Archive for the ‘indigenous’ Category

I will say NO to the waste dump – Aboriginal Australian

April 2, 2018

Regina McKenzie Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges SA, February 3, 2017  Back home on the Range, seeing it made a lump come into my throat, how can any one even think of putting a waste dump in such a beautiful ancient land?

We the people of this land comes from a group of nations, that were hunted in the past, the Government of them days actually supported the activity of early settlers, a five pound bounty, which was a lot of money in those days, was paid per scalp of Aboriginals, blankets that was exposed to small pox given out to unsuspecting yura’s, who then shared these gifts to the wider Aboriginal people, hence spreading the disease to people who had no immunity to it and can’t forget the water hole being poisoned, what I am getting at is back then, when we were hunted, this land was our sanctuary all the decimated nations fled into the hills, thus forming the Adnyamathanha people, adnya meaning rock and mathanaha meaning groups, it was the hills of this beautiful land that saved us,

I hear many say oh thank goodness for the missionaries they helped us ….. NO they only contained us on missions, taking control of our lives, banning the people to practice culture and making public enemies of the ones who stood strong, it was the land that gave us places to hide and why we are still here, so why do Yura’s take it for granted? why do they turn their back? why do they so cowardly bend their knee?

I will stand for the land, I will fight with every ounce of my strength, I live and breath this land, it is my solace, my love, the place where I am whole, I will say NO to the waste dump, I stand proud and I will protect my Mudah, my past, present and future  https://www.facebook.com/groups/344452605899556/

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Nuclear Racism in Australia

April 2, 2018

Jim Green, Anti-nuclear & Clean Energy (ACE) Campaign, Friends of the Earth, Australia, www.nuclear.foe.org.au  January 2018     

The British government conducted 12 nuclear bomb tests in Australia in the 1950s, most of them at Maralinga in South Australia. Permission was not sought from affected Aboriginal groups such as the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Tjarutja and Kokatha. Thousands of people were adversely affected and the impact on Aboriginal people was particularly profound.

The 1985 Royal Commission found that regard for Aboriginal safety was characterised by “ignorance, incompetence and cynicism”. Many Aboriginal people were forcibly removed from their homelands and taken to places such as the Yalata mission in South Australia, which was effectively a prison camp.

In the late-1990s, the Australian government carried out a clean-up of the Maralinga nuclear test site. It was done on the cheap and many tonnes of debris contaminated with kilograms of plutonium remain buried in shallow, unlined pits in totally unsuitable geology. As nuclear engineer and whistleblower Alan Parkinson said of the ‘clean-up’ on ABC radio in August 2002: “What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution that wouldn’t be adopted on white-fellas land.”

Barely a decade after the ‘clean-up’, a survey revealed that 19 of the 85 contaminated debris pits had been subject to erosion or subsidence. The half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,100 years.

Radioactive ransom − dumping on the NT

From 2005−2014 successive federal governments attempted to impose a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, 110 km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. A toxic trade-off of basic services for a radioactive waste dump was part of this story from the start. The nomination of the Muckaty site was made with the promise of $12 million compensation package comprising roads, houses and scholarships. Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo objected to this radioactive ransom: “I think that is a very, very stupid idea for us to sell our land to get better education and scholarships. As an Australian we should be already entitled to that.”

The Liberal/National Coalition government led by John Howard passed legislation − the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 − overriding the Aboriginal Heritage Act, undermining the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and allowing the imposition of a nuclear dump with no Aboriginal consultation or consent.

The Australian Labor Party voted against the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act, with Labor parliamentarians describing it as “extreme”, “arrogant”, “draconian”, “sorry”, “sordid”, and “profoundly shameful”. At its 2007 national conference, Labor voted unanimously to repeal the legislation. Yet after the 2007 election, the Labor government passed legislation − the National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA) − which was almost as draconian and still permitted the imposition of a nuclear dump with no Aboriginal consultation or consent.

In February 2008, Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd highlighted the life-story of Lorna Fejo − a member of the stolen generation − in the National Apology in Parliament House. At the same time, the Rudd government was stealing her land for a nuclear dump. Fejo said: “I’m very, very disappointed and downhearted about that [NRWMA legislation]. I’m really sad. The thing is − when are we going to have a fair go? Australia is supposed to be the land of the fair go. When are we going to have fair go? I’ve been stolen from my mother and now they’re stealing my land off me.”

Shamefully, the NLC supported legislation disempowering the people it is meant to represent.

The Federal Court trial finally began in June 2014. After two weeks of evidence, the NLC gave up and agreed to recommend to the federal government the withdrawal of the nomination of Muckaty for a nuclear dump. The Coalition government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott accepted the NLC’s recommendation.

Lorna Fejo said: “I feel ecstatic. I feel free because it was a long struggle to protect my land.”

Owners have won a significant battle for country and culture, but the problems and patterns of radioactive racism persist. Racism in the uranium mining industry involves ignoring the concerns of Traditional Owners; divide-and-rule tactics; radioactive ransom; ‘humbugging’ Traditional Owners (exerting persistent, unwanted pressure); providing Traditional Owners with false information; and threats, including legal threats.

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.

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.”

Nuclear War
One example concerns the 1982 South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act, which sets the legal framework for the operation of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine in SA. The Act was amended in 2011 but it retains exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Traditional Owners were not even consulted. The SA government’s spokesperson in Parliament said: “BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the government did not consult further than that.”

That disgraceful performance illustrates a broader pattern. Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections are feeble at the best of times. But the legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests.

Thus the Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the NT from the Act and thus removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise have enjoyed. New South Wales legislation exempts uranium mines from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act. The Western Australian government is in the process of gutting the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 at the behest of the mining industry. Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in SA, and Aboriginal heritage laws and land rights were repeatedly overridden with the push to dump nuclear waste in the NT.

While a small group of Traditional Owners supported the dump, a large majority were opposed and some initiated legal action in the Federal Court challenging the nomination of the Muckaty site by the federal government and the Northern Land Council (NLC).

Muckaty Traditional Owners have won a famous victory, but the nuclear war against Aboriginal people continues − and it will continue to be resisted, with the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance playing a leading role.

More information:  • Australian Nuclear Free Alliance www.anfa.org.au Friends of the Earth 
The greatest minds in the nuclear establishment have been searching for an answer to the radioactive waste problem for fifty years, and they’ve finally got one: haul it down a dirt road and dump it on an Indian reservation.” −− Winona LaDuke, Indigenous World Uranium Summit, 2006

Uranium pollution dispels the grand illusion of “clean America”

April 2, 2018

There are 10 or eleven towns in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexicothat had Uranium mills, right in the middle of town. That means that Uranium dust, polonium, thorium, radium, and radon blew freely, thoughout thewe towns, 24 hours a day for years. Most of the water, drained into the Colorado ariver. Many of these towns were downwinder towns, from open air blasting of nucler bombs in Nevada from 1949 to 1962.  Many, of the towns had the misfortune of having underground nuclear bombs detonated close to them as well, to try to track natural gas. Especially in New Mexico and Colorado. In the 60s Hilibutron was also tracking nuclear waste into areas in Nevada, and Wyoming. More recently  there has been fracking for oil and gas in UtAh, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. This means the radioactive burden to their water tables has been increased again substantially , along with 60 years of radioactive burden on the Colorado River. There are also the 1000 or so uranium mines draining into the Colorado River and Green driver from Utah, the western slope, Shiprock New Mexico,  Wyoming, The Grand Canyon Area.
I think Helen Caldicotts and Christina Macphersons estimates of a few million tons of radioactive sediment in Lake Mead and even lake Powell is wrong. https://nuclear-news.net/2017/12/22/uranium-tailings-pollution-in-lake-mead-and-lake-powell-colorado/

Consider underground nuclear destinations in Rangely Colorado and Northen New Mexico. I think it is more like a half billion or billions of ons of nuclear waste sediment in Lake Powell and lake mead..
There were Uranium Mills on the Navajo nation by Ship Rock and Halchita which is by the Colorado river. There were Uranium Mills right in the middle of town in Canyon City.Colorado, Moab.Utah, Uravan.Colorado, White Mesa.Utah, Monticello.Utah, by Grand Junction.Colorado. Many in Wyoming.
Uranium mining in Wyoming – Wikipedia
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_in_Wyoming.

There are dense cancer clusters in these little towns on the Navajo Nation, in Utah, in Nevada, in Colorado, in Wyoming, in New Mexico. There are Genetic mutations that should not exist. Some people, like those in St George or Monticello Utah got the mere pittance of 50,000 dollars, after having lived in downwinder areas and surviving cancer. Generations of families wiped-out in many instances. Clarke county Nevada, by Las Vegas has one of the highest incidences of cancer in the US. Is it any wonder, with all the radiation in their primary drinking water supplies?
Many little Colorado Plateau towns, in the west are  hit with quintuple curses: bomb blasts above ground, bomb blasts below ground-poisoning their head waters, uranium mills and waste in town, their river water radioacively poisoned from inderground nuclear blasts, from uranium mines, from cold war nuclear bomb detonations.
There has recently, been a great deal of cracking in these areas, releasing radioactivity into their desert rivers and water tables.
Americans live in a grand delusion, thinking how clean the western United States, and the rest of the USA is, with a hundred rickety old nuclear plants belching tritium, into the environment.  The United State is the most radioactive shithole in the world. How Trump has the gall to call other countries shitholes, is beyond me.

Australia’s history of massacres of Aboriginals is revealed in a map

July 24, 2017

For the full map by the Centre for 21st Century Humanities and the Centre for the History of Violence, visit https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au

Mapping Aboriginal massacres makes it time to recognise the colonial wars, say leading historians http://www.smh.com.au/national/mapping-aboriginal-massacres-makes-it-time-to-recognise-the-colonial-wars-say-leading-historians-20170705-gx4y3m.html, Julie Power.  5 July 17, Almost every Aboriginal clan experienced massacres at the hands of early settlers in the “colonial wars”, according to the first stage of a new online mapping project.

So far the project has documented 150 massacres resulting in at least 6000 deaths in the early years of the colony. Most happened at dawn with a surprise attack on an Aboriginal camp where people “simply couldn’t defend themselves”, said University of Newcastle historian Professor Lyndall Ryan, who has been developing the online digital map for nearly four years.

Yet those who died defending their people and land have rarely been recognised. Professor Ryan and Tasmanian author Professor Henry Reynolds – whose books documented the “forgotten” and “silent” colonial wars against Aboriginal people – said it was time for the Australia War Memorial to recognise this war.

“Certainly it is time the War Memorial acknowledges these massacres,” said Professor Ryan. By the time the project is completed in several years, she expects it will find that nearly 15,000 people were killed in massacres (defined as where six people or more died). This doesn’t include smaller attacks, which have been estimated by some academics to bring the death toll to more than 30,000 from 1788 until the 1940s. The impact of the massacres reverberates across the generations.

“When I visit Aboriginal communities today the first thing they do is take you to the massacre site,” Professor Ryan said.

“There are children who witnessed it who are now elderly,” she said, referring to survivors of 20th-century massacres in the Kimberleys and the Northern Territory who are still living with the trauma of having seen their families slaughtered.

“We must celebrate NAIDOC because these are people who survived,” she said.

The map shows massacres were widespread, with intense periods of warfare, and often included soldiers and police.  Professor Ryan said the massacres of Indigenous Australians were conducted in secrecy and few perpetrators were brought to justice.

And they were planned in advance. “They were not spontaneous events. They were very well planned, designed to eradicate the opposition,” Professor Ryan said.

The project currently lists massacres from 1788 to 1872 on the eastern seaboard, and includes coordinates, photos of the location, the motive where known, details of when each started and ended, the clan or nation, and the sources of information.

At the Myall Creek massacre on the Gwydir River on June 10, 1838, 28 members of the Wererai clan were killed by settler John Henry Fleming and 11 stockmen. “Aboriginal people tied up in daylight,” reads the explanation on the map. “Driven to a stockyard and killed with swords, pistols and muskets.”

Aboriginal people had little chance of surviving. They had spears, waddies and hatchets to fight the colonists. The colonists wielded swords, pistols, muskets and bayonets.

There were also 11 cases of poisonings – five in Victoria and six in NSW. And in Queensland, around 60 members of the Giggarabarh people died after flour laced with strychnine was given to them by two shepherds.

Even for Professor Ryan, as a white historian who has studied massacres for many years, it took a while for the “penny to drop” before she realised the extent to which perpetrators went to eradicate the local people.

The most shocking for her was the Jack Smith massacre in Warrigal Creek in Victoria in 1843, where about 150-170 Brataualang people were killed over five days in retaliation for the killing of Ronald Macalister, the nephew of a local squatter.

It was a rampage, she said.

“The perpetrators went to huge lengths to keep quiet and hide the true horror.”

An avenging party of 20 horsemen, known as “The Highland Brigade” was organised to look for the killer. The brigade was “sworn to secrecy”.

The research project used settler diaries, newspaper reports, and Aboriginal evidence to form a coherent list.

Professor Reynolds has called the attacks on Indigenous Australians the “forgotten war of conquest that saw the expropriation of the most productive land over vast continental distances”, and the transfer of sovereignty from the Aborigines to the British government.

He said the deaths were almost inevitable given the way the British colonised Australia.

“They didn’t give any rights of property or sovereignty to the Aborigines,” Professor Reynolds said.

That meant there was nothing for the Aborigines to negotiate, and that remained until the law changed with the Mabo case, he said.

“The settlers felt they were the owners of the land, and [they saw] the Aboriginal people as the trespassers and they were the criminals who stole their land and cattle,” he said.

Professor Ryan said many Aboriginal people had contacted her with further details of massacres.

Many artists have depicted the massacres in their works, including Judy Watson’s “a picnic with the natives – the gulf”.

It includes a series of canvases showing dots on the map depicting massacre sites across the country.

These works “could possibly be the catalyst for instances of coming together to speak these stories out loud,” she said in notes accompanying the work at the Art Gallery of NSW.

For the full map by the Centre for 21st Century Humanities and the Centre for the History of Violence, visit https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au

Camecco’s uranium deposits in Western Australia

May 18, 2017

The Global Uranium Industry & Cameco’s Troubled History May 2017 Jim Green − Friends of the Earth, Australia http://tinyurl.com/cameco-may-2017

“…….. Kintyre (70% Cameco / 30% Mitsubishi) The Martu Aboriginal people have fought against this proposed uranium mine since the 1980s. The deposit sits between two branches of a creek called Yantikutji which is connected to a complex network of surface and groundwater systems. It is also in an area that was cut out of the Karlamilyi National Park, WA’s biggest National Park. Kintyre is home to 28 rare, endangered and threatened species. The project would include an open pit 1.5 km long, 1.5 km wide, it would use 3.5 million litres of water a day and leave behind 7.2 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste over the life of the project.

In June 2016, Martu Traditional Owners led a 140 km, week-long walk to protest against Cameco’s proposed uranium mine at Kintyre. Aboriginal Traditional Owners are concerned the project will affect their water supplies as well as 28 threatened species in the Karlamilyi National Park.

Joining the protest walk was Anohni, the Academy Award-nominated musician from Antony and the Johnsons. She said: “It’s a huge landscape – it’s a really majestic place. It’s really hard to put a finger on it but there’s a sense of presence and integrity and patience, dignity and perseverance and intense intuitive wisdom that this particular community of people have. There is almost an unbroken connection to the land – they haven’t been radically disrupted. They are very impressive people – it’s humbling to be around these women. In many regards, I think the guys who run Cameco are desolate souls, desolate souls with no home, with no connection to land, with no connection to country.” www.ccwa.org.au/kintyre

Yeelirrie (100% Cameco) Yeelirrie in the local Wongutha Aboriginal language means ‘place of death’. The local community has fought against mining at Yeelirrie for over 40 years. There was a trial mine in the 1970s which was poorly managed: the site was abandoned, unfenced and unsigned with a shallow open pit and tailings left behind. The project would include a 9 km long, 1 km wide open pit, it would use 8.7 million litres of water a day and leave behind 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste over the life of the mine. There are many cultural heritage sites under threat from this proposal. The project was rejected by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 because of the threat that 11 species of underground microfauna would become extinct. The WA Environment Minister ignored the EPA advice and approved the project anyway. www.ccwa.org.au/yeelirrie

Australia’s undemocratic nuclear waste law disempowers indigenous landowners

May 18, 2017

13 March 2017, Friends of the Earth Australia is today releasing a detailed report on the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (NRWMA). The report ‒ written by Monash University fifth-year law student Amanda Ngo ‒ comes against the backdrop of the federal government’s targeting of a site near Hawker in SA’s Flinders Ranges for a national radioactive waste store and repository.

The NRWMA is heavy-handed, undemocratic legislation that gives the federal government the power to extinguish rights and interests in land targeted for a radioactive waste facility. In so doing the Minister must “take into account any relevant comments by persons with a right or interest in the land” but there is no requirement to secure consent. Traditional Owners, local communities, pastoralists, business owners, local councils and State/Territory Governments are all disadvantaged and disempowered by the NRWMA.

The NRWMA disempowers Traditional Owners ‒ in this case Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners ‒ in multiple ways, including:

  • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent.
  • The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect the archaeological or heritage values of land or objects, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions.
  • The NRWMA curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage.
  • The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste facility.

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners have been clear in their opposition to the planned radioactive waste facility in the Flinders Ranges. “I call upon the Federal and State Governments to put an end to this volatile position that the Adnyamathanha people are facing,” said Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Enice Marsh. “Native Title and the Aboriginal Heritage Act are not protecting our land. This needs a complete review or a Royal Commission. The Barndioota site in the Flinders Ranges must be struck off as a potential radioactive waste dump site and the National Radioactive Waste Management Act needs to be amended to give us the right to say ‘no’.”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives on Yappala Station near the proposed dump site, said: “The NRWMA is a political attack on Adnyamathanha women’s spiritual beliefs. The destruction of our culture and significant woman’s sites is a form of assimilation and thus breaches Article 8.1 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The NRWMA also breaches Article 25 of the UN Declaration which refers to our spiritual relationship with the land and the right to maintain and strengthen our culture. This is a breach of our Aboriginal human rights and our people and amounts to cultural genocide.”

The NRWMA has been criticised in both Senate Inquiries and a Federal Court challenge to an earlier federal government attempt to impose a national radioactive waste facility at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.

The NRWMA also puts the federal government’s radioactive waste agenda above environmental protection as it seeks to curtail the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Dr Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, said: “A senior government official claims the NRWMA is based on ‘world’s best practice’. In fact, the legislation systematically disempowers local communities and Traditional Owners and weakens environmental protections. It needs to be radically amended or replaced with legislation that protects the environment and gives local communities and Traditional Owners the right to say no to nuclear waste dumps.”

 Amanda Ngo’s paper, ‘National Radioactive Waste Management  Act 2012′, is posted at http://tinyurl.com/nrwma-2017

Uranium Exposure – The Navajo Birth Cohort Study

May 18, 2017
Mothers, Babies on Navajo Nation Exposed to High Levels of Uranium https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/culture/health-wellness/mothers-babies-navajo-nation-exposed-high-levels-uranium/ Navajo Birth Cohort Study figuring out how exposure affects health Tanya H. Lee • December 20, 2016

Researchers with the Navajo Birth Cohort Study aren’t looking for simple answers about how uranium exposure affects health. We already know—and have known for decades—that contact with uranium can cause kidney disease and lung cancer.

This study is the first to look at what chronic, long-term exposure from all possible sources of uranium contamination—air, water, plants, wildlife, livestock and land—does down through the generations in a Native American community.

Since the study began in 2012, over 750 families have enrolled and 600 babies have been born to those families, said Dr. Johnnye Lewis, director of the Community Environmental Health Program & Center for Native Environmental Health Equity Research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and NBCS principal investigator.

We’re collecting a huge amount of data,” Lewis said. “At this point … all of our results are preliminary, [but] what we do know is that if we look at uranium in urine in the Navajo participants we see higher concentrations than we would expect based on the U.S. population as a whole… [In babies,] we are seeing a trend that uranium levels in urine increase over the first year.”

The Navajo Nation overlies some of the largest uranium deposits in the U.S. Between 1944 and 1986, miners extracted nearly 30 million tons of uranium from Navajo Nation lands. Navajo miners did not have protective suits or masks; they took their work clothes home for laundering; they and other community members used rocks from the mines to build their homes.

When the Cold War ended, most of the uranium mines on Navajo were abandoned—not covered, or sealed, or remediated, just left as they were with waste piles exposed to wind and rain and accessible to anyone, including children.

Today, more than 500 open abandoned uranium mines are spread across the Navajo Nation and uranium dust, particles and radiation continue to be released into the environment.

The questions the NBCS seeks to answer are complex. Uranium does not exist in isolation at the mine sites, so the study is looking at 36 different metals associated with uranium. “We do that because when you look at uranium waste, it’s not just uranium that’s in the waste,” said Lewis. “None of the variables that we look at, none of the causes or the outcomes that we look at are on-off binary sort of things. What we look at is as concentrations of uranium or other metals changes, can we see changes in responses?”

Researchers have also been alarmed by the findings that levels of iodine and zinc are lower than they should be in the study group. Iodine levels are about 40 percent below the World Health Organization sufficiency level, and 61 percent of the mothers in the study have zinc levels below the WHO sufficiency level. “Iodine deficiencies [are] very, very important because iodine is really critical for normal organ development and neurodevelopment,” said Lewis. “And we worry about zinc because we have some evidence that it may be involved in the repair process when you have exposure to some of the metals that we look at. [A lack of zinc] actually inhibits the body’s ability to fix damage to DNA.”

Documenting these deficiencies would make the NBCS worthwhile “even if we learn there are absolutely no [long-term health] effects from uranium,” Lewis said. “Whatever we find out is going to be important.”

Two other endeavors resulting from the study are already in the works, and both will be hugely important to the well-being of Navajo families in the future.

The project has just won Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program funding from the National Institutes of Health. The project is looking at kids all across the U.S. to try to understand how their environment influences their health. It will eventually include 50,000 children and at least two cohorts will be from Native American communities, Lewis said. “We’re just really pleased that they’re including Native Americans.”

The Centers for Disease Control funding for the NBCS only allows families to be followed for up to one year. This new funding, which extends over 5 years after a 2-year initial period, will allow the researchers to go back and look again at each child on an annual basis and do much more detailed developmental assessments. In the process, they will be able to develop an assessment that takes into account Navajo parenting styles and create an instrument that is valid specifically for Navajo children, unlike standardized developmental assessments that are devised based primarily on the dominant culture’s parenting practices.

To accomplish that, “we put together a clinical team that is going to be training our Navajo staff to deliver these developmental assessments. It will be a long process of working together. They’ll be trained and then they will shadow the clinical team so that they get a lot more experience off Navajo before ever coming back here and then when they come back they’ll each be partnered with either a neurodevelopmental expert or psychometrician … who will be hired through the program. They will initially shadow them and then be shadowed by them to ensure that we have consistency.

“So at the end of seven years what we’re going to have is a really great team of professional evaluators who will be staying on Navajo and who will provide that new service” to Navajo families, Lewis said.

The NBCS is a collaborative effort of the University of New Mexico’s DiNEH Project, Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR), Navajo Area Indian Health Service, and the Navajo Nation Division of Health, and the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Women between the ages of 14 and 45 who have lived on the Navajo Nation for five years, are pregnant and will deliver their babies at hospitals in Chinle, Gallup, Shiprock, Ft. Defiance and Tuba City are eligible to participate in the study. Call 1-877-545-6775 for information.

The toxic legacy of British nuclear bomb testing in Australia

November 21, 2016

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.


Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia  Published in:  Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5
(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.
The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:

6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).

Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.

On 3 October 1952 the British successfully detonated a nuclear device of about 25 kilotons in the Monte Bello Islands.

The newest member of the nuclear club was by no means content to rest on the laurels of one successful test, however. Indeed, even before the Monte Bello detonation, British officials had visited sites in a remote area of South Australia with an eye to conducting future tests.

In December 1952, the new British Prime Minister, Churchill, asked Menzies for agreement in principle to a series of tests at Emu Field, some 1,200 km northwest of Adelaide in the Great Victoria Desert. Menzies replied promptly, in the affirmative. On 15 October 1953, Totem 1, a device with a yield of approximately 10 kilotons was detonated; two days later, Totem 11 was exploded with an approximate yield of 8 kilotons.

By this time, the British government had become firmly committed to a continuing nuclear weapons program. Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, north of the transcontinental railway line in southwestern South Australia.

Following the ‘Mosaic’ tests in mid-1956, which involved the detonation of two weapons at the Monte Bello site, the British testing program in Australia was confined to the mainland. Four ‘Buffalo’ tests were conducted at Maralinga in September and October 1956, and three ‘Antler’ explosions were detonated there the following year.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

A series of British hydrogen bomb tests was conducted in the Pacific Ocean during 1957 and 1958 without Australian involvement.   In addition to the major weapons testing programs, the British undertook a number of minor trials at Emu and at Maralinga during the period 1953-1963. The ‘Kittens’, ‘Tims’ and ‘Rats’ series of experiments tested individual components or sub-assemblies of nuclear devices. Subsequent series, called ‘Vixen A’ and ‘Vixen B’ sought to investigate the effects of accidental fires and explosions on nuclear weapons.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Thus, Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

In the interests of the testing program, it was decided to curtail the movements of those Aboriginal people traversing the Maralinga area. In addition, a number were taken to a reserve which had recently been established at Yalata, some distance to the south, across the transcontinental railway line. The removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands was more than an inconvenience. The Maralinga lands contained mythological sites of spiritual significance for their inhabitants, a significance which was at best only vaguely appreciated by white officials. Indeed, this lack of sensitivity was illustrated by the consideration given by authorities to identifying sacred objects and ‘removing’ them to areas of resettlement (Australia 1985, pp. 300-1). During the 1950s, hundreds of former inhabitants of the Maralinga lands sought to reaffirm their threatened culture by travelling considerable distances from the Yalata area in order to attend ceremonial functions and to visit other Aboriginal groups. These movements extended as far west as Cundalee, Western Australia, and as far east as Coober Pedy and Mabel Creek.

Some Aboriginal people were even less fortunate. Security patrols in and around the Maralinga area were intermittently effective, and from time to time some Aboriginal people were evicted from the area. Years later, Aboriginal people from Western Australia would recall how they were directed away from Maralinga along a road which diverged from their standard water hole routes, and how some of their party died from lack of access to water.

For those who survived, there seems little doubt that for the Western Desert (Maralinga) people the alien settlement of Yalata and lack of access to their desert homelands contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. ……..

…Although most of the British and Australian personnel involved in the testing program were equipped with film badges and dosimeters to record the extent of their exposure to radiation, some did not. Moreover, those measuring devices which were provided did not record exposure with perfect accuracy.

Nor could the risk to the general public be assessed with any real rigour. Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure. Whilst it is probable that some cases of cancer and genetic damage were caused by radiation generated by the nuclear tests, a realistic estimate of their extent is not possible.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public. During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics…….

There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests. From the outset, the British were under pressure to demonstrate to the Americans that they were able to keep secrets at all. Full disclosure of the hazards and potential costs to Australia entailed in the testing program were out of the question. Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed.

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest…….

….British secretiveness and imperfect review of test proposals and consequences by Australian officials notwithstanding, the degree to which Australian authorities went in limiting debate and discussion of the testing program and its effects cannot be ignored.

Such media coverage of the tests as was permitted by British and Australian authorities tended to be trivial and generally celebratory (Woodward 1984). Restrictions were onerous, in some occasions to the point of absurdity. D-notices were applied in such a manner that Australian journalists were forbidden from reporting items which had already been published freely in the United Kingdom.

Dissent or criticism by Australian personnel involved in the testing program was not tolerated. One patrol officer who objected that the development of testing sites was proceeding without due regard for the protection and welfare of local Aborigines was ‘reminded of his obligations as a Commonwealth Officer’ (Australia 1985, p. 304), and warned against speaking to the press.

Occasionally, when Aborigines were sighted in restricted areas, reports of these sightings were disbelieved, or less than subtly discouraged. One officer who reported sighting Aborigines in the prohibited zone was asked if he realised ‘what sort of damage [he] would be doing by finding Aboriginals where Aboriginals could not be’ (Australia 1985, p. 319).

After the Milpuddie family was found in the restricted area at Maralinga, the Range Commander invoked the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cwlth) to prevent disclosure of the incident by any personnel on the scene.

The flow of information within government departments was at times impeded, with adverse consequences. According to one account, incomplete information about plutonium contaminations at Maralinga was given to Vic Garland, a Minister in the McMahon government, causing him to mislead Parliament in 1972 (Toohey 1978).

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly………

In 1984, the South Australian Parliament passed the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act conferring freehold title to the Maralinga lands upon their traditional owners. But Aboriginal control over their land was not absolute. Mineral rights remained vested in the Crown, and the Act did not confer a right of veto on the Aboriginal owners. Rather, in the event of a dispute over whether the lands could be explored or mined, an Arbitrator would weigh the interests of the traditional owners against the economic significance of the proposed operations to the state and to Australia.

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture. http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html

Australia’s radioactive war on Aboriginal people

September 13, 2016

The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people.

The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.


Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people,
Ecologist 
Jim Green 1st July 2016
Australia’s nuclear industry has a shameful history of ‘radioactive racism’ that dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s, writes Jim Green. 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!

From 1998-2004, the Australian federal government tried – but failed – to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in South Australia.

Then the government tried to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, but that also failed.

Now the government has embarked on its third attempt and once again it is trying to impose a dump on Aboriginal land despite clear opposition from Traditional Owners. The latest proposal is for a dump in the spectacular Flinders Ranges, 400 km north of Adelaide in South Australia, on the land of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners.

The government says that no group will have a right of veto, which is coded racism: it means that the dump may go ahead despite the government’s acknowledgement that “almost all Indigenous community members surveyed are strongly opposed to the site continuing.”

The proposed dump site was nominated by former Liberal Party politician Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia.

It was like somebody ripped my heart out’

The site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). “The IPA is right on the fence – there’s a waterhole that is shared by both properties”said Yappala Station resident and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie.

The waterhole – a traditional women’s site and healing place – is one of many archeological and culturally significant sites in the area that Traditional Owners have registered with the South Australian government over the past six years. Two Adnyamathanha associations – Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob – wrote in November 2015 statement:

“Adnyamathanha land in the Flinders Ranges has been short-listed for a national nuclear waste dump. The land was nominated by former Liberal Party Senator Grant Chapman. Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners weren’t consulted. Even Traditional Owners who live next to the proposed dump site at Yappala Station weren’t consulted. This is an insult.

“The whole area is Adnyamathanha land. It is Arngurla Yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dump site has springs. It also has ancient mound springs. It has countless thousands of Aboriginal artefects. Our ancestors are buried there.

“Hookina creek that runs along the nominated site is a significant women’s site. It is a registered heritage site and must be preserved and protected. We are responsible for this area, the land and animals.

“We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything). We call on the federal government to withdraw the nomination of the site and to show more respect in future.”

Regina McKenzie describes getting the news that the Flinders Ranges site had been chosen from a short-list of six sites across Australia: “We were devastated, it was like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away. My niece rang me crying … it was like somebody ripped my heart out.”

McKenzie said on ABC television: “Almost every waste dump is near an Aboriginal community. It’s like, yeah, they’re only a bunch of blacks, they’re only a bunch of Abos, so we’ll put it there. Don’t you think that’s a little bit confronting for us when it happens to us all the time? Can’t they just leave my people alone?”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Dr Jillian Marsh said in an April 2016 statement:

“The First Nations people of Australia have been bullied and pushed around, forcibly removed from their families and their country, denied access and the right to care for their own land for over 200 years. Our health and wellbeing compares with third world countries, our people crowd the jails. Nobody wants toxic waste in their back yard, this is true the world over. We stand in solidarity with people across this country and across the globe who want sustainable futures for communities, we will not be moved.”

The battle over the proposed dump site in the Flinders Ranges will probably be resolved over the next 12 months. If the government fails in its third attempt to impose a dump against the wishes of Aboriginal Traditional Owners, we can only assume on past form that a fourth attempt will ensue……

Now Aboriginal people in South Australia face the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump as well as a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level waste for storage and disposal as a commercial venture.

The plan is being driven by the South Australian government, which last year established a Royal Commission to provide a fig-leaf of independent supporting advice. The Royal Commissioner is a nuclear advocate and the majority of the members of the Expert Advisory Committee are strident nuclear advocates.

Indeed it seems as if the Royal Commissioner sought out the dopiest nuclear advocates he could find to put on the Expert Advisory Committee: one thinks nuclear power is safer than solar, another thinks that nuclear power doesn’t pose a weapons proliferation risk, and a third was insisting that there was no credible risk of a serious accident at Fukushima even as nuclear meltdown was in full swing.

Announcing the establishment of the Royal Commission in March 2015, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said“We have a specific mandate to consult with Aboriginal communities and there are great sensitivities here. I mean we’ve had the use and abuse of the lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja people by the British when they tested their atomic weapons.”

Yet the South Australian government’s handling of the Royal Commission process systematically disenfranchised Aboriginal people. The truncated timeline for providing feedback on draft Terms of Reference disadvantaged people in remote regions, people with little or no access to email and internet, and people for whom English is a second language. There was no translation of the draft Terms of Reference, and a regional communications and engagement strategy was not developed or implemented.

Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed frustration with the Royal Commission process. One example (of many) is the submission of the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob (who are also fighting against the plan for a national nuclear waste dump on their land):

“Why we are not satisfied with the way this Royal Commission has been conducted:

Yaiinidlha Udnyu ngawarla wanggaanggu, wanhanga Yura Ngawarla wanggaanggu? – always in English, where’s the Yura Ngawarla (our first language)?

“The issues of engagement are many. To date we have found the process of engagement used by the Royal Commission to be very off putting as it’s been run in a real Udnyu (whitefella) way. Timelines are short, information is hard to access, there is no interpreter service available, and the meetings have been very poorly advertised. …

“A closed and secretive approach makes engagement difficult for the average person on the street, and near impossible for Aboriginal people to participate.”

The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Congress of South Australia, comprising people from many Aboriginal groups across the state, endorsed the following resolution at an August 2015 meeting:

“We, as native title representatives of lands and waters of South Australia, stand firmly in opposition to nuclear developments on our country, including all plans to expand uranium mining, and implement nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our land. … Many of us suffer to this day the devastating effects of the nuclear industry and continue to be subject to it through extensive uranium mining on our lands and country that has been contaminated.

“We view any further expansion of industry as an imposition on our country, our people, our environment, our culture and our history. We also view it as a blatant disregard for our rights under various legislative instruments, including the founding principles of this state.”

The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987853/radioactive_waste_and_the_nuclear_war_on_australias_aboriginal_people.html

Historical Attempts to dump nuclear waste on South Australia

September 13, 2016

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.”

Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist Jim Green 1st July 2016  “………Dumping on South Australia, 1998-2004

This isn’t the first time that Aboriginal people in South Australia have faced the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump. In 1998, the federal government announced its intention to build a dump near the rocket and missile testing range at Woomera.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in South Australia 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.

Aboriginal groups were coerced into signing ‘Heritage Clearance Agreements’ consenting to test drilling of short-listed sites for the proposed dump. The federal government made it clear that if consent was not granted, drilling would take place anyway.

Aboriginal groups were put in an invidious position. They could attempt to protect specific cultural sites by engaging with the federal government and signing agreements, at the risk of having that engagement being misrepresented as consent for the dump; or they could refuse to engage in the process, thereby having no opportunity to protect cultural sites.

Aboriginal groups did participate in Heritage Clearance Agreements, and as feared that participation was repeatedly misrepresented by the federal government as amounting to Aboriginal consent for the dump.

We would not do that for any amount of money’

In 2002, the Federal Government tried to buy-off Aboriginal opposition to the dump. Three Native Title claimant groups – the Kokatha, Kuyani and Barngala – were offeredA$90,000 to surrender their native title rights, but only on the condition that all three groups agreed.

The government’s offer was refused. Dr Roger Thomas, a Kokatha Traditional Owner, said:“The insult of it, it was just so insulting. I told the Commonwealth officers to stop being so disrespectful and rude to us by offering us $90,000 to pay out our country and our culture.”

Andrew Starkey, also a Kokatha man, said“It was just shameful. They were wanting people to sign off their cultural heritage rights for a minuscule amount of money. We would not do that for any amount of money.”

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.

Next – the sham ‘consultation’

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

The government’s approach to ‘consultation’ with Aboriginal people was spelt out in a document leaked in 2002. The document states: “Tactics to reach Indigenous audiences will be informed by extensive consultations currently being undertaken … with Indigenous groups.” In other words, sham ‘consultation’ was used to fine-tune the government’s pro-dump propaganda.

The government’s cynical and disrespectful tactics were the antithesis of Article 29 of theUnited Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that ”no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent”.

This issue of sham ‘consultation’ arises time and time again, most recently with the discussion initiated by a Royal Commission (discussed below) into “building confidence” in the safety of nuclear waste dump proposals. West Mallee Protection (WMP), representing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from Ceduna in western South Australia, responded with this blistering attack:

“WMP finds this question superficial and offensive. It is a fact that many people have dedicated their time and energy to investigating and thinking about nuclear waste. It is a fact that even elderly women that made up the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta – a senior Aboriginal women’s council – committed years of their lives to stand up to the proposal for a low-level facility at Woomera.

“They didn’t do this because of previously inadequate ‘processes’ to ‘build confidence’ as the question suggests but because: A) Individuals held a deep commitment to look after country and protect it from a substance known as ‘irati’ poison which stemmed from long held cultural knowledge.

B) Nuclear impacts were experienced and continued to be experienced first hand by members and their families predominately from nuclear testing at Emu Field and Maralinga but also through exploration and mining at Olympic Dam.

C) They epitomized and lived by the worldview that sustaining life for future generations is of upmost importance and that this is at odds with the dangerous and long lasting dangers of all aspects of the nuclear industry.

“The insinuation that the general population or target groups such Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta or the communities in the Northern Territory that succeeded them and also fought off a nuclear dump for Muckaty were somehow deficient in their understanding of the implications and may have required “confidence building” is highly offensive.”

The politicians finally get their ears out of their pockets

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta 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, with the dump issue biting politically, and following a Federal Court ruling that the government had illegally used urgency provisions in the Lands Acquisition Act, the 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.”