SA as the world’s nuclear waste dump? No thanks!

Anti-nuclear forum participants, Port Augusta 2015

A waste stream that lasts hundreds and thousands of years is hard to get your head around, even harder when you consider it is the world’s most toxic and dangerous waste and your government has plans for it to come your way.

The SA Labor government’s plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste to South Australian shores, to stand above ground for decades pending disposal, brought a lot of people together. At first people seemed to be in shock but once that subsided, the community began to organise.

Traditional Owners and regional communities organised meetings in remote areas. People became informed and groups were established. Facebook forums grew, press conferences were held and research reports released. Posters were posted up, t-shirts hand-printed, badges made and sold.

Numerous info nights and ‘Politics in The Pub’ were hosted. Unions and churches passed resolutions opposing the plan and shared information with their members. Fact-sheets were printed and distributed.

A postcard and petition campaign saw over 35,000 signatures delivered to the Premier’s office and thousands hit the streets for a National Day of Action on October 15, 2016 ‒ a date that marked 63 years since the first British atomic bomb was tested at Emu Junction.

In offices, homes and on the street, people were doing what they could to get the word out. Members of the Citizens’ Jury took their job seriously with long days spent trawling through evidence and deliberating on such a crucial topic. Two-thirds of the 350 members of the Jury rejected “under any circumstances” the plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world as a money-making venture.

Advertiser journalist Daniel Wills wrote in response to the Jury verdict:

“This ‘bold’ idea looks to have just gone up in a giant mushroom cloud. When Premier Jay Weatherill formed the Citizens’ Jury to review the findings of a Royal Commission that recommended that SA set up a lucrative nuclear storage industry, he professed confidence that a well-informed cross-section of the state would make a wise judgment. Late Sunday, it handed down a stunning and overwhelming rejection of the proposal. Brutally, jurors cited a lack of trust even in what they had been asked to do and their concerns that consent was being manufactured. Others skewered the Government’s basic competency to get things done, doubting that it could pursue the industry safely and deliver the dump on-budget.”

Shortly after the Citizens’ Jury rejected the nuclear waste import proposal, Stephen Marshall, the Leader of the Opposition, and the head of Business SA Nigel McBride declared the proposal “dead”. The Nick Xenophon Team also announced that they would actively oppose the nuclear waste import plan. The SA Greens were opposed from the start.

The Weatherill government announced on November 15, 2016 that it would not seek to repeal or amend the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000; legislation which imposes major constraints on the ability of the government to move forward with the nuclear waste import proposal.

And, finally, in June 2017 the Premier declared the nuclear waste proposal “dead”, saying that there is “no foreseeable opportunity for this”, and it is “not something that will be progressed by the Labor Party in Government”.

Standing Strong

The No Dump Alliance (NDA) released a book about the campaign: ‘Standing Strong: How South Australians won the campaign against an international high-level nuclear waste dump’.

‘Standing Strong’ covers the key issues championed by Aboriginal and civil society groups opposed to the plan including the lack of Traditional Owner consent, dubious economics, the risks to people and the environment and the impact on future generations.

“This book documents how our community said no to the threat of radioactive waste,” said Yankunytjatjara woman and NDA spokesperson Karina Lester.  “We know nuclear is not the answer for our lands and people, we have always said no. It is important that all politicians get the clear message that nuclear waste and nuclear risk is not wanted in SA.”

To view the Standing Strong book, click here.

More information:

* Traditional Owner Statements

* Friends of the Earth

* 2016 Statement by the No Dump Alliance and the Conservation Council of SA.

Fact sheets about the plan to turn SA into the world's nuclear waste dump

Karina Lester Urges Australia to Sign Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

Photo of Karina Lester

Published by NITV

By Rachael Hocking – 10 FEB 2021

The daughter of anti-nuclear activist Yami Lester says we are one step closer to world peace as an international treaty banning the deadly weapons takes effect, but Australia is yet to sign on to it.

Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman Karina Lester was among those who welcomed the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which entered into force on January 22, but said more work needs to be done to ensure Australia signs on.

Ms Lester’s father was the late Yami Lester, a staunch anti-nuclear activist blinded during British weapons testing in Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950s – and someone she says was a “big inspiration” for an international Treaty.

Read the full article

Barngarla Continue Fight Against Plan to Dump Nuclear Waste on Country

protest against the waste dump. Community members gather with a giant inflatable radioactive waste barrel

Published by NITV
By Royce Kurmelovs-

By Royce Kurmelovs29 JUL 2020

Barngarla mob say they were not properly consulted by federal government for plans to store radioactive waste on Country at Kimba in SA, and that their concerns continue to be ignored.

Barngarla mob say they were not properly consulted by federal government for plans to store radioactive waste on Country at Kimba in SA, and that their concerns continue to be ignored.

Read the full article

Much at stake for Barngarla Country

Anti nuclear protestor holds sign reading:"Stop cultural genocide of the world's oldest living culture"

Michele Madigan 28 July 2020

In the present world wide climate of Black Lives Matter when some governments/states are changing significant processes for the betterment of all, how is our own country fronting up when it comes to competing interests regarding land and culture? ‘Quite badly’ is the assessment that comes to mind in examining Barngarla Peoples’ recent reply to the Department of Resources, the federal department charged by government with the establishment of the national radioactive waste dump/facility (NRWMF).

Read the full article

Barngarla Ballot Statement

Placards reading: "Barngarla people say NO to nuclear waste."

Results of Barngarla ballot regarding National Radioactive Waste Management Facility

After being excluded from the Kimba Council ballot, the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (“BDAC”) recently engaged Australian Election Company, an independent ballot agent, to conduct a confidential postal ballot of BDAC members regarding the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (“NRWMF”). The ballot paper asked members:

Do you support the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility being located at one of the nominated sites in the community of Kimba?

Of 209 eligible voters (all of whom are Barngarla native title holders), 83 cast valid “No” votes.

Zero “Yes” votes were returned.

This unanimous “No” vote demonstrates that there is absolutely no support at all within the Barngarla community for the NRWMF.

BDAC has written to Minister Canavan advising him of the result. BDAC has requested that given the first people for the area unanimously have voted against the proposed facility that the Minister should immediately determine that there is not broad community support for the project.

In light of this total rejection of the NRWMF by the Barngarla people, it is BDAC’s responsibility to continue to give voice to the profound concerns Barngarla traditional owners have regarding the NRWMF, and to take whatever steps are necessary to oppose the NRWMF being located on Barngarla Country.


The Board

Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC ICN 8603

Barngarla Statement

Barngarla community members gather around anti-nuclear placards

On Friday 12 July 2019 Justice White handed down his ruling that the exclusion of Barngarla Native Title holders who do not live in the Kimba District from participating in a ballot to gauge community support for the radioactive waste facility was not a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act. Read the statement released by the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation here.

In August 2018, The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC), Native Title Holders for the Kimba area, sought an injunction in the Supreme Court based on their exclusion from participation in the ballot planned to gauge community support for a radioactive waste facility in the region.  The matter was referred to the Human Rights Commission and was then heard in the Federal Court in January 2019.  On Friday 12th July 2019 Justice White handed down his ruling.  The matter was dismissed.  The exclusion of Traditional Owners from participating in the ballot was deemed not a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.  No Dump Alliance congratulates BDAC and their legal team for their efforts. This ruling in no way means that the site selection process is ok and we will continue to work towards responsible radioactive waste management.

The Barngarla Statement released after the ruling is reproduced with permission below.

Barngarla StatementThe Barngarla People have ancient historical connections to the land around Kimba, and we are the determined Native Title Holders for the broader area. The Barngarla hold significant areas of native title in the area, and we are also property owners for the purpose of the Local Government Act. The Barngarla respects the decision of the Federal Court, as the Court has to interpret complicated legislation. However, more generally we consider it sad that in the 21st Century we are required to take legal action to allow us to have the right to vote on the major decision of the day.From the beginning of this process, the Barngarla have been trying to ensure that their members, the first people for the area, can access the same right to vote as other people in Kimba. This case has been about standing up for the right of Aboriginal people to vote on important issues which affect their rights.Our lawyers are reviewing the decision. Although Barngarla have only had an opportunity to review the decision in the last two hours, at this stage it appears that the legal issues are now very narrow and we consider that we will likely appeal the decision. However, this decision will be made by the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC after receipt of full and informed legal advice.The BoardBarngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC ICN 8603 

Sovereign Acts III Refuse – Unbound Collective

Unbound collective promotional image- photo of Faye Rosas Blanch

Saturday 24 November
8pm sunset performance
9:30pm fire yarn
Hart’s Mill grounds (west side), Port Adelaide

Sovereign Acts III – REFUSE is the third work in a trilogy of research, video and performance works by The Unbound Collective. Called Bound and Unbound: Sovereign Acts, the trilogy has explored the capacity of ideas to both bind and set free, alongside cultural continuance and institutional containment. The Unbound Collective brings together four First Nations women who are working across art, activism and academia.

Sovereign Acts III – REFUSE continues their investigation through the lens of community continuity, environmental campaigning, and the Port River. Through their ongoing research and collaborative practices Unbound are exploring critical-creative resistance and refusal to acts of environmental degradation on Aboriginal land, the role of Aboriginal women in caring for Country, intergeneration transmission of knowledge and sovereignty through protest.

Join Unbound and their collaborators (including performer and language activist, Dr. Lou Bennett, and violinist Katie Inawantji Morrison) for a very special evening event, in two parts, that brings together this research through performance, ceremony and conversation.

See the full creative and cultural team credits here:

Rally Don’t Dump on SA

Dont dump on SA rally poster

The federal government is currently deciding on whether to build a facility to house Australia’s nuclear waste at either Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula or near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. More information can be found here and here.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan wants to make a decision on the waste dump by the end of the year.  This timing is based on politics, not need.  The time to act is now. He has said that he will not impose a dump on an unwilling community – join us on November 3rd and show him that SA is unwilling.

The Minister was going to partly base his decision on a ballot in the affected communities.  This is currently on hold and may not happen at all because the Barngarla people, Native Title Holders for Kimba, were granted an injunction in the Supreme Court of SA just before ballots were to commence. Their argument was that the exclusion of Native Title holders who did not live in the narrowly defined ballot areas was in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act. This court process has put the ballots in the Kimba district and also the Flinders Ranges area on hold. There is some uncertainty regarding whether the ballots will proceed at all yet the Minister is determined to choose one of the sites before the end of 2018.

We believe this is a statewide issue and we have legislation that bans such facilities – the SA Nuclear Waste Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000. The objects of this Act are “to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of SA and to protect the environment in which they live by prohibiting the establishment of certain nuclear waste storage facilities in this state.” This law is sensible and powerful and we want all our state politicians to use it to stop the federal government imposing a nuclear waste dump on SA.

Responsible radioactive waste management is a national issue that requires national scrutiny. It should not be the primary burden or sole choice of voters in a specific part of regional SA. Australia has a responsibility to properly manage its nuclear waste, and we are asking the federal government to set up an independent inquiry into to explore the full range of options.

Join us on 3rd November – We Still Say NO to a nuclear waste

Facebook event here Saturday, November 03, 2018 at 11:30 AMKaurna Land, Parliament House