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Community torn over Kimba nuclear plan

  • 29 August 2017


The Unlucky Australians, the documentary of the Gurindjis' campaign for their land, aired on the ABC late on Sunday night 20 August 2017. The Gurindjis' successful struggle against the combined might of the Vestey empire and the Australian federal government is one of the greatest Australian stories.

In the timeless David and Goliath tradition, the opposing Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiari were Paul Kelly's classic 'opposite men on opposite sides'. The 1975 image symbolising the Gurindjis' success — of PM Whitlam pouring a handful of earth into Vincent Lingiari's cupped hand — remains an iconic Australian visual.

But there's nothing like actually witnessing the action — and hearing the leaders' own voices — as captured in the film. The Gurindjis' sufferings were immense, yet their determination remained firm. What every Gurindji wanted was not even better wages, but simply to once more be able to protect their land and their way of life.

What struck me most was their complete solidarity. Despite the government's intense pressure — the withdrawal of the blind man's pension, the promise of solid brick houses built in sight of their tin and bush humpies, or any other threat and enticement — every Gurindji stood firm.

Half a century after the Gurindji Walkoff and half a continent away, on Saturday 19 August at a gathering in Port Adelaide, two modern beleaguered groups, one Aboriginal, one non-Aboriginal, shared their current experiences in striving to protect their own lands and ways of life. Like the Gurindji, their struggle is with the federal government and this time, indirectly, with another big business — the nuclear industry. In contrast to the Gurindji struggle however, modern day communities and even families are being torn apart by enticements and pressures.

Two months ago, South Australia's Premier Jay Weatherill conceded that there is 'no bipartisan government support' and 'not sufficient community support' to continue with the extraordinary scheme that a SA government sponsored nuclear royal commission had recommended. The Premier gave a commitment that a State Labor government, if re-elected, would now not pursue a high-level international nuclear waste dump.

The federal government however continues its pursuit in SA — the disposable state — of a federal dump for the intermediate long-term nuclear waste from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor and for medical waste. Now, once again, three sites are being offered up: two in Kimba, at the top of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, as well as the ongoing Flinders Ranges