Australian news, and some related international items

A Warrnambool artist recalls the physical and emotional effects of nuclear testing in Maralinga

By Aaron Smith, May 10 2023

A Warrnambool artist has recalled the effects nuclear testing had on an Indigenous community at Maralinga, 65 years after the final detonation.

The South Australian site was permanently closed in 1967 following the end of Operation Antler and a few smaller tests, displacing hundreds of Aboriginal people.

The federal government provided housing 150 kilometres south in Yalata, where Merran Koren began a six-month social work placement in 1969.

Ms Koren said there was a lot of conflict as mutually hostile groups were forced together.

“All of these mobs were thrust into these small communities, there was no insight into what their needs were” she said.

Ms Koren recalled one instance where she took care of an Aboriginal woman who had been cut in the eyebrow with a beer bottle.

“She came to me covered in blood so I put six to eight sutures along her eyebrow then washed her up and put her into bed with the fire on, I remember being so proud,” she said.

“I got up the following morning at six o’clock and she was out of bed, sleeping in front of the fire with two dogs laying on her like blankets.

“Here I had put her into this spot that was so neat and proper, but never had I thought to ask her ‘what would you like me to do?’.”

Ms Koren said many of the older residents at Yalata were vision impaired, potentially as a result of flash blindness from nuclear testing.

“But most of them had come away from the Maralinga site by the time it had started, it was more the emotional pain of not being on their country,” she said.

“All of these people were bundled into trucks and taken to this place they knew nothing about.”

Now with decades of hindsight, Ms Koren said Australia should learn from the mistakes of its past.

“In social work we have to see everything in a time and place, but it doesn’t completely excuse it,” she said.


May 11, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, personal stories

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