Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Indigenous rights issues in Kimba nuclear waste dump proposal

Looking back to the 2016 shonky South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, – the same problems apply to the present Federal Government plan . Friends of the Earth Australia examined these- in Arguments against turning SA into the world’s nuclear waste dump.

Aboriginal Traditional Owners

Our organisations hold serious concerns over past and continuing nuclear industry practices and impacts and the following comments highlight the often poor treatment of Aboriginal people by the nuclear/uranium industries in Australia and by governments pursuing or facilitating nuclear/uranium projects.

”The SA 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. This was compounded when the Commission was formulated as there was no translation of the draft Terms of Reference, and a regional communications and engagement strategy was not developed or implemented. Subsequent efforts by the Royal Commission to provide translators and to translate written material were highly selective, partial and simply inadequate. Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed frustrations with the Royal Commission process.

The federal government tried but failed to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in SA from 1998‒2004, then tried but failed to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in the NT from 2005‒14, and now the federal government appears to again be seeking to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in SA against the near-unanimous opposition of Traditional Owners.

At the federal level Labor and the Coalition both supported the National Radioactive Waste Management Act, which permits the imposition of a dump on Aboriginal land without any consultation with or consent from Aboriginal Traditional Owners (to be precise, the nomination of a site is not invalidated by a failure to consult or secure consent).

In SA, there is bipartisan support for the South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act. The Act was amended in 2011 but it retains indefensible exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Traditional Owners were not even consulted about the amendments. 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.” Arguments against turning SA into the world’s nuclear waste dump  https://nuclear.foe.org.au/waste-import-arguments/?fbclid=IwAR1yajKABFYLvMp3gFjM_DuYJFFMu4nnuc3LXxLFEBLpI7Da9-OjSv0IHrk#_ftnref4

May 24, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

It’s not acceptable to ignore Aboriginal land owners, in order to impose high level nuclear waste on their land.


Kim Mavromatis,No nuclear waste dump anywhere in South Australia, 18 May 21, In 2020 it’s not acceptable to completely ignore the traditional owners of country and not acceptable to deliberately remove Independent Scrutiny or Rights of Appeal from the Legislation process. But these bullies don’t care what South Australia thinks.


The world classifies Spent Nuclear Fuel (10,000 times more radioactive than uranium ore) and Nuclear Waste from reprocessed SNF (still contains 95% of the radioactivity of SNF) as High Level Nuclear Waste but Aust and ANSTO classify it as Intermediate level – and that’s what the Fed Govt want to dump on SA farmland. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1314655315214929

May 18, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Need for ‘consent laws’, as Australian mining companies trample on Aboriginal rights

“The Australian government needs to amend native title and land rights legislation to include a requirement for companies to gain free, prior and informed consent from traditional landowners before proceeding with projects, as well as mandatory human rights due diligence assessments.” 

The report also recommends governments at all levels work to remove financial and other barriers to Indigenous people accessing the courts to ensure they can effectively challenge decisions that affect them.

Close the gap in consent laws for major resource projects: report. A new report highlights accountability shortfalls in major resource projects and calls for legislative reform to protect Indigenous people’s rights. https://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2021/mar/mining-first-nations  Michael Quin, 21 Mar 21, 

The First Peoples and Land Justice Issues in Australia report by researchers at RMIT University’s Business and Human Rights Centre (BHRIGHT), reveals the human rights impacts of companies operating on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land.

BHRIGHT Director, Associate Professor Shelley Marshall, said the case studies revealed a pattern of companies failing to meet international business and human rights norms, as well as a lack of respect for the fundamental principle of obtaining free, prior and informed consent from landholders on projects impacting them.

“Our research reveals a legal framework and corporate behaviour that refuses to acknowledge lack of consent,” Marshall said.

“The fact that companies can operate within Australian law while failing to respect and uphold their international human rights obligations underlines the urgent need for legislative reform at state, territory, and federal levels.”

“These companies also need to step up and take their obligations under human rights frameworks much more seriously.” Continue reading

March 22, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

The remediation of Ranger uranium mine: will it really restore the environment?

Traditional owners were given land rights in return for their support for the Ranger mine, and Kakadu National Park was born.   ……. the land will finally be returned to the traditional owners… the question is, in what state?  ………    we could find the site an eroding heap of substandard scrub.    

As part of cleaning up the mine site, contaminated buildings and equipment will be buried in one of the mine’s enormous pits.    

  We’ve been told that burying the equipment and the contaminated material in the mine site is out of step with global best practice in the mining industry.

February 25, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Clean-up plan for Ranger uranium mine is ”woefully inadequate”

Gundjeihmi and ERA enter negotiations to extend Ranger Uranium Mine rehabilitation

By https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-09/gundjeihmi-era-negotiate-ranger-uranium-mine-rehabilitation/13043076 Matt Garrick

An Aboriginal group in Kakadu National Park says the rehabilitation plan for a decommissioned uranium mine is “woefully inadequate”, and is calling for a 26-year extension to the process.

Key points:

  • Mining at the Ranger Uranium Mine wound up yesterday after more than 40 years
  • Traditional owners in Kakadu are now calling for an extension of the project’s rehabilitation phase
  • The company that runs the mine has signalled its support for the move

Production at the Ranger Uranium Mine, on the outskirts of the national park, drew to a close yesterday after more than 40 years of operation.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Mirarr traditional owners, has used the closure to demand owner Energy Resources Australia (ERA) rehabilitate the site beyond its current lease expiry in 2026.

Within that timeframe, the company is required to restore the site to its previous pristine state.

“That’s not long enough,” the corporation’s CEO, Justin O’Brien, said.

“We are now awaiting a drafting from the Commonwealth Government for amendments to the Atomic Energy Act such that you can actually put in place an extension to the rehabilitation period.”

Mr O’Brien said traditional owners were pushing for the rehabilitation period to be extended by an additional 26 years, which would carry the process through until 2052.

He said ERA and its parent company, Rio Tinto, had signalled their support for an extended term of rehabilitation — but the timeframe and details of that extension are still being negotiated.

In a statement, the company said it was committed to “achieving all documented rehabilitation outcomes in its Mine Closure Plan (MCP) by January 2026”.

It confirmed negotiations were underway with traditional owners to “determine an appropriate mechanism” to extend the company’s tenure at the Ranger site, which would allow it to continue rehabilitation beyond 2026.

Environmental group the Australian Conservation Foundation yesterday welcomed the end of production at the site, the last active uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

The foundation’s Dave Sweeney, who is an anti-nuclear campaigner, said he was supportive of the push to extend the rehabilitation period.

“The company should not be approaching clean-up asking itself what it can do in five years,” he said.

“It should be approaching clean-up asking ‘What is the best possible way to reduce and address the damage that has happened?’

“What’s the best outcome — not the best outcome we can do in five years.”

The wind-down of production at the mine is expected to prompt an exodus from the nearby town of Jabiru, where ERA holds the lease for about 300 houses.

One hundred and twenty-five ERA staff were made redundant this week.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Olympic Dam uranium mine’s unlimited water access is killing the Arabana people’s mound springs

South Australia’s disappearing springs raise questions for miner BHP–  https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/south-australia-s-disappearing-springs-raise-questions-for-miner-bhp-20201117-p56f6m.html

Few in big cities know about the ‘mound springs’, but they are of deep cultural significance for the Arabana people who hold native title over Lake Eyre and its surrounds.By Richard Baker November 23, 2020

Dotted around the vast arid harshness of outback South Australia are thousands of small springs fed by ancient waters from the Great Artesian Basin.

Few in big cities know about the “mound springs”, but they are of deep cultural significance for the Arabana people who hold native title over Lake Eyre and its surrounds. They are also a precious source of life for humans, animals and plants in a hostile environment.

A mound spring near the shore of Lake Eyre in South Australia.

But the Arabana people fear the extraction of tens of millions of litres of water from the basin each day by mining, petroleum and pastoral industries threatens the existence of the springs by reducing flow pressure in the aquifer to the extent that the springs dry up.

The federal parliamentary inquiry into Rio Tinto’s destruction in May of 46,000-year-old rock shelters at the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia has given the Arabana people the chance to put the fate of the springs on the national agenda.

“In our country there are over 6000 of these springs and they are of great significance to the Arabana people,” said the chair of the Arabana registered native title body, Brenda Underwood, in a submission to the inquiry.

“The springs themselves can be as small as a cup or large enough that you could swim in them, however, we don’t because of the stories associated with them. To us, and to many Australians, they are a beautiful sight in a harsh environment.

“Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. How many have disappeared, we are not yet sure, but we are undertaking some research to find out just how many have actually disappeared.”

Rio Tinto’s blasting at Juukan Gorge drew widespread public criticism, prompted the resignation of its chief executive and put a spotlight on state and federal laws that are meant to balance the protection of Indigenous heritage against the commercial interests of miners.

In the case of the springs, another mining giant, BHP, is playing a central role. BHP is licensed by the South Australian government to extract the equivalent of up to 42 million litres of water per day from the Great Artesian Basin to operate the massive Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine near Roxby Downs.

Millions of litres of water are also taken from the basin each day by pastoral stations and various petroleum companies, and more is lost through evaporation from thousands of disused bores that have not been properly capped.

RMIT environmental engineering expert Gavid Mudd has studied the mound springs closely for more than 20 years and said there was no doubt the extraction of so much groundwater had contributed to a reduction in flow pressure. Some had dried up entirely.

Although the Arabana submission to the inquiry acknowledges water users such as pastoralists and petroleum companies, it largely focuses on BHP’s water use and the unique South Australian laws that grant it a virtually unchallenged right to groundwater.

Under the 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Act, the original Olympic Dam owner Western Mining and present owner BHP are afforded special privileges that trump Aboriginal heritage laws and almost all other state laws and regulations.

“Each day they [BHP] take 35 million litres of water from our springs and the Great Artesian Basin and now they wish to increase that amount to 42 million litres per day,” Ms Underwood’s statement said

“We are told that this will continue for at least the next 60 years. Given the number of springs that have disappeared, in 60 years we have a great fear that there will be none left whatsoever. The Arabana people have tasked me and the board of directors of the corporation to protect the springs. The big question is how?”

Ms Underwood and the 1000-strong Arabana community fear the South Australian government will be reluctant to change the status quo for BHP.

The mining company’s recent announcement to pause a planned $3 billion expansion of Olympic Dam is likely to see its water take remain about the mid 30 million litres per day mark.

The Arabana people have asked their Adelaide lawyer, Stephen Kenny, to advise them if the Commonwealth can get involved. Mr Kenny has said the Commonwealth could act to protect the springs, but previous cases such as that involving South Australia’s Hindmarsh Island suggested it would not.

 

 

 

November 23, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Karina Lester speaks out: ”Traditional owners’ voices not heard and rights stripped over nuclear waste dump”

”Traditional owners voices not heard and rights stripped over nuclear waste dump”

https://www.nativetitlesa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/SAN0116-Aboriginal-Way-1020_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR24bB786_eorX2Jfl0ZdTfwaxu5nZf-fvvGarW5jv2JY1_Qg4T2zSqQtxA

Extract:

Chairperson of Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (YNTAC) Karina Lester says, “The two key issues that I’m quite concerned about are the lack of consent from the traditional owners; and that they want to take away judicial review. No Barngarla person or anyone in that Kimba region can take it to the courts for it to be properly heard. That’s a given right for any Australian; to take an issue through a judicial process and they’re now trying to shift the goalposts away from Aboriginal people and people from the Kimba region so it can’t be challenged.”

Four Aboriginal groups submitted their concern about the lack of Indigenous community engagement in the consultation and selection process, as well as potential violation of those communities’ rights, these were the Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (YNTAC), Tjayuwara Unmuru Aboriginal Corporation (TUAC), De Rose Hill-Ilpalka Aboriginal Corporation (DRHIAC) and the First Nations of South Australia Aboriginal Corporation (FNSAAC).

They acknowledged that the specified site has significance for a wider group of Aboriginal People than just the Barngarla, and that the proposed use is a matter of significance for Aboriginal People right across the state.

“They’ve been saying that this is just a Barngarla issue, just a Kimba issue – but it’s not. No, this is an issue for First Nations people everywhere. We need to stand in solidarity and send a strong message as the First Nations people of South Australia to say that no dump is wanted in our state,” said Ms Lester, who is the daughter of anti-nuclear and Indigenous rights advocate, Yami Lester.

“We have been pressured to be the ‘solution’ to waste management; it’s not been clear why the Federal Government keeps coming back to our state. I think that’s part of the problem.

“The process has been flawed from the very beginning. The risk is that if we open the door to this, we could well be opening the door to a permanent solution here in SA. Why put a temporary solution here when the facility says they can keep storing it at Lucas Heights in Sydney?

“There’s so much history of Aboriginal people’s activism against this in South Australia. For it to come back to our state, after leaving our state so many years ago, it feels like an ongoing generational battle for us to put an end to this issue in South Australia.”

November 12, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association gets $millions from uranium mining: need for Royal Commission into Native Title

October 10, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste dump – a Federal abuse of a small rural town

Regina McKenzie   Fight To Stop a Nuclear Waste Dump in South Australia, 6 Oct 20
To watch the horror of a rural town, being torn apart , the tremendous amount of stress the people of Kimba are facing, wether it be the yes or no camp, no one deserves this.
I know that heavy weight of having this nuclear waste dump like a dark foreboding shadow hanging over your once secure close knit community, watching family, friends and acquaintance being ripped apart , the helplessness ones feels watching everything disintegrate around you.
DIIS have a lot to answer for the emotional and mental abuse this waste dump as caused on these small rural towns, separated from the rest of South Australia to bear such a large responsibility and to leave the rest of South Australia to watch in horror these little town tear each other apart, the mental anguish that will forever scar us, the rifts in family, and friends , what a pitiful federal government to do this to us, its abuse on a grand scale

October 6, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Federal nuclear waste dump, health, South Australia | Leave a comment

Legacy of Maralinga bomb tests -a reminder of need for safety in matters nuclear

Sixty years on, the Maralinga bomb tests remind us not to put security over safety, The Conversation    Liz Tynan, Senior Lecturer and Co-ordinator Research Student Academic Support, James Cook University September 26, 2016   It is September 27, 1956. At a dusty site called One Tree, in the northern reaches of the 3,200-square-kilometre Maralinga atomic weapons test range in outback South Australia, the winds have finally died down and the countdown begins……….
And so, at 5pm, Operation Buffalo begins. The 15-kilotonne atomic device, the same explosive strength as the weapon dropped on Hiroshima 11 years earlier (although totally different in design), is bolted to a 30-metre steel tower. The device is a plutonium warhead that will test Britain’s “Red Beard” tactical nuclear weapon.

The count reaches its finale – three… two… one… FLASH! – and all present turn their backs. When given the order to turn back again, they see an awesome, rising fireball. Then Maralinga’s first mushroom cloud begins to bloom over the plain – by October the following year, there will have been six more.

RAF and RAAF aircraft prepare to fly through the billowing cloud to gather samples. The cloud rises much higher than predicted and, despite the delay, the winds are still unsuitable for atmospheric nuclear testing. The radioactive cloud heads due east, towards populated areas on Australia’s east coast.

Power struggle

So began the most damaging chapter in the history of British nuclear weapons testing in Australia. The UK had carried out atomic tests in 1952 and 1956 at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia, and in 1953 at Emu Field north of Maralinga.
The British had requested and were granted a huge chunk of South Australia to create a “permanent” atomic weapons test site, after finding the conditions at Monte Bello and Emu Field too remote and unworkable. Australia’s then prime minister, Robert Menzies, was all too happy to oblige. Back in September 1950 in a phone call with his British counterpart, Clement Attlee, he had said yes to nuclear testing without even referring the issue to his cabinet……….
He was also exploring ways to power civilian Australia with atomic energy and – whisper it – even to buy an atomic bomb with an Australian flag on it (for more background, see here). While Australia had not been involved in developing either atomic weaponry or nuclear energy, she wanted in now. Menzies’ ambitions were such that he authorised offering more to the British than they requested.

While Australia was preparing to sign the Maralinga agreement, the supply minister, Howard Beale, wrote in a top-secret 1954 cabinet document:

Although [the] UK had intimated that she was prepared to meet the full costs, Australia proposed that the principles of apportioning the expenses of the trial should be agreed whereby the cost of Australian personnel engaged on the preparation of the site, and of materials and equipment which could be recovered after the tests, should fall to Australia’s account..…..
Britain’s nuclear and military elite trashed a swathe of Australia’s landscape and then, in the mid-1960s, promptly left. Britain carried out a total of 12 major weapons tests in Australia: three at Monte Bello, two at Emu Field and seven at Maralinga. The British also conducted hundreds of so-called “minor trials”, including the highly damaging Vixen B radiological experiments, which scattered long-lived plutonium over a large area at Maralinga.

The British carried out two clean-up operations – Operation Hercules in 1964 and Operation Brumby in 1967 – both of which made the contamination problems worse.

Legacy of damage

The damage done to Indigenous people in the vicinity of all three test sites is immeasurable and included displacement, injury and death. Service personnel from several countries, but particularly Britain and Australia, also suffered – not least because of their continuing fight for the slightest recognition of the dangers they faced. Many of the injuries and deaths allegedly caused by the British tests have not been formally linked to the operation, a source of ongoing distress for those involved.

The cost of the clean-up exceeded A$100 million in the late 1990s. Britain paid less than half, and only after protracted pressure and negotiations.

Decades later, we still don’t know the full extent of the effects suffered by service personnel and local communities. Despite years of legal wrangling, those communities’ suffering has never been properly recognised or compensated.

Why did Australia allow it to happen? The answer is that Britain asserted its nuclear colonialism just as an anglophile prime minister took power in Australia, and after the United States made nuclear weapons research collaboration with other nations illegal, barring further joint weapons development with the UK. …..Six decades later, those atomic weapons tests still cast their shadow across Australia’s landscape. They stand as testament to the dangers of government decisions made without close scrutiny, and as a reminder – at a time when leaders are once again preoccupied with international security – not to let it happen again.  https://theconversation.com/sixty-years-on-the-maralinga-bomb-tests-remind-us-not-to-put-security-over-safety-62441?fbclid=IwAR3-AXJA_-RZTlr1AW6qxgcFRPuOX5IIi163L75vLWXFyIOcZGKxbet5DDE

October 1, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Not welcome, not needed: Community alliance united in response to divided Senate report on Kimba radioactive waste plan

  September 15, 2020 ‒ www.nodumpalliance.org.au/senate_nuclear_waste_report   Federal government plans to transport, dump and store radioactive waste in South Australia are not needed, not welcome and will be actively contested says the South Australian community based No Dump Alliance.

This statement comes in response to a new Senate report into plans to change the federal radioactive waste laws by removing the community’s right of legal review.

The government controlled Senate Committee report had multiple conflicting findings which highlights the lack of political consensus. The report does not present a compelling case for the proposed changes including the legal override. In the three minority reports Committee members have raised serious concerns and opposition including over the heavy handed legal exclusion, the denial of Aboriginal and wider community rights and protections and the lack of proven need for the planned national facility.

“In the 21st Century it is unacceptable to try and airbrush away Aboriginal peoples concern over nuclear risks”, said NDA spokesperson Karina Lester. “The Barngarla Native Title holders were excluded from the Kimba community ballot about the waste plan and now the federal government is trying to deny them the right to contest the plan in court. This is not only unfair to the Barngarla people but a clear insult to the concerns expressed by Aboriginal people from right across South Australia to any dumping and storage of radioactive waste on our traditional lands from outside the state”.

The federal plan has attracted many critics as the government has failed to demonstrate that moving waste to Kimba is either necessary or responsible.

“This plan is a clear example of government overreach,” said NDA spokesperson and state secretary of the Maritime Union Jamie Newlyn. “South Australian communities have not had any say in the controversial plan but would face increased radioactive transport risks. The plan is deeply deficient and the process is fatally flawed”.

NDA member groups have committed to escalate their efforts around the Kimba waste push and will work against the federal government’s move to reduce community and environment protections in the Senate.

“We have a long, proud and united history of overturning radioactive waste plans in SA,” said Karina Lester. “From the senior desert law women the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta challenging Federal waste dump plans in the late 90’s and early 2000’s to the Scarce Royal Commission (2015-2017) our community has taken action to protect and stand up for our state. The federal government – and the Marshall government – should be under no illusions – this will be opposed”.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Mirrar people at last have control of Jabiru, as Ranger uranium mining set to end operations

   Traditional owners regain control of Jabiru as historic land rights law passes Senate Natasha Emeck, NT News, 3 Sept 20 HISTORIC land rights legislation that will allow the traditional owners of Jabiru to regain control of their township has passed through the Senate.

Amendments to Aboriginal land rights laws passed through the upper house of federal parliament pm Thursday, returning the ownership of Jabiru to the Mirarr people and allowing for a long-term township lease.

The mining town was built in 1982 to service the Ranger uranium mine, which will cease operation in January 2021, heralding a new era for the town and surrounding Kakadu National Park.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said today’s historic moment had been a “long time coming” for the Mirarr people, who had been campaigning for this for 20 years.

Senior Mirarr traditional owner and Kakadu resident Yvonne Margarula, pictured in Kakadu National Park.

Mirarr senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula said her people were glad to see the legal changes finally happen.

They are essential to ensuring the vibrant post-mining future of Jabiru and the Kakadu region that Mirarr have been planning for,” she said.

We look forward to welcoming visitors from all around the world to our beautiful country.”

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, who represents the Mirarr traditional owners, have crafted a masterplan to turn Jabiru into an Indigenous-led tourism and services town.

This bipartisan change to the legislation is an essential step to correct the historical exclusion of the town of Jabiru from Aboriginal ownership and allow Mirarr to take the legal control they need to enact their vision,” chief executive Justin O’Brien said.

 

September 3, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

BHP shareholders demand immediate stop to mining that disturbs Aboriginal heritage

August 15, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste dump site selection process has made the Barngarla people “aliens in their own country”

Barngarla continue fight against plan to dump nuclear waste on Country,    https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2020/07/29/barngarla-continue-fight-against-plan-dump-nuclear-waste-country   Barngarla mob say they were not properly consulted by federal government for plans to store radioactive waste on Country at Kimba in SA, and that their concerns continue to be ignored. By Royce Kurmelovs, NITV News   29 July 20

Jeanne Miller smiles as she gets to the punchline of her story.

The 50-year-old Barngarla woman is talking about the enduring connection she has to Kimba when she tells how on the day she was born, her parents had been waiting for an ambulance that never came.

Forced to make their own way to the hospital, she says her mum made it as far as the tree outside before giving birth.

“So I’m born on Country,” she says.

Though she may not live there today, Jeanne says a part of her has never left. It is a detail that underscores the significance of the moment she learned Kimba was being considered as a dump for radioactive waste.

“I used to be a carer for my mum. When I first heard [about the facility], I told her. She goes: ‘no, no, no’ and got angry,” Jeanne says. “She said; ‘we don’t want it there’. She said to me: ‘you got to fight for this. You got to fight for it, we can’t have that place there. It’s a special place for us.’”

Most among the Barngarla have a similar story about the shock and confusion at learning their traditional Country was under consideration as part of a proposal to build a nuclear waste storage facility that would take in samples from 100 sites across the continent.

No one, they say, from the federal government contacted them beforehand to talk about the proposal, leaving most to find out through the news media or word of mouth.

Instead it was up to the Barngarla themselves, through the the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) to take the initiative and write to the government in April 2017 to find out what was going on.

‘Wasn’t interested in our views’

That first letter would plunge them into a fight that has so far lasted three years, until it entered a new phase in February when former Industry Minister Matt Canavan announced – a day before he resigned – that he had selected a site just outside of Kimba to situate the nuclear waste facility.

The location he chose was called Napandee, a slice of farmland about 25 kilometres west of Kimba. The precise area had been carved out of a 7500-hectare cereal and sheep property owned by the Baldock family and when built the facility promised to create 45 jobs and bring in $31 million to the community.

Over the course of its operating lifetime, the site would house low-to-intermediate level nuclear waste made up of medical waste drawn from 100 sites across the country. This material would include medical waste, but also the more serious TN81 canisters – casks of material once exposed to high levels of radiation that require containment for several hundred years.

If supporters of the proposal celebrated the financial windfall it would bring, critics worried the decision represented the thin end of a wedge that would eventually see the site expand to house higher-level toxic waste.

For the Barngarla people, however, the proposal represented something more significant: yet another decision where they have been overlooked, ignored and overruled in a process they describe as “divide and rule”.

“It’s like the government’s not listening to us,” Jeanne says. “It’s like if the government picks a place where they want to put rubbish like that, they’ll just go and do it and they don’t care what the people think. And that’s wrong. They should be listening to what the people want too.”

“I know there were people in Kimba that wanted it. We definitely know. We got the looks. We didn’t care. I didn’t care. This is something I believe in strongly and that’s why we don’t want it there, because of my strong beliefs and my family’s beliefs.”

After their early efforts to find out more, the Barngarla say they were stonewalled from the very beginning by both the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, and the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA). That stance would become a pattern.

At first it began with the department initially dismissing the possibility that Aboriginal heritage sites may exist in the area and ignoring requests from the Barngarla for a meeting.

It took a year – until February 2020 – before the department offered to meet with the Barngarla people, though by the time the first and only meeting took place the government was already forging ahead to measure community support through a voting process.

In organising the vote, the local council limited those who could participate to ratepayers within the township, and provided a ballot with a single question: “Do you support the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility being located at one of the nominated sites in the community of Kimba?”

Outraged by what they say was a clear act of voter suppression – a strategy common in the US where procedural tactics are used to discourage or prevent people from voting – the Barngarla took their fight to the courts.

They argued that the vote breached the Racial Discrimination Act by excluding the Traditional Owners who were openly opposed to the proposal. The matter would go all the way to the Federal Court, where it was ultimately dismissed on appeal.

Though the court found the local council had not excluded the Barngarla people on the basis of their ethnic identity, BDAC Chairperson Jason Bilney says the court did acknowledge the council had discretion about who to include in the vote, and they had deliberately chosen to exclude native title holders.

They basically created hurdles,” Bilney says. “The catchphrase was ‘rateable property’ – that’s white man’s terms ‘rateable property’. We’re the native title holders. That holds more weight than ‘rateable property’, so we should have been included.”

Around the time the Barngarla filed their lawsuit to challenge the vote, the first meeting with the department took place in August 2018 – a moment Bilney recalls with frustration.

He says Mr Canavan spoke for fifteen minutes before he left, taking all the government representatives with him.

“That’s it,” Bilney says. “He wasn’t interested in our views, he just wanted us to hear what he had to say.”

When the poll of Kimba residents was counted, it returned a result that saw 61.6 per cent of 824 participants vote in favour of the proposal.

BDAC responded by organising is own poll, asking its 209 members the same question that was asked of the broader Kimba residents.

The result would be a unanimous “No” from the 83 participants – a turnout figure explained by cultural and logistical factors that make it difficult to gather in any one place.

The Barngarla delivered the result to the department in November last year on the understanding Mr Canavan had promised to consider them together.

“Canavan said he would put the two together. He never did because if you put the two together there was clearly no broad community support,” says Bilney.

In its submissions to the senate, the department denies it agreed to incorporate the two votes, but says it only agreed to “consider” their outcomes.

Aliens in our own country’

What happens now is up to the Senate economics reference committee and a clutch of Labor, Greens and independent senators.

The Barngarla say the recent approach of the federal government – to legislate the precise location of the site – represents a new twist as it departs from the process established by the Gillard government under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012.

Worse still, the Barngarla say the provisions of the bill will stymie their rights to seek a judicial review of the minister’s decision in the courts. The Parliamentary joint committee on human rights also raised concerns about the bill in April this year that it says may extinguish Native Title.

“In relation to any cultural and spiritual significance attaching to the land itself, it remains unclear how this would be protected once a radioactive waste facility is operational on the site. Further, it is unclear how Indigenous people will be able to access sites of cultural significance, should they be determined to exist,” the report said.

When NITV News contacted the Australia Radioactive Waste Agency for comment about the process to date, a spokesperson said in a statement the government is seeking to consult with the BDAC going forward.

“Napandee is privately owned, has no Native Title and has been used for agricultural purposes for 80 years. Preliminary assessments have identified no registered cultural heritage at the site,” the spokesperson said.

“Further ground cultural heritage surveys with Traditional Owner consultation are planned, to determine cultural heritage values at the site.

“That said, we have approached the Barngarla through BDAC numerous times during the past years to work together to identify heritage, without resolution.”

In addition, the federal government is seeking to establish a Barngarla economic plan backed by $3 million in government funding, employment opportunities at the site and a cultural heritage management plan.

The Barngarla view this as a bribe when for them it isn’t a matter of money, but one of self-determination concerning what happens on their Country, set against a much deeper history.

So far it has taken two decades for the Barngarla to have their Native Title claim to a 45,000 square kilometre stretch of the Eyre Peninsula recognised by the courts – a process during which they were once informed that they did not exist as a people.

Neither have they forgotten the horror at Maralinga when the British army tested nuclear weapons after falsely declaring there were no Aboriginal people in the area.

To the Barngarla, the government has only decided to talk after the big decisions have been made.

“We’re still flora and fauna to these people,” Bilney says. “They should have included us from the start. We heard about it on the news. We weren’t included in the vote.

“You know, the Barngarla [native title] claim was basically an unwinnable case, they said. It’s taken us 21 years. Twenty-one years to win Native Title under white man’s law. And yet we’re still classed as second-class citizens? Flora and fauna.

“We’re basically aliens in our own Country.”

July 30, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Black lives DO matter, but not apparently, to ANSTO and Australia’s nuclear lobby

The systematic racist behaviour by your Government is a stain on the collective consciousness of this country.’

the Senate Inquiry Committee decided not to hold a hearing in SA. Instead it will be a phone/video hearing — a disappointing decision for those far more at ease in face-to-face meetings even if most of the Senators involved were themselves on video.

Much at stake for Barngarla Country, Country,   https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/much-at-stake-for-barngarla-country?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Eureka%20Street%20Daily%20-%20Tuesday%2028%20July%202020&utm_content=Eureka%20Street%20Daily%20-%20Tuesday%2028%20July%202020+CID_a705bb9962677d9379d61686e520c4ca&utm_source=Jescom%20Newsletters&utm_term=Much%  Michele Madigan, 28 July 2020

    In the present world wide climate of Black Lives Matter when some governments/states are changing significant processes for the betterment of all, how is our own country fronting up when it comes to competing interests regarding land and culture? ‘Quite badly’ is the assessment that comes to mind in examining Barngarla Peoples’ recent reply to the Department of Resources, the federal department charged by government with the establishment of the national radioactive waste dump/facility (NRWMF).

Their letter of reply, publicly released July 23rd lays it down:

‘As you would likely be aware the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (Human Rights Committee) has confirmed, in their Human Rights Scrutiny Report — Report 4 of April 2020, that the proposal to place a NRWMF at Napandee is a violation of the Barngarla People’s Human Rights. This is clearly the case, given just some of the matters below…?’

The letter goes on to list how, as Traditional Owners, they were refused the right to vote, forcing them to organise their own official ballot with its unanimous ‘no’ vote which was then ‘entirely ignored by the Minister.’

Shamefully, the Barngarla further identify the final determination of government to crush First Nations and any other group seeking to use the democratic processes of the nation: ‘Those terrible failures in process would have been subject to judicial oversight had the Minister made a declaration under section14 of the existing National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (Cth). However, being fully aware of this, the Minister is now seeking to remove the Barngarla People’s legal rights to judicial review by using Parliament to legislate the location directly.’

Yes, the gloves are certainly off in the long running saga of the federal government’s latest effort to offload the nation’s nuclear waste — this time on Barngarla Country.

The Coalition seems to be banking on the certainty that everyone’s energy about national matters is focused on the Covid-19 emergency. The Guardian reports the plan to rush through new conservation laws even before even Prof. Graeme Samuel’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) final report is written:

‘The EPBC Act Interim Report (released July 21st) ) unsurprisingly includes the reprimand that the federal government’s framework environment legislation ‘reflects an overall culture of tokenism and symbolism, rather than one of genuine inclusion of Indigenous Australians’.

At the same time, with the Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Act 2020 yet to pass the Senate, on 21st July Resources Minister Pitt announced his own kind of pre-emptive strike. His joint media release announced a ‘new agency to safely and securely manage Australia’s radioactive waste’ by the establishment of ‘a dedicated agency’ based in Adelaide which will be ‘responsible for all functions of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility including engagement with the Kimba community.’

This is notwithstanding that the Senate Inquiry Committee is presently examining the actual issue and so of course Senators have not yet voted on the Bill, which confirms the selection of the Nappanee site in SA’s Kimba, Eyre Peninsula. The Minister’s apparent certainty of the outcome by announcing a ‘dedicated agency’ responsible for the entire matter, seems to take no account of these inconvenient facts. Is the Senate seen as irrelevant?

The bill itself narrowly passed the House of Representatives last month with opposition from Labor, the Greens and most of the Independents to whom it was clear that the rights of the Traditional Owners and other groups similarly opposed had been cast aside. MPs were aware that the process attempts to create a serious precedent. As Dave Sweeney ACF summarises: ‘the Parliament precluding the Courts.’

It is possible to turn around injustice: the Human Rights Committee’s report cited above was unanimous and was endorsed by Liberal and National Party members. With the Senate vote perhaps in September, it is to be hoped that federal Labor with its key South Australian Senators like Penny Wong and Don Farrell will follow the precedent set by their Lower House colleagues.

As well as the Greens, there are those other Senate crossbenchers who support farming communities. In the Kimba district and more widely in SA’s entire Eyre Peninsula, there are food producers disturbed by threats, whether by image or actuality, to their food production — the safety of which is more important than ever in these COVID-19 times.

A week out from the long awaited July 28th public hearing, the Senate Inquiry Committee decided not to hold a hearing in SA. Instead it will be a phone/video hearing — a disappointing decision for those far more at ease in face-to-face meetings even if most of the Senators involved were themselves on video.

But the Barngarla are clear. After refusing the funds offered to ironically ‘support their cultural heritage’ comes their letter’s devastating conclusion: ‘Your email indicates that the Government wants “to form a long term relationship with the Barngarla community based on mutual respect”. This is clearly an insincere statement given the complete violation of our rights to date. …The systematic racist behaviour by your Government is a stain on the collective consciousness of this country.’

There’s a long way to go for the Coalition to change from ‘its business as usual’ performance in this as in many other matters. We can all play our part, however, in encouraging Senators to stop another sizable wind back in the nation’s democratic processes. If the Senate defeats this Radioactive Waste Management Bill then the Barngarla and others can, as in any democratic country, take to court the minister’s processes.

There is much at stake.

July 28, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment