Traditional owners “locked out” of nuclear waste vote

The head of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association says the majority of Adnyamathanha people have been denied a vote on a proposed radioactive waste management facility near the town of Hawker in the Flinders Rangers.

Aug 03, 2018, updated Aug 03, 2018
Hookina Waterhole is a sacred Adnyamathanha site and is located 8km away from the proposed radioactive waste management facility at Wallerberdina Station.

Hookina Waterhole is a sacred Adnyamathanha site and is located 8km away from the proposed radioactive waste management facility at Wallerberdina Station.

Wallerberdina Station, located approximately 30km northwest of Hawker on Adnyamathanha country, has been shortlisted by the Federal Government for a facility that will permanently hold low-level nuclear waste and temporarily hold intermediate level waste.

It is one of three sites, the other two situated close to Kimba, that were shortlisted by the Federal Government to store nuclear waste.

The selection process is entering its final stages, with a postal ballot beginning on August 20 to measure community support for the three nominated sites.

But ATLA CEO Vince Coulthard said the voting guidelines were disrespectful to traditional owners, as the majority of Adnyamathanha people do not live close enough to the proposed Wallerberdina site to be eligible to vote.

The voting range includes residents of the Flinders Ranges Council and those who live within a 50km radius of the Wallerberdina site.

According to Coulthard, there are approximately 2500 Adnyamathanha people in total but only about 300 Adnyamathanha people who live in the voting range.

Coulthard said about 50 Adnyamathanha people who lived outside the voting range had expressed interest in voting, but when ATLA asked Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan during a consultation trip to Hawker last week if those people could be granted a vote, Coulthard said Canavan told him that only those living in the prescribed voting range could participate.

“It’s a crazy situation,” Coulthard said.

“This is Adnyamathanha country and it is a very important place to the Adnyamathanha nation.

“People have strong connections to land. There’s a large amount of people, many who don’t live on the land but they go back on a regular basis to travel around the land.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said the vote was set following “extensive consultation with the community”.

The spokesperson said if anyone was to fall outside the voting area, they could put in a submission, which would be considered.

“The ballot will be one of a number of inputs that will contribute to the assessment of community support, which will also draw on public and private submissions and feedback from stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.

“The views of the traditional owners of land around the sites are being directly sought and provided to the Minister as part of his decision-making process. This includes the views of ATLA as expressed through its board.”

But Coulthard said he was disappointed that Canavan had not consulted with all ATLA members during his consultation visit.

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He said Adnyamathanha people had been “locked out” from the vote, despite holding native title rights over the land.

“Canavan is saying this will strengthen our culture, that this will be good for us, but what it is actually doing is punishing the environment.

“This is a place where we have gone to get bush tucker, where we have come as traditional owners for thousands of years.

“They’ve shown us disrespect and this is very hurtful.”

The proposed site holds sacred meaning for Adnyamathanha people, as it is located close to the Hookina Waterhole and ancient burial sites.

Adnyamathanha people voted against the nuclear waste site at an ATLA AGM in March, however, some Adnyamathanha people had indicated their support for the facility during a Senate Economic References Committee public hearing last month, citing increased job opportunities as a potential benefit.

Wallerberdina Station co-owner and former Liberal Party President and South Australian federal senator Grant Chapman nominated the station as a potential site.

Chapman is a supporter of storing nuclear waste in Australia and chaired a Senate committee into the subject during his time as a senator.

The proposed repository would take up 1.5 per cent of the property.

Last month, the Federal Government tripled the incentive package for the community that hosts the nuclear waste repository.

The Government had promised to spend more than $10 million in the district where the facility is built, but under new incentives announced by Canavan, the Government increased funding to $31 million.

The new incentives include $20 million to deliver long-term infrastructure projects, $8 million in training programs for locals and businesses to benefit from the construction and operation of the facility and up to $3 million over three years for Indigenous skills training and cultural heritage protection.

The two shortlisted communities have already received Government development grants worth a combined $4 million.

The Government has previously indicated it wants to choose a preferred site before the end of this year.

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