demonstrate that this is the case with these waterholes. It is important to understand that these Waterholes are critical fish refuges and serve to protect species diversity and are responsible for repopulating rivers in recovery after flooding.

The Delegation sought clarification of the role of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holders. What shocked the delegation was the limitation of the CEWO, because the First Nation held the view that CEWO were responsible for not just managing environmental water flows, but also were responsible for the actual purchasing of any water requirements. Instead we were advised that the purchasing responsibilities lay with the Minister and the Department of Agriculture. Under the Current circumstances much of the responsibilities associated with managing environmental water needs lay at the feet of the Ministers responsible.

The NBAN delegation now demand that First Nations People’s must be at the table in all future water and environmental planning at all levels of government.

In calling for the royal Commission, NBAN demand that criminal prosecution be part of the terms of reference to hold those responsible, accountable, and to bring transparency into the murky process that has persisted to this day.

NBAN Sources: nationalunitygovernment.org/content/mdba-water-management-dont-leave-dracula-charge-blood-bank
pdf: nationalunitygovernment.org/pdf/2019/NBAN-Media-Release-17-January-2019.pdf

Aboriginal traditional land owner informs Australian Senate on dodgy nuclear waste dump plan

June 25, 2018

Ed note. This submission has an important attachment – a  letter – which will later be published on this site

Regina McKenzie Selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility in South Australia  (Submission No.107)

This independent submission addresses the following key points of the Terms of Reference of the Australian:  Senate Economic Reference Committee inquiry (2018) into the appropriateness and thoroughness of the site.  selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility at Kimba and Hawker in South  Australia:

  1. c) how any need for Indigenous support has played and will continue to play a part in  the process, including how Indigenous support has been or will be determined for each  process advancement stage; and
  1. f) any other related matters.

My name is Regina McKenzie and I am an identified (Aboriginal) Kuyani traditional owner for the area of land   currently subject to the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Project (NRWMFP) at Barndioota, South Australia. I have extensive cultural knowledge of this portion of Adnyamathanha country and have  been working collaboratively with non Aboriginal specialist for well over ten years to investigate and report on  this area. Some of the projects that I have worked on in my cultural interest area include:

  • Numerous archaeological investigations with a number of Australian universities;
  • Palaeontology investigations with Flinders University, South Australia;
  • Aboriginal heritage investigations for NRM projects with multiple State Government agencies;
  • Archaeological investigations for SA Power Networks;
  • Archaeological training programs with the Heritage team of the South Australian Department of Premier  and Cabinet, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (DPC AARD) (now Department of State
  • Development Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation – DSD AAR);
  • Cultural heritage management planning for the Commonwealth Government’s Indigenous Protected Area  (IPA) program.
  • The development of large area cultural mapping protocols for the SA State Government;
  • The translation and spatial mapping of one of my Nation’s ancestral story lines that includes the  nominated NRWMFP area in Barndioota.

The reference committee should understand that the Adnyamathanha People are an historical conglomeration of multiple and individually identified Aboriginal tribal Nations, each of which has its own cultural interest area. The Adnyamathanha people, as a whole, hold native title over much of the Flinders Ranges and this is managed by a prescribed body corporate on behalf of all traditional groups by the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA). I would also like to note that only individual people, not organisations, can hold cultural knowledge and be considered as traditional owners (there is case law in South Australia to this affect). It is also vital that the committee appreciate the difference between Aboriginal cultural heritage laws and obligations (whether they be State or Federal), and Native Title laws, rights and interests. My submission is focussed on the cultural heritage rights and interests of identified traditional owners and the State/Federal obligations for those that wish to investigate /or harm Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Many of my concerns with the Aboriginal cultural heritage consultation process for the NRWMFP in Barndioota have been summarised in a recent letter to Minister Canavan (see Attached) [ed. note: This letter will be published on this site, as a separate post] . I would appreciate if the committee accepts the attached letter as part of my submission. I note that despite repeated requests to Minister Canavan’s office, I still have not received a response to this letter and many questions remain unanswered and concerns unresolved. I believe that these questions and concerns must be addressed for the DIIS consultation process to be considered effective.

In addition to my questions and concerns detailed in the attached letter, I would appreciate some clarification on the following:

  1. Australia’s commitment to Article 29.2. of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous  Peoples which notes:

States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.

I would appreciate some clarification on the Australian Government’s or the the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) position on this United Nations charter and how it applies to proposed  developments on traditional Aboriginal lands and lands that contain significant cultural value to relevant Aboriginal people.

The DIIS, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government of Australia, took no steps during the nomination and shortlisting process to secure either the free, or the prior, or the informed consent of the Indigenous peoples who have significant cultural ties to the NRWMFP area in Barndioota. To the best of my knowledge, the DIIS believed that the Commonwealth Government did not need to consult with Aboriginal people in Barndioota because the proposed project area was not subject to Native Title. This was stated to myself and my sister when we first called the DIIS to enquire about the project after we heard about it on ABC news. This was also repeated by DIIS representatives at their initial public meetings in Hawker.

Importantly, and from an Aboriginal cultural heritage perspective, ATLA and the relevant cultural custodians of the Barndioota area have repeatedly advised the DIIS that they do not support the siting of the NRWMFP within our traditional country.

  1. The DIIS initially confused Aboriginal cultural heritage obligations with Native Title constraints and only consulted with affected Aboriginal people after repeated requests for information from myself and my sister
  1. The Aboriginal cultural heritage investigations undertaken to support the Barndioota NRWMFP have not been undertaken in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s best practice requirements for investigating and reporting on Aboriginal cultural heritage (see attached letter). Importantly, this failure to adhere, recognise or use the Commonwealth best practice guidelines has led the DIIS to:
  • Consult with inappropriate Aboriginal people who do not hold cultural information for Barndioota, and
  • Completely ignore the significant cultural/gender restrictions associated with the NRWMFP area, and
  • Alienate relevant culturally appropriate people from participating in the NRWMFP assessment, and
  • Not have access to vitally important cultural information associated with the NRWMFP area.

These factors alone have made the DIIS Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment ineffective,  inappropriate, and incomplete. This significantly flawed consultation process needs to be completely abandoned as soon as possible because it has caused significant mental health issues within our broader Aboriginal community and continuing lateral violence within our immediate family. The NRWMFP Aboriginal consultation process has left me feeling ostracised within my own family and I find myself constantly witnessing aggressive, misogynistic and culturally inappropriate behaviour from a select few who have been validated through the DIIS Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment process.

  1. The DIIS has failed to abide by their own governance guidelines that they established for the Aboriginal cultural heritage consultative committee. There have been too many instances of aggressive and inappropriate behaviour that have not been recorded or addressed.
  1. The DIIS has inappropriately engaged a cultural heritage consultancy:
  • Against the wishes of both ATLA and the relevant cultural custodians of the NRWMFP area,
  • Without presenting any tangible proof that the consultancy has/can record the intangible values associated with large area cultural sites to a level that is similar to, or better than, that developed by DPC AARD,
  • Without developing the scope of work for the assessment with ATLA and the relevant cultural custodians of the NRWMFP area,
  • Without informing ATLA or the relevant cultural custodians of the agreed scope of work between the DIIS and the consultancy for the Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment
  1. The nomination and short-listing process of the Barndioota NRWMFP site failed to acknowledge the unique and intrinsic Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the associated cultural landscape. Many of these values have been documented by the State Government through extensive cultural mapping and archaeological investigations, and acknowledged by the Commonwealth Government for the neighbouring IPA program. Importantly, the failure to acknowledge the values of this cultural landscape also extended to a failure to recognise and acknowledge the nominated traditional custodians of the land subject to the NRWMFP area. These custodians are well known to DPC AAR who hold the contact details for the custodians of all of our recorded sites.
  1. Ministers Frydenberg and Canavan have both issued seperate commitments that no Aboriginal cultural heritage will be harmed through this project. The DIIS has been informed of the extensive archaeologyand all-encompassing intangible values associated with the NRWMFP area, and the impossibility of situating the NRWMFP and its associated road/power infrastructure without harming Aboriginal cultural heritage which includes our cultural beliefs, lore and customs. Could the committee please clarify the DIIS’/the Commonwealth Government’s understanding of what Aboriginal cultural heritage means and how the DIIS intend to avoid/not cause harm, particularly to our system of lore, custom and belief. We believe that this is a major constraint for the NRWMFP and that valuable public funds could have been saved if the relevant Ministers honour their commitments and resolved this matter early in the project.
  1. During Phase one, the DIIS never undertook any formal Acknowledgement of Country, and has never requested a formal Welcome to Country from any Adnyamathanha elder for any of the meetings held in Hawker.
  1. Retired Liberal Senator Chapman’s nomination of the Barndioota site has never been questioned either in the context of any potential political conflict of interest, or for his prior engagement in the Federal Senate and his involvement in past Senate committees who were tasked to investigate the establishment of above ground Nuclear waste facilities nearly two decades ago. We have been assured that the nomination of the Barndioota site is not related in any way to the current Liberal government or to the ex Senator’s prior profession. I would like this matter to be assessed in a transparent way.
  1. Key Hawker community representatives who support the NRWMFP in Barndioota have long term relationships with, and have worked for Wallerbedina Station for many years. This potential conflict of interest needs to be identified and acknowledged in a transparent manner.

Indigenous anger at Australian govt toting indigenous man across the land to promote nuclear waste dumping

May 6, 2018

Vivianne C McKenzie Shame on ANSTO and DIIS bringing yura to speak about waste dump in Wallerbidina. Who gave welcome to yartah? Did the Adnyamathana peoples give permission for them to have meeting on yartah?

Heather Mckenzie Stuart Disrespectable man shame on him!

 Katrina Bohr This is wrong on so many levels. Once again-No respect.

Roni Skipworth So this guy from Darwahl tribe in NSW didnt ask permission to come on to your Ancestors Lands.  That seems very disrespectful as having good Indigenous friends they used to explain to me the Indigenous Law was ‘Didnt matter where one wanted to travel in other parts of Australia,they needed to go the that destination’s Elders to ask permission to enter into their Lands’. Like those from Adnyamathanha Country who wanted to travel to Lucas Heights would out of respect go to the Elders of the Darwahl Tribe to ask permission to step onto their land. I feel that Indigenous Laws once very strong amongst Australia’s Indigenous are being lost in today’s world. Also I feel that is why some Indigenous Children run amuck as they are lost and living in a White Society under the White Laws have lost their way  .

 Heather Mckenzie Stuart He didnt ask. He come with Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Department of Industry Innovation and Science on Taxpayers money to have dinner at the Hawker Social Club where there was a function with invited guests.

No Nuclear Waste Dump Anywhere in South Australia,  6 May 2018    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1314655315214929/

Heather Mckenzie Stuart  Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges SA, 5 May Why is ANSTO and DIIS bringing a yaninjanha yura from Darwahl tribe in NSW to Hawker in the Flinders Ranges, making trouble saying urdnus are the only ones protesting against the proposed nuclear waste dump at Barndioota and are using yuras?

We go to protests and we will keep going to protests we will stand against the vartani. Anyway who gives that man the right to come here and talk in Adnyamathanha country, Wilyaru mirus and Adnyamathanha artuyani yarta. This is our ancestors lands, he has no shame we wouldnt go and talk in his yarta about his country. Dont come here pushing a nuclear waste dump on us, keep the poison in your country. You ANSTO and DIIS keep that yura in his country and let him dribble his rubbish over there in NSW. Hands off our sacred sites and stay in your yarta!! Ps his cultural consultancy means nothing to us, he want to stay at Lucas Heights.

South Australia’s Nuclear Citizens Jury showed, yet again, indigenous people’s strong opposition to nuclear waste dumping

November 13, 2016

heartland-2Nuclear citizens’ jury: five surprising things INDaily , 7 Nov 16 “……The State Government is today pondering what to make of the report of the second citizens’ jury which looked at whether South Australia should pursue the establishment of a facility to accept the world’s high level nuclear waste.

Two thirds of the 350 jurors rejected the proposition – under any circumstances.

The report shows not only a lack of faith in the concept outlined in the state’s nuclear industry royal commission, but along the way, the 50-odd pages of the citizen’s jury report has offered an indictment of a whole generation of South Australian politicians.

You wouldn’t know it from much of the media coverage since the report was handed down yesterday, but a key factor in the jury’s decision was the overwhelming Aboriginal opposition to a nuclear waste dump.

“There is a lack of aboriginal consent,” the report says. “We believe that the government should accept that the Elders have said NO and stop ignoring their opinions. The aboriginal people of South Australia (and Australia) continue to be neglected and ignored by all levels of government instead of respected and treated as equals.”

Premier Jay Weatherill, who is pushing on with analysing the wider community’s response beyond the citizens’ jury process, will find it impossible to ignore these statements.

When the ABC’s Q&A program visited Adelaide in September, Weatherill was challenged by Aboriginal leader Karina Lester about why the Government was pushing on with the proposal despite clear indigenous opposition (Lester’s father Yami lost most of his vision as a result of the Maralinga atomic tests).

Weatherill – and he’s quoted in the jury report – told a national television audience that a dump would “require essentially the explicit consent of traditional owners” and that “if it did not exist, it wouldn’t happen”.

It seems clear the majority of Aboriginal people will never agree to a high level waste dump – and the jury accepted that proposition…….

A majority of the jurors believed that building a nuclear waste dump in South Australia would damage our global reputation.

They believe “the risks to brand damage are not worth the cost and possible long-term negative outcomes”.

As evidence of South Australia’s esteem in the world, the jury report quoted a Lonely Planet announcement that was trumpeted loudly by the Government just a few weeks ago.

“South Australia’s recently ranked the ‘5th Best Regional Centre in the World’ by Lonely Planet for 2017,” the report says. “‘Lonely Planet is a brand the largest travel guide book publisher in the world’, and is a brand general population of the world know and trust. We need to stay with our brand’s essence.”……..

The jury report says the economics of the proposal was one of four key determining principles, along with content, trust and safety.

“Multiple threads of concern are present that undermine the confidence of jurors in the Royal Commission report’s validity,” the report says. “These concerns collectively combine to affect a powerful NO response to the concept of pursuing the storage and disposal of high level nuclear waste in SA…. Read the full report here.    http://indaily.com.au/news/local/2016/11/07/nuclear-citizens-jury-five-surprising-things/

The ignoble history of Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the nuclear bombing of Maralinga

October 24, 2016

 

aboriginal-child-maralingaOne wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.


Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia  Published in:  Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5
(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.

The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:

6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).

Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.

On 3 October 1952 the British successfully detonated a nuclear device of about 25 kilotons in the Monte Bello Islands.

The newest member of the nuclear club was by no means content to rest on the laurels of one successful test, however. Indeed, even before the Monte Bello detonation, British officials had visited sites in a remote area of South Australia with an eye to conducting future tests.

In December 1952, the new British Prime Minister, Churchill, asked Menzies for agreement in principle to a series of tests at Emu Field, some 1,200 km northwest of Adelaide in the Great Victoria Desert. Menzies replied promptly, in the affirmative. On 15 October 1953, Totem 1, a device with a yield of approximately 10 kilotons was detonated; two days later, Totem 11 was exploded with an approximate yield of 8 kilotons.

By this time, the British government had become firmly committed to a continuing nuclear weapons program. Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, north of the transcontinental railway line in southwestern South Australia.

Following the ‘Mosaic’ tests in mid-1956, which involved the detonation of two weapons at the Monte Bello site, the British testing program in Australia was confined to the mainland. Four ‘Buffalo’ tests were conducted at Maralinga in September and October 1956, and three ‘Antler’ explosions were detonated there the following year.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

A series of British hydrogen bomb tests was conducted in the Pacific Ocean during 1957 and 1958 without Australian involvement.   In addition to the major weapons testing programs, the British undertook a number of minor trials at Emu and at Maralinga during the period 1953-1963. The ‘Kittens’, ‘Tims’ and ‘Rats’ series of experiments tested individual components or sub-assemblies of nuclear devices. Subsequent series, called ‘Vixen A’ and ‘Vixen B’ sought to investigate the effects of accidental fires and explosions on nuclear weapons.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Thus, Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

In the interests of the testing program, it was decided to curtail the movements of those Aboriginal people traversing the Maralinga area. In addition, a number were taken to a reserve which had recently been established at Yalata, some distance to the south, across the transcontinental railway line. The removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands was more than an inconvenience. The Maralinga lands contained mythological sites of spiritual significance for their inhabitants, a significance which was at best only vaguely appreciated by white officials. Indeed, this lack of sensitivity was illustrated by the consideration given by authorities to identifying sacred objects and ‘removing’ them to areas of resettlement (Australia 1985, pp. 300-1). During the 1950s, hundreds of former inhabitants of the Maralinga lands sought to reaffirm their threatened culture by travelling considerable distances from the Yalata area in order to attend ceremonial functions and to visit other Aboriginal groups. These movements extended as far west as Cundalee, Western Australia, and as far east as Coober Pedy and Mabel Creek.

Some Aboriginal people were even less fortunate. Security patrols in and around the Maralinga area were intermittently effective, and from time to time some Aboriginal people were evicted from the area. Years later, Aboriginal people from Western Australia would recall how they were directed away from Maralinga along a road which diverged from their standard water hole routes, and how some of their party died from lack of access to water.

For those who survived, there seems little doubt that for the Western Desert (Maralinga) people the alien settlement of Yalata and lack of access to their desert homelands contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. ……..

…Although most of the British and Australian personnel involved in the testing program were equipped with film badges and dosimeters to record the extent of their exposure to radiation, some did not. Moreover, those measuring devices which were provided did not record exposure with perfect accuracy.

Nor could the risk to the general public be assessed with any real rigour. Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure. Whilst it is probable that some cases of cancer and genetic damage were caused by radiation generated by the nuclear tests, a realistic estimate of their extent is not possible.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public. During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics…….

There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests. From the outset, the British were under pressure to demonstrate to the Americans that they were able to keep secrets at all. Full disclosure of the hazards and potential costs to Australia entailed in the testing program were out of the question. Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed.

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest…….

….British secretiveness and imperfect review of test proposals and consequences by Australian officials notwithstanding, the degree to which Australian authorities went in limiting debate and discussion of the testing program and its effects cannot be ignored.

Such media coverage of the tests as was permitted by British and Australian authorities tended to be trivial and generally celebratory (Woodward 1984). Restrictions were onerous, in some occasions to the point of absurdity. D-notices were applied in such a manner that Australian journalists were forbidden from reporting items which had already been published freely in the United Kingdom.

Dissent or criticism by Australian personnel involved in the testing program was not tolerated. One patrol officer who objected that the development of testing sites was proceeding without due regard for the protection and welfare of local Aborigines was ‘reminded of his obligations as a Commonwealth Officer’ (Australia 1985, p. 304), and warned against speaking to the press.

Occasionally, when Aborigines were sighted in restricted areas, reports of these sightings were disbelieved, or less than subtly discouraged. One officer who reported sighting Aborigines in the prohibited zone was asked if he realised ‘what sort of damage [he] would be doing by finding Aboriginals where Aboriginals could not be’ (Australia 1985, p. 319).

After the Milpuddie family was found in the restricted area at Maralinga, the Range Commander invoked the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cwlth) to prevent disclosure of the incident by any personnel on the scene.

The flow of information within government departments was at times impeded, with adverse consequences. According to one account, incomplete information about plutonium contaminations at Maralinga was given to Vic Garland, a Minister in the McMahon government, causing him to mislead Parliament in 1972 (Toohey 1978).

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly………

In 1984, the South Australian Parliament passed the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act conferring freehold title to the Maralinga lands upon their traditional owners. But Aboriginal control over their land was not absolute. Mineral rights remained vested in the Crown, and the Act did not confer a right of veto on the Aboriginal owners. Rather, in the event of a dispute over whether the lands could be explored or mined, an Arbitrator would weigh the interests of the traditional owners against the economic significance of the proposed operations to the state and to Australia.

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture. http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html

Nuclear industry ripping off South Australia AGAIN: this time a LABOR govt is letting it

October 20, 2016

Australia nuclear toiletUltimately, this dump is about helping the global nuclear industry. The current build-up of site-by-site waste acts as a brake on investment. They want somewhere to dump it forever so they can go on producing more of it.

 

South Australia to become global nuclear waste capital https://redflag.org.au/node/5521 Sixty years ago, Maralinga went up in a mushroom cloud. The British government had been given permission to test atomic weaponry in South Australia.

That is to say, they had been given permission by the right wing Menzies government. The local Maralinga Tjarutja people had no say in it at all. Many of them were not even forewarned of the first blast. Thunderous black clouds condemned them to radiation exposure, illness and death, the survivors being driven from their homeland during the long years of British testing and fallout.

South Australia has a dark history with the nuclear industry. Maralinga remains contaminated, despite cheap clean-up efforts. Uranium tailings have leaked from BHP’s Olympic Dam mine at Roxby Downs. Fukushima’s reactors held South Australian uranium when catastrophe struck in 2011.

Today, Jay Weatherill’s state Labor government is trying to open a new radioactive chapter. He wants South Australia to construct the world’s first international high-level nuclear waste dump. This would mean no fewer than 138,000 tonnes of waste (one-third of the world’s total) being shipped from the world’s reactors into South Australian ports, to be permanently buried in Aboriginal land.

This would be history’s largest nuclear dumping operation, and make South Australia the hazardous waste capital of the world.

Weatherill, aware of most people’s instinctive and rightful mistrust of anything nuclear, has launched a meticulous, expensive PR campaign. He is trying to fit a Hello Kitty mask onto Mr Burns.

The propaganda machine was put into motion by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, at a cost of $7.2 million. Headed by Kevin Scarce, a former naval officer and South Australian governor, the commission imagines a lip-licking profit to be made by importing and burying the waste. It also recommends expanding uranium mining and laying the groundwork for nuclear power generation.

To soothe concerns, the government is periodically erecting “Know Nuclear” stalls across the state. These stalls spread misinformation. For instance, the government pamphlet “What is Radiation?” boasts that bananas contain potassium-40, a low-level radionuclide found in nature. But they make no comparison to human-made fission products such as strontium-90, which releases almost 20 million times more radiation than your friendly fruity isotope.

In August, more than 150 high school students were whisked to a secretly organised forum about the future of nuclear industry in the state. Secrecy was justified by the suggestion that violent anti-nuclear protesters might endanger the pupils.

Why does the state need to pour such big bucks into this festival of confusing roadshows, misleading science, TV ads and youth re-education sessions? Because most people who know anything about nuclear waste will recognise the danger posed by the proposed dump.

We live in a country in which black lung disease has re-emerged. Mining companies, in a world of competition, refuse to pay for basic safety measures to prevent excessive coal dust inhalation. This logic of cutting costs infuses all business under capitalism; nuclear waste dumps are no exception. As the MUA correctly stated: “Maritime workers – seafarers and wharfies – will be the first exposed to this toxic waste … Nowhere on this planet has a country designed a safe repository for nuclear waste”.

Indeed, the most technologically advanced repositories in the world, no matter how deep underground, have failed. Over many years, German radioactive waste had been disposed of in a deep facility in Lower Saxony. In 2008, it was discovered that some of the 126,000 barrels of waste had been leaking into ground water for decades. In 2014, New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant suffered a burst drum, contaminating the whole facility, including ventilation and surrounding air. Soon after, workers at the plant tested positive for radiation exposure.

This is the most hazardous waste ever produced by industry or the military. The royal commission explains that this stuff “requires isolation from the environment for many hundreds of thousands of years”. That makes the Roman Empire seem like yesterday; it is longer than the human race has existed.

Moreover, previous projects have involved only national waste storage; to transport waste by sea to an international dump has never been attempted and involves multiple dangers of accidental spillage.

Ultimately, this dump is about helping the global nuclear industry. The current build-up of site-by-site waste acts as a brake on investment. They want somewhere to dump it forever so they can go on producing more of it.

Australia’s Aboriginal traditional owners say NO to nuclear waste importing

July 13, 2016

Nuclear waste dump case unravels, World News Report, 13 July 16 , Green Left By Renfrey Clarke  “……..Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Karina Lester told a packed venue at a June 16 meeting: “The overwhelming majority of traditional owners … continue to speak out against establishing an international waste dump.”

Indigenous spokespeople have condemned the project since it was first mooted. In May last year, soon after the royal commission on South Australian involvement in the nuclear cycle began its work, representatives of 12 Aboriginal peoples met in Port Augusta.

The gathering issued a statement that said: “South Australian Traditional Owners say NO! We oppose plans for uranium mining, nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our lands.

“We call on the Australian population to support us in our campaign to prevent dirty and dangerous nuclear projects being imposed on our lands and our lives and future generations.”

The prime site for the long-term waste repository is on the lands of the Kokatha people, near the towns of Woomera and Roxby Downs.

The Transcontinental Railway crosses the region and, as the Australian explained on June 27, the ancient rocks of the underlying Stuart Shelf are “considered by experts to have the best geological conditions for a nuclear dump”.

Early this year Dr Tim Johnson of the nuclear industry consulting firm Jacobs MCM told the royal commission his company envisaged a new port being built on the South Australian coastline to service the project. An interim storage facility nearby would hold newly-arrived wastes above ground for some decades, until they had cooled sufficiently to be transported by rail to the permanent dumpsite.

The only practical location for the port and above-ground repository would be on the western shore of Spencer Gulf, south of the city of Whyalla. Spencer Gulf is a shallow, confined inlet whose waters mix only slowly with those of the Southern Ocean. Any accident that released substantial quantities of radioactive material into the gulf would be catastrophic for the marine environment. Profitable fishing, fish-farming and oyster-growing industries would be wiped out, and the recreational fishing that is a favourite pastime of local residents would become impossible.

To connect the above-ground repository to the rail network, a new line would need to be built from the present railhead at Whyalla. Taking wastes north for permanent storage, trains would pass by the outskirts of Whyalla and Port Augusta.

Initially, the materials transported would be large quantities of low and intermediate-level waste, also planned for importation and burial. But after several decades, transport of high-level wastes would begin and would continue for another 70 years.

Awareness is growing in the Spencer Gulf region of the dangers posed by the nuclear industry. On June 24 in Port Augusta about 80 people took part in a protest against the federal plans to site a separate dump, for Australian-derived low-level radioactive wastes, near the Flinders Ranges’ tourist area………..https://world.einnews.com/article/334731841/OM4SBscz5Dp42697

Jim Green on the Aboriginal fight against the Australian government’s plan for nuclear waste dumping

July 5, 2016

Aboriginal-protest-remote-W

Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people Jim Green, 1 July 2016, The Ecologist

www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987853/radioactive_waste_and_the_nuclear_war_on_australias_aboriginal_people.html

Australia’s nuclear industry has a shameful history of ‘radioactive racism’ that dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s, writes Jim Green. The same attitudes persist today with plans to dump nuclear waste on Aboriginal land, and open new uranium mines. But now Aboriginal peoples and traditional land owners are fighting back!

From 1998-2004, the Australian federal government tried – but failed – to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in South Australia. Then the government tried to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, but that also failed. Now the government has embarked on its third attempt and once again it is trying to impose a dump on Aboriginal land despite clear opposition from Traditional Owners.

The latest proposal is for a dump in the spectacular Flinders Ranges, 400 km north of Adelaide in South Australia, on the land of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners.

The government says that no group will have a right of veto, which is coded racism: it means that the dump may go ahead despite the government’s acknowledgement that “almost all Indigenous community members surveyed are strongly opposed to the site continuing.”

The proposed dump site was nominated by former Liberal Party politician Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia.

‘It was like somebody ripped my heart out’

The site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). “The IPA is right on the fence – there’s a waterhole that is shared by both properties”, said Yappala Station resident and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie.

The waterhole – a traditional women’s site and healing place – is one of many archeological and culturally significant sites in the area that Traditional Owners have registered with the South Australian government over the past six years. Two Adnyamathanha associations – Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob – wrote in November 2015 statement:

“Adnyamathanha land in the Flinders Ranges has been short-listed for a national nuclear waste dump. The land was nominated by former Liberal Party Senator Grant Chapman. Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners weren’t consulted. Even Traditional Owners who live next to the proposed dump site at Yappala Station weren’t consulted. This is an insult.

“The whole area is Adnyamathanha land. It is Arngurla Yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dump site has springs. It also has ancient mound springs. It has countless thousands of Aboriginal artefects. Our ancestors are buried there.

“Hookina creek that runs along the nominated site is a significant women’s site. It is a registered heritage site and must be preserved and protected. We are responsible for this area, the land and animals.

“We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything). We call on the federal government to withdraw the nomination of the site and to show more respect in future.”

Regina McKenzie describes getting the news that the Flinders Ranges site had been chosen from a short-list of six sites across Australia: “We were devastated, it was like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away. My niece rang me crying … it was like somebody ripped my heart out.”

McKenzie said on ABC television: “Almost every waste dump is near an Aboriginal community. It’s like, yeah, they’re only a bunch of blacks, they’re only a bunch of Abos, so we’ll put it there. Don’t you think that’s a little bit confronting for us when it happens to us all the time? Can’t they just leave my people alone?”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Dr Jillian Marsh said in an April 2016 statement:

“The First Nations people of Australia have been bullied and pushed around, forcibly removed from their families and their country, denied access and the right to care for their own land for over 200 years. Our health and wellbeing compares with third world countries, our people crowd the jails. Nobody wants toxic waste in their back yard, this is true the world over. We stand in solidarity with people across this country and across the globe who want sustainable futures for communities, we will not be moved.”

The battle over the proposed dump site in the Flinders Ranges will probably be resolved over the next 12 months. If the government fails in its third attempt to impose a dump against the wishes of Aboriginal Traditional Owners, we can only assume on past form that a fourth attempt will ensue.

 Dumping on South Australia, 1998-2004

This isn’t the first time that Aboriginal people in South Australia have faced the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump. In 1998, the federal government announced its intention to build a dump near the rocket and missile testing range at Woomera.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in South Australia that the federal government hired a public relations company.Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws. In one exchange, a government official asked the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo to be used in a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”. The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well.

Aboriginal groups were coerced into signing ‘Heritage Clearance Agreements’ consenting to test drilling of short-listed sites for the proposed dump. The federal government made it clear that if consent was not granted, drilling would take place anyway. Aboriginal groups were put in an invidious position. They could attempt to protect specific cultural sites by engaging with the federal government and signing agreements, at the risk of having that engagement being misrepresented as consent for the dump; or they could refuse to engage in the process, thereby having no opportunity to protect cultural sites. Aboriginal groups did participate in Heritage Clearance Agreements, and as feared that participation was repeatedly misrepresented by the federal government as amounting to Aboriginal consent for the dump.

‘We would not do that for any amount of money’

In 2002, the Federal Government tried to buy-off Aboriginal opposition to the dump. Three Native Title claimant groups – the Kokatha, Kuyani and Barngala – were offered A$90,000 to surrender their native title rights, but only on the condition that all three groups agreed.

The government’s offer was refused. Dr Roger Thomas, a Kokatha Traditional Owner, said: “The insult of it, it was just so insulting. I told the Commonwealth officers to stop being so disrespectful and rude to us by offering us $90,000 to pay out our country and our culture.”

Andrew Starkey, also a Kokatha man, said: “It was just shameful. They were wanting people to sign off their cultural heritage rights for a minuscule amount of money. We would not do that for any amount of money.”

In 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished with the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.

 Next – the sham ‘consultation’

Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950s.

The government’s approach to ‘consultation’ with Aboriginal people was spelt out in a document leaked in 2002. The document states:“Tactics to reach Indigenous audiences will be informed by extensive consultations currently being undertaken … with Indigenous groups.” In other words, sham ‘consultation’ was used to fine-tune the government’s pro-dump propaganda.

The government’s cynical and disrespectful tactics were the antithesis of Article 29 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that ”no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent”.

This issue of sham ‘consultation’ arises time and time again, most recently with the discussion initiated by a Royal Commission (discussed below) into “building confidence” in the safety of nuclear waste dump proposals. West Mallee Protection (WMP), representing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from Ceduna in western South Australia, responded with this blistering attack:

“WMP finds this question superficial and offensive. It is a fact that many people have dedicated their time and energy to investigating and thinking about nuclear waste. It is a fact that even elderly women that made up the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta – a senior Aboriginal women’s council – committed years of their lives to stand up to the proposal for a low-level facility at Woomera.

“They didn’t do this because of previously inadequate ‘processes’ to ‘build confidence’ as the question suggests but because:

  1. A) Individuals held a deep commitment to look after country and protect it from a substance known as ‘irati’ poison which stemmed from long held cultural knowledge.
  2. B) Nuclear impacts were experienced and continued to be experienced first hand by members and their families predominately from nuclear testing at Emu Field and Maralinga but also through exploration and mining at Olympic Dam.
  3. C) They epitomized and lived by the worldview that sustaining life for future generations is of upmost importance and that this is at odds with the dangerous and long lasting dangers of all aspects of the nuclear industry.

“The insinuation that the general population or target groups such Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta or the communities in the Northern Territory that succeeded them and also fought off a nuclear dump for Muckaty were somehow deficient in their understanding of the implications and may have required “confidence building” is highly offensive.”

 The politicians finally get their ears out of their pockets

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta continued to implore the federal government to “get their ears out of their pockets”, and after six years the government did just that. In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election, with the dump issue biting politically, and following a Federal Court ruling that the government had illegally used urgency provisions in the Lands Acquisition Act, the government decided to cut its losses and abandon the dump plan.

The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

 Botched clean-up of the Maralinga nuclear test site

The 1998-2004 debate over nuclear waste dumping in South Australia overlapped with a controversy over a botched clean-up of the Maralinga nuclear weapons test site in the same state.

The British government conducted 12 nuclear bomb tests in Australia in the 1950s, most of them at Maralinga. The 1985 Royal Commissionfound that regard for Aboriginal safety during the weapons tests was characterised by “ignorance, incompetence and cynicism”.

The Australian government’s clean-up of Maralinga in the late 1990s was just as bad. It was done on the cheap and many tonnes of plutonium-contaminated waste remain buried in shallow, unlined pits in totally unsuitable geology.

Nuclear engineer and whistleblower Alan Parkinson said of the clean-up: “What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution that wouldn’t be adopted on white-fellas land.”

Dr Geoff Williams, an officer with the Commonwealth nuclear regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, said in a leaked email that the clean-up was beset by a “host of indiscretions, short-cuts and cover-ups”.

Nuclear physicist Prof. Peter Johnston noted that there were “very large expenditures and significant hazards resulting from the deficient management of the project”.

Prof. Johnston (and others) noted in a conference paper that Traditional Owners were excluded from any meaningful input into decision-making concerning the clean-up. Traditional Owners were represented on a consultative committee but key decisions – such as abandoning vitrification of plutonium-contaminated waste in favour of shallow burial in unlined trenches – were taken without consultation with the consultative committee or any separate discussions with Traditional Owners.

Federal government minister Senator Nick Minchin said in a May 2000 media release that the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners “have agreed that deep burial of plutonium is a safe way of handling this waste.” But the burial of plutonium-contaminated waste was not deep and the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners did not agree to waste burial in unlined trenches – in fact they wrote to the Minister explicitly dissociating themselves from the decision.

Barely a decade after the Maralinga clean-up, a survey revealed that 19 of the 85 contaminated waste pits have been subject to erosion or subsidence.

Despite the residual radioactive contamination, the Australian government off-loaded responsibility for the contaminated land onto the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners. The government portrayed this land transfer as an act of reconciliation. But it wasn’t an act of reconciliation – it was deeply cynical. The real agenda was spelt out in a 1996 government document which said that the clean-up was “aimed at reducing Commonwealth liability arising from residual contamination.”

 Radioactive ransom in the Northern Territory

After the Kungkas victory in 2004, successive federal governments spent the best part of a decade attempting to establish a national nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, 110 km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. A toxic trade-off of basic services for a radioactive waste dump was part of the story from the start.

The nomination of the Muckaty site was made with the promise of a A$12 million compensation package comprising roads, houses and scholarships. Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo (see photo) objected to this radioactive ransom: “I think that is a very, very stupid idea for us to sell our land to get better education and scholarships. As an Australian we should be already entitled to that.”

While a small group of Aboriginal Traditional Owners supported the dump, a large majority were opposed and some initiated legal action in the Federal Court challenging the nomination of the Muckaty site by the federal government and the Northern Land Council (NLC).

The conservative Liberal/National Coalition federal government passed legislation – the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act – overriding the Aboriginal Heritage Act, undermining the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and allowing the imposition of a nuclear dump with no Aboriginal consultation or consent.

The Australian Labor Party voted against the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act, with Labor parliamentarians describing it as “extreme”, “arrogant”, “draconian”, “sorry”, “sordid”, and “profoundly shameful”. At its 2007 national conference, Labor voted unanimously to repeal the legislation.

Yet after the winning the 2007 election, the Labor government passed legislation – the National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA) – which was almost as draconian and still permitted the imposition of a dump with no Aboriginal consultation or consent (to be precise, the nomination of a site was not invalidated by a failure to consult or secure consent).

Radioactive racism in Australia is bipartisan – both the Labor government and the Liberal/National Opposition voted in support of the NRWMA. Shamefully, the NLC supported legislation disempowering the people it is meant to represent.

In February 2008, Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd highlighted the life-story of Lorna Fejo – a member of the stolen generation – in the historicNational Apology to Aboriginal People in Parliament House. At the same time, the Rudd government was stealing her land for a nuclear dump.

Fejo said: “I’m very, very disappointed and downhearted about that [NRWMA legislation]. I’m really sad. The thing is – when are we going to have a fair go? Australia is supposed to be the land of the fair go. When are we going to have fair go? I’ve been stolen from my mother and now they’re stealing my land off me.”

 ‘Our heart jiggled with joy’

The Federal Court trial finally began in June 2014. After two weeks of evidence, the NLC gave up and agreed to withdraw the nomination of Muckaty. Victory for the Muckaty mob!

The announcement came just days before the NLC and government officials were due to take the stand to face cross-examination. As a result of their surrender, the NLC and the government did not have to face cross-examination in relation to numerous serious accusations (see here,here and here) raised in the first two weeks of the trial – including claims that the NLC rewrote an anthropologists’ report.

Kylie Sambo said: “I believe [the NLC] didn’t want to go through that humiliation of what they really done. But it’s better now that they actually backed off. It’s good for us.”

Lorna Fejo said: “I feel ecstatic. I feel free because it was a long struggle to protect my land.”

Marlene Nungarrayi Bennett compared the Muckaty victory to other famous victories for Aboriginal people: “Today will go down in the history books of Indigenous Australia on par with the Wave Hill Walk-off, Mabo and Blue Mud Bay. We have shown the Commonwealth and the NLC that we will stand strong for this country. The NLC tried to divide and conquer us but they did not succeed.”

Dianne Stokes said: “Everyone is feeling very happy that we won; we struggled that long to get it over and done with. … If anyone else around the country wants support to stop a nuclear dump, we will come along and help them to go against the waste. We had so much support when we were struggling, if anyone calls we will go straight there.”

Isobel Phillips said: “Looking back now on how we struggled, it was the hardest. Keeping it up was the worst because of the pressure that our land will be destroyed. We first felt sad, heartbroken and betrayed that the government would put the nuclear waste on our country. And our grief is for our elders who have passed away – they helped us but their spirit is here with us today. There is one thing that we have – our culture, lore, and family connection on the land.

“We kept going with the fight until we won our land back. Our heart jiggled with joy and smiled when we heard the good news that the government was not going ahead with the nuclear waste dump on our country. We jumped and we danced with excitement – what a blessing. We are so happy, so strong and still smiling with pride.”

 Australia as the world’s nuclear waste dump

Now Aboriginal people in South Australia face the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump as well as a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level waste for storage and disposal as a commercial venture.

The plan is being driven by the South Australian government, which last year established a Royal Commission to provide a fig-leaf of independent supporting advice. The Royal Commissioner is a nuclear advocate and the majority of the members of the Expert Advisory Committee are strident nuclear advocates. Indeed it seems as if the Royal Commissioner sought out the dopiest nuclear advocates he could find to put on the Expert Advisory Committee: one thinks nuclear power is safer than solar, another thinks that nuclear power doesn’t pose a weapons proliferation risk, and a third was insisting that there was no credible risk of a serious accident at Fukushima even as nuclear meltdown was in full swing.

Announcing the establishment of the Royal Commission in March 2015, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said: “We have a specific mandate to consult with Aboriginal communities and there are great sensitivities here. I mean we’ve had the use and abuse of the lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja people by the British when they tested their atomic weapons.”

Yet the South Australian government’s handling of the Royal Commission process systematically disenfranchised Aboriginal people. The truncated timeline for providing feedback on draft Terms of Reference disadvantaged people in remote regions, people with little or no access to email and internet, and people for whom English is a second language. There was no translation of the draft Terms of Reference, and a regional communications and engagement strategy was not developed or implemented.

Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed frustration with the Royal Commission process. One example (of many) is the submission of the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob (who are also fighting against the plan for a national nuclear waste dump on their land):

“Why we are not satisfied with the way this Royal Commission has been conducted:

Yaiinidlha Udnyu ngawarla wanggaanggu, wanhanga Yura Ngawarla wanggaanggu? – always in English, where’s the Yura Ngawarla (our first language)?

“The issues of engagement are many. To date we have found the process of engagement used by the Royal Commission to be very off putting as it’s been run in a real Udnyu (whitefella) way. Timelines are short, information is hard to access, there is no interpreter service available, and the meetings have been very poorly advertised. …

“A closed and secretive approach makes engagement difficult for the average person on the street, and near impossible for Aboriginal people to participate.”

The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Congress of South Australia, comprising people from many Aboriginal groups across the state, endorsed the followingresolution at an August 2015 meeting:

“We, as native title representatives of lands and waters of South Australia, stand firmly in opposition to nuclear developments on our country, including all plans to expand uranium mining, and implement nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our land. … Many of us suffer to this day the devastating effects of the nuclear industry and continue to be subject to it through extensive uranium mining on our lands and country that has been contaminated.

“We view any further expansion of industry as an imposition on our country, our people, our environment, our culture and our history. We also view it as a blatant disregard for our rights under various legislative instruments, including the founding principles of this state.”

 

The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.

 The racism of the ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’

Australia’s self-styled ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ – academic Barry Brook (a member of the Royal Commission’s Expert Advisory Committee), uranium and nuclear industry consultant Ben Heard, and one or two others – have never once voiced concern about attempts to impose nuclear waste dumps on unwilling Aboriginal communities. Their silence suggests they couldn’t care less about the racism of the industry they so stridently support.

Silence from Brook and Heard when the federal government was passing laws allowing the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory without consulting or securing consent from Traditional Owners.

Echoing comments from the right-wing Liberal Party, Brook and Heard said the Muckaty site in the Northern Territory is in the “middle of nowhere”. From their perspective, perhaps, but for Muckaty Traditional Owners the site is in the middle of their homelands – and claims that it is in the middle of nowhere are deeply offensive.

Heard’s comments about the current proposed dump site on Adnyamathanha land in South Australia have been just as offensive. He claims there are “no known cultural heritage issues on the site”. Try telling that to the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners who live on Yappala Station, in the Indigenous Protected Area right next to the dump site.

So where did Heard get this idea that there are “no known cultural heritage issues on the site”? Not from visiting the site, or speaking to the Traditional Owners. He’s just parroting the federal government’s racist lies.

Brook and Heard are also offering up the state of South Australia for an international high-level nuclear waste dump as if it was their personal property. No mention of Aboriginal Traditional Owners or their fierce opposition to the proposal.

 In the US …

The intersection between nuclear waste dumping and racism isn’t unique to Australia, of course. In the US, for example, a 2010 article inScientific American noted: “Native tribes across the American West have been and continue to be subjected to significant amounts of radioactive and otherwise hazardous waste as a result of living near nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants and toxic waste dumps.”

More bluntly, indigenous activist Winona LaDuke sums up the problem: “The greatest minds in the nuclear establishment have been searching for an answer to the radioactive waste problem for fifty years, and they’ve finally got one: haul it down a dirt road and dump it on an Indian reservation”.

The racism associated with nuclear waste dumping in the US is as plain as the nose on James Hansen’s face, but he hasn’t said a word about it. Nor has the Breakthrough Institute or any of the other self-styled ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ in the US.

 Self-styled Aboriginal leaders

Just as self-styled ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ ignore the nuclear industry’s systemic racism, so too do a number of self-styled Aboriginal ‘leaders’.

One such ‘leader’ is Warren Mundine. At various times he has been a member of the federal government’s Indigenous Advisory Council, a National President of the Australian Labor Party, a Director of the Australian Uranium Association and co-convenor of the Association’s ‘Indigenous Dialogue Group’ (which never initiated any dialogue with indigenous people).

Mundine was silent when the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta were struggling to prevent the imposition of a nuclear waste dump on their land from 1998-2004; and when Muckaty Traditional Owners were struggling to prevent the imposition of a nuclear waste dump on their land from 2006-2014.

And he remains silent today as the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners struggle to prevent the imposition of a nuclear waste dump on their land; and as one after another state government passes legislation weakening Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections at the behest of uranium mining companies.

Mundine says Australia has “a legal framework to negotiate equitably with the traditional owners on whose land many uranium deposits are found.” In fact, only in the Northern Territory do Traditional Owners have any right of veto over mining – and that legislation has a clause specifically exempting the Ranger uranium mine from the Act!

Mundine was awarded an Order of Australia gong in the June 2016 Queen’s Birthday honours, “for distinguished service as a leader in Indigenous affairs and advocate for enhancing economic and social public policy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people.”

No such recognition for Aboriginal people fighting to protect country and culture – the Maralinga Tjarutja, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the Muckaty mob, the Adnyamathanha and many others.

 Systemic racism

Bill Shorten, leader of the federal Labor Party, recently said that “systemic racism is still far-too prevalent” in Australia. He should know – the Labor Party has repeatedly driven or supported bipartisan attempts to impose nuclear waste dumps against the wishes of Aboriginal communities.

And both the Labor Party and the Liberal/National Coalition believe that uranium mining is more important than Aboriginal rights. One example concerns the 1982 South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act, which sets the legal framework for the operation of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine in SA.

The Act was amended in 2011 but it retains exemptions from the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act. As things stand, BHP Billiton must partially comply with an old version of the Aboriginal Heritage Act – a version that was never proclaimed.

Traditional Owners were not even consulted about the 2011 amendments. The government’s spokesperson in Parliament said: “BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the government did not consult further than that.”

That disgraceful performance illustrates a broader pattern. Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections are feeble at the best of times. But the legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests.

Thus the Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act. Sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory from the Act and thus removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise have enjoyed. New South Wales legislation exempts uranium mines from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act. The Western Australian government is in the process of gutting the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 at the behest of the mining industry.

And on it goes:

  • Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in South Australia;
  • Aboriginal heritage laws and land rights were repeatedly overridden with the push to dump nuclear waste in the Northern Territory;
  • and near-unanimous Aboriginal opposition to a nuclear waste dump in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is being ignored by the federal Liberal / National Coalition government (and the Labor Opposition) and the South Australian Labor government (and the Liberal Opposition).

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the never-ending nuclear war against Australia’s Aboriginal people amounts to cultural genocide. Indeed it would be a statement of the obvious.

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where a version of this article was originally published. Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978. A must-read for all those who work on this issue!

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Once again an Australian government targets Aboriginal land for nuclear waste dump site

May 4, 2016

The Flinders Ranges site was nominated by Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia. The fact that the government is once again targeting a ‘remote’ Aboriginal site is beyond comprehension and creates a lot of frustration and hurt.

“Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners weren’t consulted about the nomination. Even Traditional Owners who live next to the proposed dump site at Yappala Station weren’t consulted. The proposed dump site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area.


SA once again targeted for nuclear waste dump
,   http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18200
Anica Niepraschk, 2 May 16

Last Friday the government announced its preferred site for a national radioactive waste dump, near Hawker in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. The site was nominated by former Liberal Senator Grant Chapman, who holds a long-term lease over the Barndioota station, and his nomination has been endorsed by the Liberal government in Canberra.

The latest process to find a dump site follows 20 years of failed attempts trying to force a dump on Aboriginal communities in SA and later the Northern Territory.
The other five sites short-listed last November are now off the hook: the local communities in Hale (NT), Oman Ama (Queensland), Hill End (NSW) and Kimba (SA) can take a deep breath for the first time in months. All sites were highly contested. The communities have been extremely active in mobilising and bringing media attention to the proposals in recent months.

Although the other communities are relieved to be dropped off the list, everyone is aware that the Flinders Ranges site is under extreme pressure now as it is the government’s only remaining option. If the federal government fails in its efforts to impose a dump in the Flinders Ranges, it will be back to square one as it was when the Howard government abandoned its efforts to establish a dump in SA in 2004 and the Abbott government gave up on a NT dump site in 2014.

The Flinders Ranges site was nominated by Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia. The fact that the government is once again targeting a ‘remote’ Aboriginal site is beyond comprehension and creates a lot of frustration and hurt. Regina McKenzie, an Adnyamathanha elder living at Yappala station, just kilometres away from the proposed site, says that the proposal is “an attack on our cultural beliefs, history and heritage.”

McKenzie explains: “Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners weren’t consulted about the nomination. Even Traditional Owners who live next to the proposed dump site at Yappala Station weren’t consulted. The proposed dump site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area. On the land with the proposed dump site, we have been working for many years to register heritage sites with the SA government. The area is Adnyamathanha land. It is Arngurla Yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dump site has countless thousands of Aboriginal artefacts. Our ancestors are buried there. The nominated site is a significant women’s site. Throughout the area are registered cultural heritage sites and places of huge importance to our people.”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Enice Marsh said: “An Indigenous Protected Area is a Federal Government initiative, but it seems that in the case of Yappala this means nothing to the government. We ask you to honour this commitment to protect, not pollute and damage our land.”

The site is subject to earthquakes and tremors, at least half a dozen times each year. And although it seems like desert to the unknowing eye, it is flood land. The water comes from the hills and floods the plains, including the proposed dump site. The last flood in 2006 uprooted massive trees in the area, while an earlier flood destroyed an entire township.

So what should be done with Australia’s radioactive waste? Around 95 percent is securely stored at two Commonwealth sites – Defence Department land in SA, and the Lucas Heights nuclear research reactor site south of Sydney. It is by no means clear that any waste needs to be moved, and there certainly isn’t any urgency. A number of organisations calls for an independent investigation into all possible options since years; being rigorously ignored by the government which keeps pursuing its central remote dump preferred option.

Both previous siting attempts were so vigorously fought that the government, in the end, could do nothing but withdraw the proposals. The win for Muckaty Traditional Owners in the NT is only two years old yet and here we are again, the same struggle but at a different site. Responding to Friday’s announcement, Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo wrote to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in the Flinders Ranges: “Today my heart and mind are with the Adnyamathanha people. I know your land is being targeted for a nuclear waste dump, just like our Warlmanpa lands were targeted for 8 years. You are not alone. We will be there speaking up alongside you. Even though the fight was so hard for us, we found friendships that gave us strength and will live for years to come. I know you will never give up – we won against the waste dump and you will win too.”

Regina McKenzie, in the name of the Adnyamathanya people, calls on “all South Australians − all Australians − to support us in our struggle” and she states that “Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners will fight the proposal for a nuclear waste dump on our land for as long as it takes to stop it.”

Communities from all six originally short-listed sites have supported each other since the beginning and have shared the concerns over how communities are treated in the process, the lack of transparency and consultation. They hoped Minister Josh Frydenberg would acknowledge the shortfalls of the process and seek alternative solutions. All other sites have announced that they will support the fight in the Flinders Ranges. Once again, everyone is bracing for a hard fight – and are determined to win it.

Anica Niepraschk is a researcher and author specialising in governance issues and civil society participation in democracies. She is a nuclear-free campaigner at Friends of the Earth.