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Aboriginal land and nuclear waste dumping: A critically important Submission to Senate from Regina McKenzie

Ed note. This submission has an important attachment – a  letter – which will later be published on this site

Regina McKenzie Selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility in South Australia  (Submission No.107)

This independent submission addresses the following key points of the Terms of Reference of the Australian:  Senate Economic Reference Committee inquiry (2018) into the appropriateness and thoroughness of the site.  selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility at Kimba and Hawker in South  Australia:

  1. c) how any need for Indigenous support has played and will continue to play a part in  the process, including how Indigenous support has been or will be determined for each  process advancement stage; and
  1. f) any other related matters.

My name is Regina McKenzie and I am an identified (Aboriginal) Kuyani traditional owner for the area of land   currently subject to the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Project (NRWMFP) at Barndioota, South Australia. I have extensive cultural knowledge of this portion of Adnyamathanha country and have  been working collaboratively with non Aboriginal specialist for well over ten years to investigate and report on  this area. Some of the projects that I have worked on in my cultural interest area include:

  • Numerous archaeological investigations with a number of Australian universities;
  • Palaeontology investigations with Flinders University, South Australia;
  • Aboriginal heritage investigations for NRM projects with multiple State Government agencies;
  • Archaeological investigations for SA Power Networks;
  • Archaeological training programs with the Heritage team of the South Australian Department of Premier  and Cabinet, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (DPC AARD) (now Department of State
  • Development Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation – DSD AAR);
  • Cultural heritage management planning for the Commonwealth Government’s Indigenous Protected Area  (IPA) program.
  • The development of large area cultural mapping protocols for the SA State Government;
  • The translation and spatial mapping of one of my Nation’s ancestral story lines that includes the  nominated NRWMFP area in Barndioota.

The reference committee should understand that the Adnyamathanha People are an historical conglomeration of multiple and individually identified Aboriginal tribal Nations, each of which has its own cultural interest area. The Adnyamathanha people, as a whole, hold native title over much of the Flinders Ranges and this is managed by a prescribed body corporate on behalf of all traditional groups by the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA). I would also like to note that only individual people, not organisations, can hold cultural knowledge and be considered as traditional owners (there is case law in South Australia to this affect). It is also vital that the committee appreciate the difference between Aboriginal cultural heritage laws and obligations (whether they be State or Federal), and Native Title laws, rights and interests. My submission is focussed on the cultural heritage rights and interests of identified traditional owners and the State/Federal obligations for those that wish to investigate /or harm Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Many of my concerns with the Aboriginal cultural heritage consultation process for the NRWMFP in Barndioota have been summarised in a recent letter to Minister Canavan (see Attached) [ed. note: This letter will be published on this site, as a separate post] . I would appreciate if the committee accepts the attached letter as part of my submission. I note that despite repeated requests to Minister Canavan’s office, I still have not received a response to this letter and many questions remain unanswered and concerns unresolved. I believe that these questions and concerns must be addressed for the DIIS consultation process to be considered effective.

In addition to my questions and concerns detailed in the attached letter, I would appreciate some clarification on the following:

  1. Australia’s commitment to Article 29.2. of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous  Peoples which notes:

States shall take effective measures to ensure 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.

I would appreciate some clarification on the Australian Government’s or the the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) position on this United Nations charter and how it applies to proposed  developments on traditional Aboriginal lands and lands that contain significant cultural value to relevant Aboriginal people.

The DIIS, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government of Australia, took no steps during the nomination and shortlisting process to secure either the free, or the prior, or the informed consent of the Indigenous peoples who have significant cultural ties to the NRWMFP area in Barndioota. To the best of my knowledge, the DIIS believed that the Commonwealth Government did not need to consult with Aboriginal people in Barndioota because the proposed project area was not subject to Native Title. This was stated to myself and my sister when we first called the DIIS to enquire about the project after we heard about it on ABC news. This was also repeated by DIIS representatives at their initial public meetings in Hawker.

Importantly, and from an Aboriginal cultural heritage perspective, ATLA and the relevant cultural custodians of the Barndioota area have repeatedly advised the DIIS that they do not support the siting of the NRWMFP within our traditional country.

  1. The DIIS initially confused Aboriginal cultural heritage obligations with Native Title constraints and only consulted with affected Aboriginal people after repeated requests for information from myself and my sister
  1. The Aboriginal cultural heritage investigations undertaken to support the Barndioota NRWMFP have not been undertaken in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s best practice requirements for investigating and reporting on Aboriginal cultural heritage (see attached letter). Importantly, this failure to adhere, recognise or use the Commonwealth best practice guidelines has led the DIIS to:
  • Consult with inappropriate Aboriginal people who do not hold cultural information for Barndioota, and
  • Completely ignore the significant cultural/gender restrictions associated with the NRWMFP area, and
  • Alienate relevant culturally appropriate people from participating in the NRWMFP assessment, and
  • Not have access to vitally important cultural information associated with the NRWMFP area.

These factors alone have made the DIIS Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment ineffective,  inappropriate, and incomplete. This significantly flawed consultation process needs to be completely abandoned as soon as possible because it has caused significant mental health issues within our broader Aboriginal community and continuing lateral violence within our immediate family. The NRWMFP Aboriginal consultation process has left me feeling ostracised within my own family and I find myself constantly witnessing aggressive, misogynistic and culturally inappropriate behaviour from a select few who have been validated through the DIIS Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment process.

  1. The DIIS has failed to abide by their own governance guidelines that they established for the Aboriginal cultural heritage consultative committee. There have been too many instances of aggressive and inappropriate behaviour that have not been recorded or addressed.
  1. The DIIS has inappropriately engaged a cultural heritage consultancy:
  • Against the wishes of both ATLA and the relevant cultural custodians of the NRWMFP area,
  • Without presenting any tangible proof that the consultancy has/can record the intangible values associated with large area cultural sites to a level that is similar to, or better than, that developed by DPC AARD,
  • Without developing the scope of work for the assessment with ATLA and the relevant cultural custodians of the NRWMFP area,
  • Without informing ATLA or the relevant cultural custodians of the agreed scope of work between the DIIS and the consultancy for the Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment
  1. The nomination and short-listing process of the Barndioota NRWMFP site failed to acknowledge the unique and intrinsic Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the associated cultural landscape. Many of these values have been documented by the State Government through extensive cultural mapping and archaeological investigations, and acknowledged by the Commonwealth Government for the neighbouring IPA program. Importantly, the failure to acknowledge the values of this cultural landscape also extended to a failure to recognise and acknowledge the nominated traditional custodians of the land subject to the NRWMFP area. These custodians are well known to DPC AAR who hold the contact details for the custodians of all of our recorded sites.
  1. Ministers Frydenberg and Canavan have both issued seperate commitments that no Aboriginal cultural heritage will be harmed through this project. The DIIS has been informed of the extensive archaeologyand all-encompassing intangible values associated with the NRWMFP area, and the impossibility of situating the NRWMFP and its associated road/power infrastructure without harming Aboriginal cultural heritage which includes our cultural beliefs, lore and customs. Could the committee please clarify the DIIS’/the Commonwealth Government’s understanding of what Aboriginal cultural heritage means and how the DIIS intend to avoid/not cause harm, particularly to our system of lore, custom and belief. We believe that this is a major constraint for the NRWMFP and that valuable public funds could have been saved if the relevant Ministers honour their commitments and resolved this matter early in the project.
  1. During Phase one, the DIIS never undertook any formal Acknowledgement of Country, and has never requested a formal Welcome to Country from any Adnyamathanha elder for any of the meetings held in Hawker.
  1. Retired Liberal Senator Chapman’s nomination of the Barndioota site has never been questioned either in the context of any potential political conflict of interest, or for his prior engagement in the Federal Senate and his involvement in past Senate committees who were tasked to investigate the establishment of above ground Nuclear waste facilities nearly two decades ago. We have been assured that the nomination of the Barndioota site is not related in any way to the current Liberal government or to the ex Senator’s prior profession. I would like this matter to be assessed in a transparent way.
  1. Key Hawker community representatives who support the NRWMFP in Barndioota have long term relationships with, and have worked for Wallerbedina Station for many years. This potential conflict of interest needs to be identified and acknowledged in a transparent manner.

June 23, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump

1 Comment »

  1. […] whites and with as little as possible involvement from First Nations people. Indigenous leader Regina McKenzie explained this situation in her submission to the Senate […]


    Pingback by Australia is the great 'white' hope for the global nuclear industry - Independent Australia - Investing in Green Energy | November 19, 2019 | Reply

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