Dump opponents meet on 'country in between'

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'We are the joy, the sadness, the anger and the peace.' With these moving words, Adnyamathanha Elders Aunty Enice Marsh and Geraldine Anderson opened a significant gathering in Port Augusta last month. People from the Flinders Ranges and the Kimba farming region, still threatened by the federal government's plans to deposit the nation's radioactive waste, met again 'on the country in between'.

Pictured: Greg Bannon (centre), Chairperson of FLAG, with Kimba and Flinders Ranges community members, ready to present hundreds of postcard petitions to Rowan Ramsey, Coalition federal member for Grey. Photo credit: Mara BonacciFor some months now, no further government decisions have been taken — or at least not conveyed — as to the preferred final site for the nation's long-lived intermediate and low-level nuclear waste.

On 18 December, following the Barngala people's similar move in August against the Kimba Council, the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) of the Flinders Ranges took to court the local council's ruling to exclude non-resident Traditional Owners from a community ballot on the matter. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, representing ATLA pro bono, see the situation as a justice issue. The 30 January decision deadline has come and gone.

Peter Woolford is the chairperson of the aptly named 'It Goes Against the Grain' group of farmers and townspeople of the Kimba region who oppose the dump and its threat to their international grain markets. From his long interview for the 7.30 Report on 28 March, only a few brief words survived the final cut, but he was pleased it was his main point: 'We're not activists — I'm a third generation farmer.'

His report to the Port Augusta gathering spoke of much activity, notably that the anti-dump farmers' stand at the Cleve Field Days had attracted 1000 petitions. Meanwhile, farmer colleague Tom Harris, now on the Kimba Council, provides 'some balance' to the otherwise pro-dump farmers/townspeople councillors.

Originally bound to the Flinders by the tragic loss of his ten year old brother there in 1959, Greg Bannon, chairperson of FLAG (Flinders Local Action Group), paid tribute to the Adnyamathanha: 'Support from the TOs in community from the start has been great and inspiring and has given strength to the rest of us who have no home but here.' FLAG's many activities include writing letters, making submissions, media appearances, presenting to the local council, and more.

Meanwhile the mental anguish of community conflict and concern — either for country or from the cash benefits promised by government — continues within both communities. The 7.30 Report highlighted this, with people on both (mainly pro) sides of the issue given voice. As Woolford wondered aloud to us in Port Augusta: 'How is our town to heal, whichever way the decision goes?'

 

"How can serious environmental matters in South Australia become as important in the national consciousness as those in the eastern states?"

 

Also in April, Friends of the Earth associates, Mara Bonacci and Dr Jim Green, travelled to Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Lincoln to meet with councils, election candidates for the Division of Grey, trade unions and Traditional Owners. Months after independent environmental expert David Noonan's careful study of government documents revealed the ports named to possibly receive the nuclear waste, local people including council members of proposed port towns, still had no idea of this reality.

Younger members of the areas affected are speaking out. Adnyamathanha Candace Champion is standing for the Greens in the coming election. The Kimba young people are asking why they have been given no voice. As Adnyamathanha law student Dwayne Coulthard declares: 'South Australia is being smashed right now — UCG [Underground Coal Gasification], the Bight and the Nuclear Waste Dump. How do we make this a reality for people?'

Good question! How can serious environmental matters in South Australia become as important in the national consciousness as those in the eastern states? Australia's intermediate nuclear waste will be dangerous for 10,000 years. As Mara Bonacci explains, 'It's Australia's waste, it's a national issue, the burden of responsibility shouldn't fall on two small regional communities.'

The SA Catholic Church recently suffered a great loss at the sudden passing of a key priest, Denis Edwards. Author of many internationally known books on a Christian response to the ecological crisis, Edwards had no hesitation in becoming a No Dump Alliance member: 'I believe we are called by God to love and to respect this land as a gift, and to protect its integrity for future generations.'

No Dump Alliance is a broad grouping from the SA community, Aboriginal and agricultural representatives. On 29 April, the third anniversary of the day the federal government named Wallerbina, Flinders Ranges as the preferred site, the Alliance called for the scrapping of the present site selection process and the establishment of an independent inquiry to thoroughly explore all the scientifically safe options for management.

The next day, members presented hundreds of petitions to this end to federal member Rowan Ramsey. As Peter Woolford said, 'Our homes, our communities, our jobs are at risk from this unpopular and unnecessary plan.'

 

Concerned Australians can offer solidarity by making an online submission here or by writing their own.

 

 

Michele MadiganMichele Madigan is a Sister of St Joseph who has spent the past 38 years working with Aboriginal people in remote areas of SA, in Adelaide and in country SA. Her work has included advocacy and support for senior Aboriginal women of Coober Pedy in their campaign against the proposed national radioactive dump.

Main image: Greg Bannon (centre), chairperson of FLAG, with Kimba and Flinders Ranges community members, ready to present hundreds of postcard petitions to Rowan Ramsey, Coalition federal member for Grey. Photo credit: Mara Bonacci

Topic tags: Michele Madigan, South Australia, nuclear waste, Aboriginal Australians

 

 

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Thank you, Michele, for another good article on this topic and accurately reported. Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsay, said in a pre-election "meet the candidates for Grey" forum in Pt Augusta on Wednesday he believed that the community division caused by this radioactive waste dump proposal "is not as great as people make out". Contrast that against Peter Woolford's unanswered question about "how will our town ever heal, regardless of which way the decision goes"? So many of us feel the pain of what the Government has done to our communities. It is unconscionable the way money and unsubstantiated promises of jobs and other opportunities have been offered to two communities, Kimba and Hawker at the same time. Expectations and concerns have been raised simultaneously in each place. There will now be "winners" & "losers" in two communities, regardless of what position people hold. How can this be "world's best practice"? It seems that those in favour are good people, with the communities' best interests at heart, and those who are voicing concern are simply "activists"!
Gregory Bannon | 03 May 2019


It is concerning that the Australian government - the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and also ANSTO, have gone so quiet lately - about this nuclear waste project that that they previously pushed with such enthusiasm. It looks very much as if this quietness is on purpose - to prevent this matter from becoming an issue for the coming federal election. The pretense that this is just a matter for the local communities is scandalous. The Lucas Heights "interim" nuclear waste is very safely stored at Lucas Heights, which has both the technical expertise and the space for more, (though it's questionable that this production ought to continue). By transferring this radioactive trash for 1700 km , many communities are endangered, so this affects the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. A dangerous precedent. And unnecessary. Or is this plan the prelude to reviving the scheme to turn South Australia into the world's nuclear waste hub? This should bed a federal election issue.
Noel Wauchope | 04 May 2019


PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE DUMP : No Nuclear Waste Dump groups meet with Federal Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey - electorate where proposed Nuclear Waste Dumps in South Australia are located (Eyre Peninsula farmland near Kimba and iconic Flinders Ranges near Hawker) - and hand him petition in the form of 3,000 postcards (13,000 postcards in total now handed to Federal govnt) all signed by individuals who Say No to the proposed Radioactive Nuclear Waste Dumps in South Australia. Video link : https://vimeo.com/333695859
Kim Mavromatis | 05 May 2019


Michele Madigan's article is to be congratulated. It is a reminder to keep on with the all-important effort to support the No Dump campaign. It's worrying when everything goes quiet. It doesn't mean decision-makers have retreated from this dreadful proposal to pollute the Flinders Ranges and Kimba with radioactive waste. Michele's work reminds us not to be caught napping.
Genevieve Ryan | 06 May 2019


Sr Michele has written yet another great article in the key issue of nuclear waste dumps. It is very exasperating that in this day and age, we have politicians and their supporters wanting to expand the nuclear, coal and fracking industries. We already have far too much dangerous waste to store safely and the nuclear industry still has not found an answer to safely managing its waste. This is one of the reasons why some nations that have relied on nuclear power are turning to cleaner, sustainable and much cheaper energy options. A positive sign is that we are seeing Aboriginal groups, farming communities and environmental organisations working together to stop putting nuclear waste or carrying out fracking on farming areas, Aboriginal lands and national parks. We have spread too many pollutants across the biosphere and we have to manage all wastes much better for the welfare of future generations. Much of our food is already contaminated. Having been involved in a number of campaigns, I know how annoying it is when the main stream edits out the major points that are being made. Thus, I commiserate with Peter Woolford of the group 'It Goes Against the Grain' However, I would suggest that the most important point to get across on this issue is that the farmers who are involved are trying to protect their crops from contamination. Peter is a responsible third generation farmer who happens to be an activist for a very important cause - something the 7.30 Report should have included in its report.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 06 May 2019


Thank you Michele for another article that brings to our attention the huge risks to country facing us today. Many of us are blind to the ‘reality’ of what is happening with underground coal gasification, oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight and as you highlight the proposed Nuclear Waste Dump. One person (among others who know and have ‘belonged’ within this country for thousands of years) who sees the gravity of the situation is Adnyamathanha law student, Dwayne Coulthard - he is pleading for us to understand the ‘reality’ of what is happening! In terms of nuclear pollution we know already that it destroys life. Why would we take the risk with the evidence before us! Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor challenged us with the words, ‘Once we bring life into the world, you must protect it. We must protect it by changing the world. “ Let us heed Michele today and ‘change the world’ by voting for representatives who will advocate and protect country and the longer term future of all life.
Kenise Neill | 07 May 2019


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