Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Aboriginal women led the last, and successful, fight against nuclear waste dumping in South Australia

February 28, 2015
South Australia’s broad-brush nuclear review is meant to sideline opponents, The Conversation, Peter Burdon Senior lecturer at University of Adelaide  27 February 2015
“……..Lessons from history In February 1998, the Howard federal government announced plans to build a national radioactive waste facility in South Australia. Billa Kalina, a 67,000 sq km region in the arid north, was eventually selected as the preferred site. The plan was defeated after a six-year federal campaign.

One media narrative, as espoused in the AFR, is that this defeat was the result of a revolt by SA politicians. But this version of the story ignores the powerful campaign led by the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the senior aboriginal women’s council of Coober Pedy.

This story has been recorded by movement researchers Nina Brown and Sam Sowerwine and in a book, Talking Straight Out: Stories from the Irati Wanti Campaign.

Many members of the Kunga-Tjuta were survivors of the British government’s atomic testing in the 1950s and 60s, and so understood the devastating history of the nuclear industry. Upon hearing about the waste dump proposal, the group issued this statement:

We are the Aboriginal Women. Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya and Kokatha. We know the country. The poison the Government is talking about will poison the land. We say, “No radioactive dump in our ngura – in our country. It’s strictly poison, we don’t want it.

The traditional residents of this supposedly “benign and sparsely populated geology” fought hard to protect their country using the tools they had available. They explained, demanded, marched and sang. They worked with green activists and wrote passionate letters. They urged politicians to “get your ears out of your pockets”. They won.

As South Australia faces another push from the nuclear industry, we would do well to remind ourselves of these stories. To paraphrase the late historian Howard Zinn, we need to emphasise what is possible by remembering those moments in our recent history when people demonstrated their capacity to resist, come together, and occasionally, to win.http://theconversation.com/south-australias-broad-brush-nuclear-review-is-meant-to-sideline-opponents-38110

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Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – an Australian apology

August 6, 2014

Hiroshima-landscapeWe inherit from the past our own conditions of living. We inherit the burdens, responsibilities and sacrifices, as well as the opportunities. Whether I like it or not, I am part of the rationale against you, that led to the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All this I owe to you, Japan, when I apologise. ....

Apologising for the bomb: a letter on our anniversary. The Drum, Luke Stickels, 5 August 11

Dear Japan, Today marks 66 years since your city, Hiroshima, faced the world’s first ever nuclear attack, and I thought I would write to apologise……..

at approximately 8.15am on 6 August, 1945, the United States dropped a gun-type atomic bomb called Little Boy on Hiroshima. Between 70,000-80,000 people, or approximately 30 per cent of Hiroshima’s population, were killed instantly by what the subsequent US Bombing Survey termed “inefficient” nuclear fission, which nevertheless cleared 12 square kilometers of the city and 69 per cent of its buildings.[1] I am sorry that Little Boy was not even less efficient; in fact I wish it had failed altogether. Another 70,000 of your people were injured, with 90 per cent of doctors and 93 per cent of nurses among the casualties, significantly disabling treatment for the injured and substantially raising the final death toll.

Three days later, at 11:01am on August 9, while your government officials were still scrambling to ascertain the extent of damage done and the nature of this new threat, the US dropped a second, implosion-type atomic bomb called Fat Man on the city of Nagasaki. An estimated 40,000 people died in the initial blast, with 60,000 more injured.[3] By January 1946, approximate acute deaths range from 90,000 to 166,000 for Hiroshima, and from 60,000 to 80,000 for Nagasaki, whose inhabitants were somewhat protected from the blast by an undulating geography…..

the atomic bombings were done for me, for my alleged freedom, so I apologise sincerely for constituting part of the rationale against you. While I had nothing to do with US president Truman’s initial public statements about seeking to avoid civilian casualties, I do apologise for my country’s lack of widespread outrage when so many scientific and political leaders’ statements were revealed to be untrue over the ensuing decades.

Truman statements are particularly galling, mind you, given that all potential targets were selected for their strategic significance and urban civilian density, as well as to maximise blast potential and incendiary damage. By ruling out the other 66 cities that had already been significantly firebombed, by considering the surrounding geography – particularly of mountains to focus the blast – and by having both bombs explode in mid-air, the Targeting Committee could achieve what they called “the greatest psychological effect against Japan”, and generate an event “sufficiently spectacular” for the global community…….

I’m sorry that two days before Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, Truman learned that the Twentieth Air Force had mined all your major harbours, thus finalising a comprehensive blockade that would literally as well as figuratively starve you, with or without a mainland offensive.[6] Truman himself advised one of his senators two days before Nagasaki’s bombing, that the Japanese would “very shortly fold up” with the Russians entering the war.[7] It is apparent from Allied leadership correspondence that your defeat had been a question of details for most of 1945, and there is a good case to be made for the late Soviet entry into the war as the decisive factor in you accepting unconditional surrender at last.[8] So I guess I’m sorry that most Australians believe that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki succeeded in ending the war and forestalling a grueling home invasion of your lands, when the case against this rationale is so easily available from decades of declassified US state sources.– ….

Finally, perhaps you wonder why I am apologising. After all, I didn’t have anything to do with the design of the bomb, or with the decision or strategy to attack you with it.. I didn’t vote for Truman, Churchill, or even Chifley. And anyway, you did keep my grandfather imprisoned at various POW camps, including the infamous Changi Prison in Singapore. If you didn’t ruin his life exactly, you certainly transformed it. Who knows if that’s why he drank so much, and who knows how that affected my mum and how she raised me. On my own drunken walk home through the streets of Tokyo’s western suburbs, my friend Mitsu and I realised both our grandfathers fought each other; not directly (my grandfather was a medic, for starters) but against each other nonetheless. And they were, in a very real way, fighting for Mitsu and I, who would not be born for decades.
We inherit from the past our own conditions of living. We inherit the burdens, responsibilities and sacrifices, as well as the opportunities. Whether I like it or not, I am part of the rationale against you, that led to the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All this I owe to you, Japan, when I apologise. ….
http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2826502.html

A visual history of uranium and atomic radiation in Australia

August 4, 2014

Superpit: Digging for uranium in the Australian cultural imaginary, [ excellent videos and pictures] National Sound and Film Archive, by Adam Broinowski The mining industry has been a central force in shaping Australian history in the 20th century. In fact, as is evident in the policy switch from the ‘Mining Super Profits Tax’ (Rudd/Gillard government) to ‘Open for Business’ (Abbott government)1, mining influence in Australian politics is direct and far-reaching. Any historical discussion of mining, however, should not overlook the historical relations between the Aboriginal owners and settler populations and their transnational partners…….

As the poisonous modern rituals of atomic testing were carried out (Monte Bello Island, Emu Fields, Maralinga), which included the use of Plutonium 239, both Australian and British officials repeated that the health risks were negligible, despite extensive local radioactive contamination

while some Aboriginal people from Ooldea were moved from their traditional lands to Yalata prior to the 1956–57 series of tests at Maralinga, there were still Aboriginal people using their camping grounds that passed through the Maralinga test site. As found in the Royal Commission (1975), the insufficient caution taken to ensure that all people were removed from the Area prior to tests was based on the false and negligent assumption that there were no longer people living on this land. Members of the Pitjantjantjara, Yakunytjatjara, Tjarutja, and the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta nations are said to have been exposed to radioactive contamination, whether in ‘black mist’ or other forms. Along with many Australian atomic test veterans, they developed chronic illnesses, the complications from which led to many premature deaths.

These ‘side effects’ were largely ignored as officials prioritised the plans to make Australia a ‘great power by 2000’ (such as Philip Baxter, Chair of the Australian Atomic Energy Agency)…….

In 1977, when the bid to mine one of the largest uranium deposits in the world at Ranger 1 and Nabarlek in the middle of the park was approved by the Fraser government, the Fox Report warned that mining waste would have to be stored for a quarter of a million years. Aboriginal elders also warned that mining ‘sickness country’ would lead to disaster…….

Given the ongoing damage caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster since 11 March 2011, with the Fukushima Daiichi reactor said to have been fuelled by Australian uranium (at least in part), one wonders how many more warnings the authorities and their transnational partners need. The image in Phantom Gold of a lone European settler in the desert who hunts for gold while dying from thirst, may indeed come back to haunt us.
http://www.nfsa.gov.au/research/papers/2014/07/01/superpit-digging-uranium-australian-cultural-imaginary/.

How Aboriginal people fought against nuclear waste dumping in South Australia

July 19, 2014

handsoffThe nuclear war against Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist  Jim Green 14th July 2014 Dumping on South Australia “……….The failed attempt to establish a dump at Muckaty followed the failed attempt to establish a dump in South Australia. In 1998, the Howard government announced its intention to build a nuclear waste dump near Woomera in South Australia.

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

The proposed dump generated such controversy in SA 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. ‘Terra nullius’!

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.

Victory in the Federal Court

The Kungkas 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 – after a Federal Court ruling that the federal government had acted illegally in stripping Traditional Owners of their native title rights, and with the dump issue biting politically in SA – the Howard 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.”

The Kungkas victory had broader ramifications – it was a set-back for everyone who likes the idea of stripping Aboriginal people of their land and their land rights, and it was a set-back for the nuclear power lobby.

Senator Nick Minchin, one of the Howard government ministers in charge of the failed attempt to impose a nuclear dump in SA, said in 2005:

“My experience with dealing with just low-level radioactive waste from our research reactor tells me it would be impossible to get any sort of consensus in this country around the management of the high-level waste a nuclear [power] reactor would produce.”

Minchin told a Liberal Party council meeting that “we must avoid being lumbered as the party that favours nuclear energy in this country” and that “we would be political mugs if we got sucked into this”…….. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2476704/the_nuclear_war_against_australias_aboriginal_people.html

 

How Australians were kept in the dark about huge plutonium contamination

July 26, 2013

Dig for secrets: the lesson of Maralinga’s Vixen B The Conversation, Liz Tynan, 26 July 13  ”……lack of knowledge about the British nuclear tests in Australia is not surprising. The tests were not part of the national conversation for many years. Even when older people remember that nuclear tests were held here, no-one knows the story of the most secret tests of all, the ones that left the most contamination: Vixen B.

Maralinga is a particularly striking example of what can happen when media are unable to report government activities comprehensively. The media have a responsibility to deal with complex scientific and technological issues that governments may be trying to hide. While Maralinga was an example of extreme secrecy, the same kind of secrecy could at any time be enacted again. With the Edward Snowden case, we have seen what can happen when journalists become complicit in government secrecy, and we have learned the press must be more rigorous in challenging cover-ups.

At Maralinga, part of our territory became the most highly contaminated land in the world. But the Australian public had no way of granting informed consent because no-one knew it was happening. Remediating the environmental contamination was delayed for decades for the same reason. While arguments might be mounted for the need for total secrecy at the time (although these arguments are debatable in the case of Vixen B), there was no reason to keep the aftermath totally secret as well. (more…)

Farewell to a great Australian anti nuclear Senator

June 25, 2013

Noel Wauchope 25 June 2013 Jean Isobelle Melzer died on June 18, 2013.  An  Australian Senator, Jean Melzer  represented  the Australian Labor Party and the state of Victoria. She was elected at the 1974 election, becoming the first woman Labor senator from Victoria . In 1978 she was the first woman elected as the Secretary of the Labor Caucus. She served two terms.   In 1980, despite Melzer’s great popularity in the labor party and electorate, the ALP executive moved her to an unwinnable 3rd ticket position, replacing pro uranium Robert Ray at the top ticket. This ensured Melzer’s defeat at the 1980 election.

Melzer,-Jean-Sm

In 1984, Jean Melzer as Convener of the Movement Against Uranium Mining led the campaign opposing Labor’s move to a pro uranium mining policy.

She also stood unsuccessfully as the lead Victorian senate candidate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party in the 1984 election.

Jean Melzer was also a great campaigner for Aborigines, migrants, pensioners, and for anti discrimination in all areas. She stood up for the rights of the disadvantaged.

Pushed out of her Senate position by the pro nuclear ALP, Jean Melzer continued working in the community and in environmental protection.

In 2004 she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Jean Melzer will be remembered for her many contributions to Australia, and for her warning:

Don’t let Australia become the quarry and waste dump of the world”

Ipswich, Queensland, selected for uranium enrichment plant, secretly, by Bjelke-Petersen government

January 3, 2013

The revelation came as a shock to Cr Tully, elected to the Ipswich
City Council in 1979.

Cr Tully had no inkling the Bjelke-Petersen government had Ipswich in
its sights.

“That’s news to me. It’s outrageous that any government would consider
Ipswich or any other city as a potential site and keep it secret from
the city,” he said.

Cr Tully said government documents should be released after 10 years

“What are governments thinking about now? They are talking about
uranium mining in Queensland now; will we have to wait 30 years to
hear about it?”

Papers reveal Bjelke-Petersen uranium plant plan for Ipswich
http://www.qt.com.au/news/papers-reveal-uranium-plant-plan-for-ipswich/1702063/
 Kieran Banks  1st Jan 2013
Sunshine Coast Daily Archives – 21 June 1976
IPSWICH was identified as a possible site for a uranium enrichment
plant following a secretive government investigation in the 1980s,
confidential cabinet documents reveal today. (more…)

How the nuclear/uranium industry bulldozed its way into Australia, secretly

December 10, 2012

. all manner of consumer and industrial goods were arrayed as icons of the coming atomic utopia.

ON THE BEACH: AUSTRALIA’S NUCLEAR HISTORY, Discontents Tim Sherratt, 7 Dec 12

“…..The crossroads of destiny At 8.00 am on the 1 July 1946 the inhabitants of eastern Australia tuned in to the atomic age. In a live radio broadcast from Bikini Atoll, they listened as the world’s fourth atomic bomb was exploded – ‘Bomb’s away! Bombs away!’ came the excited radio announcer’s call. (more…)