Legislative Council

MATTERS OF INTEREST: Aboriginal Leadership in anti-nuclear campaigns

July 6th, 2016

On the 6th of July 2016, Mark acknowledged the work of Aboriginal South Australians who have been leaders in campaigning against the nuclear industry.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: This week is NAIDOC Week, a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements, and an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our nation. Today I would like to briefly acknowledge some of the Indigenous South Australians who are leaders in campaigning against the nuclear industry.

This week for the 2016 NAIDOC SA Awards, Enice Marsh was named Female Elder of the Year for her work preserving Aboriginal culture and language. Enice Marsh is an Adnyamathanha traditional owner from the Adnyamathanha Camp Law Mob and, alongside her daughter, Dr Jillian Marsh, has been campaigning fiercely to protect their country from becoming the site for the federal government's nuclear waste dump. Enice and Jillian Marsh have also been engaging with the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission and were also centrally involved in the campaign to protect the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary from uranium mining. In a statement, Jillian Marsh said:

"We want no further expansion of the nuclear industry and we will continue to fight for our rights as Traditional Owners in respect of the wisdom of our old people that came before us. That is what Traditional Owners do. We care for our country. We only wish governments and industries would do the same."

Jillian Marsh has been recognised internationally as well as locally, including the prestigious Jill Hudson Award for Environmental Protection in 1998 and the Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2008.

Another Adnyamathanha group is the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation. A key leader of the group is Regina McKenzie, who, with her family, lives at Yappala Station, which is right next door to the proposed nuclear waste dump site at Wallerbidina or Barndioota. Regina has been very vocal in opposition to nuclear waste being dumped on their country, much of which has been declared an Indigenous Protected Area.

Kevin Buzzacott, an Arabunna Elder and President of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, is another long-term campaigner against the nuclear industry. In response to the Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Uncle Kevin said:

"We will fight this industry across the country, whether it be the expansion of uranium mining or a nuclear waste dump. It is our cultural obligation and responsibility to care for our land. It's time the government and nuclear industry acknowledge and listen to us."

The Lester family — Karina Lester, Rose Lester, their parents Yami and Lucy Lester and their grandmother Eileen Kampakuta Brown — have been fighting the nuclear industry for generations. Uncle Yami Lester is a Yankunytjatjara Elder who, as a young boy in the 1950s, was blinded by a 'black mist' — fallout from the British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Junction. Yami was instrumental in gaining recognition and acknowledgement for the Aboriginal people, who had been affected by the atomic tests. His campaigning led to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia in 1985. Yami Lester was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1981 for service in the field of Aboriginal welfare.

His daughter, Karina Lester, is the chairperson of the Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation and, along with her sister, Rose Lester, has been speaking out and sharing their stories about how Aboriginal people have been victims of the nuclear industry in South Australia. Their grandmother, Eileen Kampakuta Brown, who, along with the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, led the 'Irati Wanti'—which translates as 'The Poison—Leave It'—campaign against a proposed nuclear waste dump on their country. The campaign ran from 1998 to 2004 and was ultimately successful in stopping the dump.

Sue Coleman-Haseldine is a Kokatha-Mula woman from Ceduna and is another nuclear test survivor. She is the co-chair of the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance and winner of the 2007 Premier's Award for Excellence in Indigenous leadership in natural resource management.

Although I do not have time to mention everyone from the Indigenous communities who have contributed, I do need to acknowledge Tauto Sansbury, who is a Narungga Elder from Yorke Peninsula. Tauto is the chairperson of the Aboriginal Congress of South Australia and has been a tireless advocate for social justice for Aboriginal people over 30 years. He was the National NAIDOC Aboriginal Person of the Year in 1996, the South Australian NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year in 2014, and a National NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2015. As a member of the South Australian No Dump Alliance, he urges us to think about what the nuclear waste dump would mean for our children and for future generations.

I am delighted to acknowledge these contributions from Aboriginal South Australians in parliament today.

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