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Goodes abuse mirrors SA nuclear fight



On 21 August I came out of an Adelaide preview of The Australian Dream, Stan Grant's documentary about the racialised mistreatment of the former AFL footballer Adam Goodes, for a brief interview on our local ABC's Evening Show. The topic: the resumption of federal government visibility and determination to both deposit and dump nuclear waste in either the Flinders Ranges or Kimba regions.

Adam Goodes 'The Australian Dream' promotional imageLater I reflected on this synergy. One of these threatened areas was the location for The Australian Dream's dramatic opening panoramic shot: Adam Goodes, a tiny figure in a vast landscape, with the Ranges of his ancestors in majestic background.

The Australian Dream arrives in cinemas following what the Koori Mail named its television 'companion piece' — The Final Quarter. Both films, with scenarios largely confined to AFL ovals and the television studios of Australian commentators, are high on violence: violent words from individual commentators, violent boos, mob violence. Even for the spectator, the violence becomes horrifying; the relentlessness of the continued booing and the viturpation of the usual suspect commentators — all directed at one man. As Grant summarised, 'They hounded that man, hounded him into submission.'

I wonder sometimes if this kind of vehement rage towards certain persons has parallels with the attitude and actions of some among us 'latecomers' to this country, to the country itself. It shows itself in a determination to exploit the country, to commodify it, to rape it of its resources; all done with entirely no regard for the consequences — on lands, on precious waters and eventually on all of us, the human race, who rely on creation for our survival. 

There is at best exasperation, and at worst, genuine anger shown to many Australians seeking to defend country: to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defenders certainly. In regard to non-Aboriginal people, the word 'greenie' has become largely a term of derision. Certainly a commentator like Andrew Bolt makes the easy switch from his sustained attacks on Goodes and other Aboriginal heroes to derisive comments on 16 year old environmentalist Greta Thunberg.

The Flinders became a place of healing refuge for Goodes. Yet the glory of its incredible antiquity has not been enough to shame the Minister and the Department for Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) in the four-year journey of seriously considering this place of ancestry, beauty, earthquakes and floods as host to Australia's nuclear waste which will remain dangerous for 10,000 years. Neither has being part of just six per cent of Australia's arable lands served any protection for the international grain-farming region of Kimba as the alternative choice.

As Goodes paid heavily for his defence against racism, defending country continues to be a costly business for the people of the Flinders and Kimba regions whose communities are irrevocably torn apart by the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility project. Despite Barngala Traditional Owners appealing against Justice White's 12 July decision that their native rights give them no right to vote, the Kimba Council has recently decided their opinion ballot is to go ahead anyway — from 3 October to 7 November. In contrast, the Flinders Ranges Council is requiring a risk assessment before proceeding with their ballot. The Adnyamathanha people's appeal remains undecided.


"Such is the toll we take in our nation on those who stand up for the good of country and for all its peoples."


On 13 August, DIIS, in meeting with the Barndioota Consultative Committee in the Flinders, confirmed that the size of the proposed site would now be 60 per cent larger. On 21 and 22 August Minister Canavan visited both areas for brief 'consultative' meetings, declaring the site decision is likely before the end of this year, and acknowledging that this may take place before the Flinders ballot. While again refusing to give a named acceptable percentage on such a ballot, Senator Canavan stressed the ballot was just one component in the decision making. Other evidence will include the 1000 submissions in this still open process.

On his 26 August Evening Show, Peter Goers interviewed an enthusiastic proponent — the Member for the vast federal seat of Grey. Rowan Ramsey was indignant that 'outsiders' were daring to protest the project. As well as ignoring his companion interviewee, local Greg Bannon, Ramsay revealed his misconception that other South Australians and indeed other Australians have no right to object. In claiming no knowledge of nuclear transport accidents, clearly he had not heard of the 1994 spill near Port Augusta, to name just one example; nor that transporting and simply 'storing' the spent fuel rods from the Lucas Heights reactor is exponentially more dangerous than Olympic Dam yellowcake transport.

In his Sunrise interview on 31 August, the shocking effect on Goodes of the viciously focused campaign against him was clear. Four years after his retirement Goodes, who has become an Ambassador for the Salvation Army among many other good works, wondered out loud whether he'd ever watch a football game again.

He would understand completely the sustained stress and emotional pressure on the defenders of the Flinders and Kimba regions. Such is the toll we take in our nation on those who stand up for the good of country and for all its peoples.



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.

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



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Existing comments

Thanks Michelle! At 83, I visited with my son Mungo Lake, and experienced for the first time in my life a very deep connection to country. I am not aboriginal, but I was in awe of the dignity and power, the antiquity and the value of that World Heritage area. Chenoble should be enough warning to avoid at all costs similar devastation to precious areas.

Jim Slingsby | 04 September 2019  

The very positive things in Adam Goodes' life now: a wife, a baby daughter, his people, his country and the new careers that he is forging. He was an immensely talented footballer who stood tall when it counted. I'm proud of him for that (and so many other things). I've visited the Flinders Ranges and it's a unique place. What a short-sighted view the SA government is taking.

Pam | 04 September 2019  

thank you Pam. No it's not the SA Government's campaign Sorry the article wasn't clearer that this is the federal government's plan primarily for the federal intermediate level nuclear waste from the nuclear reactor spent fuel rods at Lucas Heights in Sydney. As well and not so significantly for low level waste from hospitals etc. SA was the original site After a national campaign led by the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta women from 1998 to 2004 and in the end with the support of the SA Labor government, this was defeated. Later the NT site was also defeated. SA again targeted in 2015 with this unscientific new plan. In the meantime though the State SA Labor Premier did initiate a Royal Commission which actually decided it would be good to import HIGH level International nuclear waste. Unsurprisingly so many South Australians not just the Citizens Jury, responded to this with horror and the plan was dropped. The State Liberal party to their credit were also opposed. As the Liberal SA state government now I agree sadly they don't seem to be standing up for their state's well being now. No wonder the defenders of country and peoples get tired.

Michele Madigan | 04 September 2019  

Thank you Michele. You have thrown new light on the situation we face and the comparison with Adam Goodes' story is a powerful plea to all of us to oppose the nuclear waste dump. Yes it concerns everyone, not only the people who live near the proposed site - we all have a right to say'no'.

Sr Elizabeth Morris | 04 September 2019  

Thank you, Michelle, Your article emphasizes the needs and wishes of all the people at the local level in making political decisions. Democracy is about the needs of all the people in their local region. Currently our politicians are not governing by that basic democratic principle. Please persist! Ron H

Ron Hoogland | 04 September 2019  

Thanks Michele for your clarification to Pam in comments - particularly your reference to the Royal Commission's recommendation to import high level nuclear waste. That recommendation caused me to agree with your campaign against setting a low level nuclear waste dump in Aboriginal land in South Australia. As an environmental engineer (now retired), I see no unmanageable risk in transporting low level Australian nuclear waste to SA and interring it in a purpose-designed waste containment facility. By the same logic, retaining nuclear waste at Lucas Heights in a similarly designed waste facility would not constitute an unmanageable risk. Such a facility on Aboriginal land should have included rent payments to the local Aboriginal Council and work opportunities for local Aboriginal people. However, the Royal Commission demonstrated clearly that some powerful voices would not stop at low level waste. It would be absolutely ridiculous to import high level nuclear waste to anywhere in Australia, given that we have consistently refused to have nuclear generated electricity. Secondly, the cost of construction of a facility to retain high level nuclear waste, and the cost of insurance to transport such wastes from overseas to the site would be prohibitive.

Ian Fraser | 05 September 2019  

This comparison is powerful Michele, and I thank you for it. The nuclear danger aside, you once again highlight the fact that the Australian nation has not yet come to terms with the indigenous peoples, and continues to forget or conceal past injustices. No wonder our relationships with other nations are so fraught - by either dependency or hubris. When the foundations are shaky, the building is in dire straits.

Susan Connelly | 05 September 2019  

It is really powerful to bring these two matters in to consideration. How thought-provoking! You are shining a light for justice for Adam Goodes and for the magnificent country which is under threat from a Government that for short-term gain is contemplating something horrendously destructive. Keep on keeping on, Michele.

Genevieve Ryan | 05 September 2019  

Thanks Ian for your comments. Just to correct one. That's the trouble - it's not low level waste. That's just the main presenting reason - including the hospital radioactive 'gloves and gowns' that governments love to present including to the media. Intermediate long level waste mainly from the Lucas Heights spent fuel rods and parts from the former HIFARn reactor parts. Governments are loathe to mention such. My previous Many thanks for your other comments - very true the nuclear proponents of an industry on its knees in many places of the world are more than keen re importation. Thank God we have kept from nuclear power despite these same advocates - much more serious nuclear waste to dispose of - as well as all the other reasons against.

Michele Madigan | 06 September 2019  

Thanks, Michele. I've just watched "The Australian Dream" and then I read your article. My first thought, on the opening shot you describe, was "that's where they want to put a nuclear waste dump!" The injustice that Adam Goodes receives from "passionate" supporters of the game, who supposedly admire and respect its most skilful, regardless of their team, is appalling. I had reason to hope, towards the end, that the broad majority of Australians not only heard his voice but also listened to it. There is not a lot of listening on the part of the Minister or his Department. As you said, there is no scientific basis for the sites they are targeting. They have said that neither site is suitable for the permanent, safe disposal of intermediate level nuclear waste, only temporary storage and that's debateable. There is no moral high ground to defend an unsuitable site. The strategy is to set two relatively isolated communities, Flinders and Kimba, against each other, vying to prove which is more eager than the other to "host" the dump, then pick the "winner". They will then be able to say "We are only here because the community asked us to be".

Greg Bannon | 07 September 2019  

Thank you. The campaign by very powerful forces in the nuclear industry to have Australia as a dumping ground for much of the world's high level nuclear waste has been going on for years and is accelerating. We must continue to resist. The campaign to destroy land rights has also been going on for years, and is also starting to accelerate, and we must resist this too, with all our strength. The next few years will be hard. We must be strong. Adam Goodes is an inspiration to all of us who stand up against injustice and the ruthlessness of powerful and vested interests.

Penny Campton | 08 September 2019  

thanks again Michele - for this fine article and for your clear voicing of issues with Peter Goers on the ABC Radio https://www.facebook.com/NukeFreeAdelaide/

Brett Stokes | 11 September 2019  

Thank you Michele. You advocate so powerfully. The interconnectedness of all of this should remind us of why it seems so difficult to work with this Government, and indeed with the Australian people to build a cohesive society. Our fraught relationships with First Nations Peoples, our inability to acknowledge our past, the priority given to profit over people, continue to bedevil us as Australians. You remind us of the urgency and imperative to face this if we are to move on as a nation. Thank you.

Jan Barnett | 11 September 2019  

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