Australia continues its nuclear war against Aborigines

No nuclear waste dump

Sixty-three years ago a mushroom cloud rose over the plains of Maralinga in outback South Australia. It was the first of seven nuclear weapons detonated in the area by Australia and Britain. Succumbing to the pressure of the Cold War, the very pro-British Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, gave the go-ahead for the detonation of the weapons at Maralinga and other areas around Australia.  But no thought was given to the preservation of the sacred Indigenous land that was then inhabited by the Maralinga Tjarutja people and only in the last two years has the site been given back. Download a 7-minute radio report offered to more than 400 volunteer community radios across Australia.


Just as Aboriginal people living on the bombed lands were practically ignored, present-day nuclear proposals continue the nuclear war against them.


A No Dump Alliance is calling for a national day of action against nuclear waste dumps in South Australia.


Saturday October 15, 2016 marks 63 years since the first atomic bomb test at Emu Junction in South Australia.


"Right now, we’re facing two nuclear waste dumps; a national dump in the beautiful Flinders Ranges and an international dump to take the world’s nuclear waste.


"The decision to import high level nuclear waste is a forever decision. Once we make it, there’s no going back. This is a decision that we cannot make for thousands of generations of future South Australians.


"On the 15th October, on the 63rd anniversary of the Emu Field atomic bomb tests, take a stand for our state, and join us at Parliament House to say no to nuclear waste dumps in SA."


On 7 October “Music to stop nuclear waste” will be performed in a benefit gig in Adelaide.


Say No to Nuclear activists have put out a "Statement of Concern”:


"South Australia is a proud state rich in possibilities, clever people, culture, creativity and breathtaking nature. We believe we can achieve so much more than become the dumping ground for the world’s radioactive waste.


“This statement is our response to any proposal to establish a nuclear waste dump in South Australia. ...


Lack of respect for original First Nations peoples


"Aboriginal communities in South Australia endured British nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s at Emu Field and Maralinga and continue to suffer health and social impacts from these tests today. Many First Nations Peoples and their communities are opposed to all nuclear developments.

“A nuclear waste dump would be a permanent imposition on country, people, laws, environment and culture. From Elders in the communities to young people now speaking out, generations after generations have said NO to nuclear waste dumps."


The Conservation Council SA is calling on people to contact their members of parliament ”before it's too late”.

“Australia's nuclear industry has a shameful history of 'radioactive racism' that dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s,” wrote Jim Green, the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.


“The same attitudes persist today with plans to dump over half a million tonnes of high and intermediate level nuclear waste on Aboriginal land, and open new uranium mines.

“But now Aboriginal peoples and traditional land owners are fighting back!”


A long time campaigner against nuclear power, Noel Wauchope, who was shocked, as a child, by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has picked 10 holes in the government’s pro nuclear dump case, naming Aboriginal rights, economics, safety, transport dangers, climate change, health, questionable legality of the process, lack of transparency, impact on other industries and deceptive spin about medical wastes.  

"Perhaps the barrage of pro-nuclear forces/strategies explains why there's no explosion of outrage either in South Australian society or in church and faith groups against this extraordinarily destructive scheme," wrote Michele Madigan, in an article exploring “The normalisation of destruction in South Australia’s nuclear plan“.


The Catholic nun has spent the past 38 years working with Aboriginal people in remote areas of South Australia and in Adelaide.


"On Saturday 3 September, in Port Augusta, Edie [Yankunyjatjara Elder Edie Nyimpula King] was keeping up the struggle, singing again the Seven Sisters inma, strong in its demands for a clean country and protection for the future generations.


"Unable then to stop the flow of tears, she paid tribute to her former companions' heroic struggles.


'Ivy Makinti Stewart, Kampakuta — Eileen Brown, Eileen Unkari Crombie' amid all the other heroes — the brave fighters for country and the future generations against the nuclear industry and its proponents in South Australia.


"Indeed how to explain the current normalisation of the new threat — of importing high-level radioactive waste across the Southern Hemisphere oceans and its dumping onto the lands of South Australia. And this with the seemingly full permission of a government and perhaps a peoples, both of whom will be long gone in the 'hundreds of thousands of years' which the nuclear royal commission itself admits such material must be isolated."


The West Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Member of the state’s parliament, Robin Chapple, have questioned the Environmental Protection Authority’s approval for preparatory works at the proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine, which is yet to be approved and currently subject to an appeal.


“The approval for preparatory works at Mulga Rocks exposes the sham of the assessment and appeals process; the EPAs decision today is at odds with the intention of the Environmental Protection Act 1986,” Mr Chapple said.


“There has been serious public backlash against the project reflected in numerous appeals being lodged against the project, including from Traditional Owners and people in the local community. There is a race on in WA to get uranium mines approved before the state election. This ambition is ridiculous given the widespread opposition to the industry and the market conditions which are prohibitive to new mines.”


“World-wide we’re seeing uranium mines close and others put in to care and maintenance,” noted Ludlam. “The EPA’s response to the aggressive approach to starting this mine is not just a demonstration of a poor and non-transparent process, it is a slap in the face for the public and local community that have engaged in good faith in a process which is in essence a fait accompli.


“While the process is broken, the resolve of communities to fight this project is very much alive and well.”


A new global report by the international charity, Oxfam, which pushes for the land rights of Indigenous peoples across the world, has found “continuing and relentless attempts to undermine native title in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.”


The Custodians of the Land, Defenders of our Future report highlights a global land rush forcing millions of Indigenous people from their homelands.


The report finds Kimberley Aboriginal people facing a situation where government policy and action actively seek to weaken rights to native title.


The report is critical of state government policies and actions, including the controversial proposed closure of remote WA indigenous communities, the weakening of laws protecting sacred cultural sites and the undermining of successful carbon offset projects.


Noting that more than 5,000 distinct cultures around the world depend on indigenous and community lands, the report singles out Honduras, Peru, Australia, Sri Lanka, India and Mozambique


“Land rights don’t just mean someone owning a plot of land. Land rights mean a mother or a father is able to harvest enough crops to feed their family and sell at market. Land rights mean communities can practice their ancestral traditions and worship at sacred sites. Land rights mean protecting forests, rivers, coastlines and more from unaccountable governments and greedy businesses. Land rights mean handing nature on to the next generation. Land rights are human rights. Let’s protect them and protect our planet.”


Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director, comments in the report: “We’re entering a new and even more dangerous stage of the global land rush. The frenzied trade in millions of hectares of forests, coastlines and farmlands has led to murder, eviction and ethnocide. Land contracts are being signed and projects are breaking ground without the full consent of the communities living there. Conditions are ripe for increasing conflict in the years ahead if land rights are not better protected now.” 

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Clinton PryorA 26-year-old Aboriginal man, Clinton Pryor, has started on a seven-month walks across Australia from Perth in the west to Parliament House in Canberra in the east to meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, hoping his act of peace can help improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Pryor is calling it a ‘Walk for Justice’. Along the way, he has been collecting messages for the Prime Minister from Indigenous elders. He told SBS radio, "What I see these days… I see a lot of my people are in pain, and they are hurt, and they are frustrated, and we've been asking for a very long time to start listening to us, and the government keeps ignoring and ignoring. And this is the time now. The government must sit down and listen to us and give our people what they want. So that's why I'm doing this big massive walk to make the government listen now and start understanding."

Fifty years after the Maralinga atomic tests, a touring exhibition grapples with the pain and devastation left behind.

Black Mist Burnt Country asks: what remains after the mushroom cloud?