Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Lest we forget: Aboriginal victims of Maralinga atomic bomb testing- theme for June19

text-from-the-archivesAustralian atomic massacre still ignored By David T. Rowlands from Green Left Weekly  issue 971 June 29, 2013

Lennon,-Lallie-2006Lallie Lennon provided convincing testimony of the injuries suffered from the fall-out.
Nearly 60 years have passed since Totem 1, a British nuclear test in the Australian desert, was recklessly conducted in unfavourable meteorological conditions.Nuclear testing of any sort, even in the most “controlled” of circumstances, is inherently abusive, a crime against the environment and humanity for countless generations to come. Yet the effects of Totem 1 were particularly bad, even by the warped standards of the era.The mushroom cloud did not behave in the way it was supposed to. Instead of rising uniformly, part of it spread laterally, causing fallout to roll menacingly at ground level over a remote yet still populated corner of South Australia, sowing injury, illness and death in its wake.

The number of casualties is unknown because the secretive and unaccountable nuclear establishment has always declined to investigate the full impact of its own criminal negligence. But it has been suggested by investigators that perhaps 50 short-term Aboriginal fatalities resulted.

In addition to those who died, many others were exposed to harmful levels of radiation. The long-term health effects on these individuals have never been charted — but anecdotal reports of high cancer rates and horrendous birth defects in isolated “downwinder” communities have circulated.

At the time of the tests, it was well known by authorities that communities of Aboriginal people were close by. Yet the official attitude was that the concerns of a “handful of natives” could not be allowed to interfere with the “interests” of the British Commonwealth.

Imagine you are out with your family one morning when suddenly a loud explosion issues from the distant horizon. The ground rumbles and shakes, as though it were about to open up. Minutes later, a thick, churning dark dust cloud engulfs the surrounding desert countryside.

Terrified, with all your senses in recoil from these unnatural developments, you wonder if an event of apocalyptic proportions is taking place. And your troubles are only just beginning.

This is what happened to 22-year-old Yankunytjatjara woman Lallie Lennon and her three young children at Mintabie on October 15, 1953. A 10-kiloton device (roughly two-thirds the yield of the Hiroshima bomb) was detonated 180 kilometres away at Emu Field, near Maralinga.

Lallie and her son Bruce, aged 3, were covered in the gunpowder-smelling dust and smoke that came rushing through the trees with such intensity that it apparently created eclipse-like visibility conditions. “It went dark and dark,” recalled Lallie in 2006. “Dark — we couldn’t see anything. The place was black, you couldn’t see nothing.”

The levels of beta radiation contained in this toxic plume were so great that it felt like being “rolled in a fire”. The “kids were [ing] … it was terrible … We was glad we was alive but we got sick. We were sicker and sicker.”

About a year later, both Lallie and her son Bruce developed a debilitating skin condition that involves the periodic eruption of oozing, agonising sores all over the body.

Lallie said: “It went away and then came back and the sores were getting bigger and bigger every time … I was in a mess after the sores.” Her two daughters, who were in a tent at the time the mist swept through, were spared the beta burns, but developed other symptoms consistent with radiological contamination.

Lallie’s story first achieved public recognition when she spoke about her experiences for a 1981 documentary, “Backs to the Blast”.

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December 9, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, South Australia | Leave a comment