Indigenous owners appeal to Minister's 'human side' to shelve proposed nuclear waste site

Regina McKenzie, traditional Adnyamathahna owner, says her opposition to the nuclear waste dump is about culture, not money.

Opposition to the Federal Government's proposed nuclear waste facility in the Flinders Ranges is heating up, with traditional owners travelling to meet with Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg to demand the Government shelve its plans. Traditional owner Regina McKenzie said she hoped travelling the more than 1,000 kilometres to Melbourne would appeal to the Minister's "human side" and get him to change his mind. "It's always, every waste dump is near an Aboriginal community," she told 7.30. "Don't you think that's a bit confronting for us? When it happens to us all the time?"


Ms McKenzie is also a member of Viliwarina Yura, the corporation that was granted the land neighbouring the proposed waste site in 2000.

Now she has teamed up with veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney to take her message across the country.

Mr Sweeney told 7.30 that as the national anti-nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, and with more than 20 years experience in nuclear issues, he would use his connections, contacts and ability to amplify the story.

"It just feels disturbingly familiar, and disturbingly like we're replicating past mistakes," he said.


Mr Frydenberg declined 7.30's request for an interview but acknowledged in a statement that "legitimate issues have been raised about the Indigenous heritage in the broader area".

As a result, he said the Government would undertake a "comprehensive and independent heritage assessment and further consult with key stakeholders before any final decisions are made".

But the traditional owners maintain that nowhere would be acceptable.

Local Indigenous owners not consulted

This is just the latest front in a battle around nuclear waste that has raged for decades.


Australian hospitals and industry generate about 45 cubic metres of nuclear waste per year.

It is currently stored at more than 100 sites around the country, as attempts to find a single, secure place to store it have so far failed.

Now the Federal Government is trying something new — they have asked landowners to volunteer their own properties to take the waste.

After an extensive selection process, an initial list of 28 possible sites was shortlisted to six.

Last month, that list of six was narrowed to one.

The last man standing is former Liberal senator Grant Chapman.

Mr Chapman part-owns the Wallerberdina Station on the land next door to Ms McKenzie's, but did not consult with anyone from the Adnyamathahna community before nominating his land.

In 1995, Mr Chapman chaired a Senate Committee that recommended waste be stored in a single location.

He denied his political history represented a conflict of interest and said he would not reconsider his nomination, despite his neighbours' vehement opposition.

"There is clearly overwhelming support within the Hawker region for the facility to be located there, where as the other areas were about 50/50 community support," he said.

Mr Chapman said the nearby community of Hawker could benefit greatly from the $10 million community fund the site would attract if it went ahead.

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