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Traditional owners excluded from nuclear dump ballot


We recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ call to Catholics, and the whole world, on behalf of God’s suffering creation and peoples.

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One of his quotes is particularly challenging: ‘Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in our world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.’

It’s a fairly safe bet that our State has suffered more than any other in our nation from Earth’s most dangerous substance.

Currently, our SA nuclear history may be better realised by younger generations through the excellent ABC 2020 production Maralinga Tjarutja in which the Anangu – Aboriginal survivors and later generations affected by the 1950s and 60s British nuclear tests – tell their authentic story.

Thirty years on from the British tests and because of this experience, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, senior Aboriginal women of Coober Pedy between 1998-2004 led what became an Australia-wide successful campaign. The federal proposal to establish a below ground shallow nuclear dump in central South Australia for Australia’s nuclear waste was withdrawn.

However, despite promises that the proposal would never return to SA, return it did five years ago. In return for promised fourfold compensation, various landholders offered land. On February 1, the Federal Government named the Napandee site in the Kimba farming region. This is an astounding decision opposed by many other local farmers concerned about their $80 million export grain farming industry.

Rallies in the US and Australia against black deaths in custody have brought into a clearer light the pervading general nature of racism in our countries. Pope Francis concurs with his declaration ‘Racism is a sin against life’.

The Barngarla Traditional Owners of the Kimba area, after a 21-year battle to obtain their native title rights, were shocked to be excluded from the nuclear facility ballot which helped decide the choice of Kimba. As Jeanne Miller says it ‘makes me feel disrespected as a Barngarla person, as a South Australian and an Australian’.

With just over 800 Kimba people given a vote, we other South Australians have been given no say either, including those along the transport routes and in the likely port, Whyalla, the site of the Senate public inquiry held in late July.

Despite the Federal Government’s renewed claims of concern about low-level waste from nuclear medicine at 100 various sites across the nation, Australia’s nuclear waste is predominantly from the federal nuclear reactor research site at Lucas Heights (comprising 80 per cent of total wastes and 95 per cent of intermediate level waste).

And despite the scare tactics of the dump proponents, nuclear medicine delivery to Australians has not been, and will not be affected by the delay of a decision to move to a scientific, safer decision on this matter. In the recent Senate Inquiry hearing, the nuclear regulator ARPANSA assured the Senate Committee that all could be safely and expertly housed in Lucas Heights for decades to come.

As environmentalists point out, once the long-term nuclear waste, toxic for 10,000 years, is on the move to be simply stored in above ground sheds for the next 100 years – there is no return.

Pope Francis assures us that when we understand and empathise we will know what to do. The Senate votes in August on this crucial matter for our State. Advocacy emails or letters to SA Senators on a matter which will affect every SA generation to come may lead to the defeat of the unfair current Bill which precludes any judicial review.

Michele Madigan is a Sister of St Joseph who works with Aboriginal people in remote areas of SA, in Adelaide and in country SA.




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