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Issue #1736      June 22, 2016

Elders paint grim picture of future

Yalata Elders from South Australia are calling for resistance against two proposed nuclear waste dumps. In February last year, Labor Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill launched a nuclear Royal Commission.

Warnings at the Taranaki Blast Site, Maralinga.

This month, Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce recommended that SA import and store international high-level nuclear waste. This plan is in addition to the federal government’s recently announced proposal to have a national nuclear dump in Adnymathanha Flinders Ranges country.

From 1998-2004, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, senior Aboriginal women from Coober Pedy, led a successful national campaign against a dump to store national intermediate- and low-level waste in SA – with eventual strong support from Premier, Mike Rann’s SA Labor government.

And Yalata Elders are hoping a new campaign can similarly change government plans.

On May 14, 60 years after the first Maralinga bombs, the Maralinga Painting was launched at Yalata, at the Head of the Bight, 1,000 kilometre northwest of Adelaide.

Yalata long-serving past chairperson Mima Smart, the lead artist for the community project, is incensed at this latest nuclear plan, particularly given the history of the Yalata/Maralinga people, who were moved from their country in 1952 to make way for the British nuclear tests.

“That Maralinga painting that I painted on the canvas was about the bomb. And the bomb means a lot of bad things,” she said. “The bomb brought death to our people on the land when they were still wandering in the desert; when they were still travelling from rockhole to rockhole. And all our families were told to go south. They came to Ooldea Tank when they settled and they seen that bomb.

“It was really sad what’s happened to that land. Looking at the painting. It was a beautiful place with nice sceneries and animals around and birds and people around. And the people were gathering food on the ground.

“But after that bomb, people kept moving away and knew that place was destroyed by the bomb. But before that, they didn’t understand the danger. But the white people knew. Why didn’t they blast it in their own country? Why bring it to a beautiful country like Maralinga?

“The nuclear waste dump is not the best thing for us. The Minister is saying to bring the waste and dump it in South Australia. We don’t want that waste dump either in Yalata, or around Maralinga, or Ooldea or Watson. Because the roads that are going across to Western Australia is the place we always be using for funerals, for visiting families and business.

“Please take it away and dump it in your country.

“The damage has already been done with us – there are no old people in Yalata today. We teach all our children what the damage from the bombs is about.”

Immediate past chairperson of Maralinga Tjarutja, Keith Peters, called for support to fight the dump.

“We need everyone to respond to the government, to the royal commission,” he said. “The government needs to understand we need a good environment in our country. We are not going to have this disaster. We already fought for the (Maralinga) clean-up and the Maralinga Royal Commission. We need to stand up together, Anangu (Aboriginal people) and non-Anangu. If the government wants to put a nuclear dump in SA, all Australians, all South Australians should stand up and say no.

“Because it’s going to damage our country, our environment; it’s going to bring sickness to people. If we can say no, we can stand up together and we can win.”

After the Premier’s announcement, environmental groups together with SA traditional owners launched the Alliance against the Dump. For more information go to www.nodumpalliance.org.au

Koori Mail

Next article – Union endorses Redfern Statement

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