Australian Aboriginies move to block shipments of Scottish nuclear waste | The Herald

First published September 25, 2017 by The Herald: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15554758.Australian_Aborigines_move_to_block_shipments_of_Scottish_nuclear_waste/

ABORIGINES in South Australia are fighting a plan to ship nuclear waste from Scotland amid fears it will be dumped on land regarded as culturally and spiritually sacred.

Wallerberdina, around 280 miles north of Adelaide, has been earmarked as a possible location for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump despite claims that it is a priceless heritage site rich in archaeological treasures including burial mounds, fossilised bones and stone tools.

Some have claimed the impact would be similar to “building a waste dump at the heart of the Vatican”.

Now campaigners have appealed to the Scottish Government to halt controversial plans to ship nuclear waste processed at Dounreay in Caithness to Australia, amid concerns that it will eventually end up on the culturally sensitive land.

The waste transfer is part of a deal with saw spent fuel from nuclear reactors in Australia, Belgium, Germany and Italy processed at Dounreay – the nuclear facility in Caithness currently being decommissioned – to enable it to be safely stored after being returned to its country of origin.

The UK government has previously confirmed that “a very small quantity of Australian-owned radioactive waste” is currently stored in the country.

Scottish Government policy allows for the substitution of nuclear waste with a “radiologically equivalent” amount of materials from Sellafield in Cumbria.

The Herald understands that a shipment of such material is due to take place by 2020.

While the waste will be initially stored at a facility near Sydney, concern is growing that it could end up at Wallerberdina, one of two areas under consideration as a nuclear waste dump site.

As well as sparking anger over the site’s cultural and sacred connections, the proposed location has angered local people who still recall British atomic bomb tests in the area in the 1950s without permission from the affected Aboriginal groups.

Thousands were adversely affected with many Aboriginal people left suffering from radiological poisoning

Gary Cushway, a dual Australian/British citizen living in Glasgow, has now written to the First Minister asking that the Scottish Government review the agreement to transfer the material “until a satisfactory final destination for the waste is finalised by the Australian Government.”

He argues that doing so would allow the government to “take the lead in mitigating mistakes of the past that the UK government has made in regards to indigenous Australians.”

The proposed dump site is next to an Indigenous Protected Area where Aborigines are still allowed to hunt, and is part of the traditional home of the Adnyamathanha people, one of several hundred indigenous groups in Australia.

It is currently a cattle ranch and is part-owned by the director of the country’s Liberal Party. The Australian government’s move to shortlist it as a potential nuclear waste dump site last year led to condemnation from the Aboriginal Congress of South Australia and the local indigenous community who described the decision as “cultural genocide”.

Regina McKenzie, an indigenous woman from the Adnyamathanah community who lives on land adjacent to Wallerberdina, told The Herald: “We here the Adnyamathanah people say no to any waste on our traditional land. No consent was sought by the federal government here in Australia. Our rights as first nation people have been ignored.

“I hope Scotland, who knows quite well what colonisation does to traditional peoples’ rights, would see the struggle of my people who are trying to hold onto our cultural beliefs.”

She has previously suggested the waste dump was “like me and my sisters going to the Vatican and saying we want to put a waste dump right under the pillar where they say St Peter is buried.”

Friends of the Earth Australia say they share concerns that the material due to be transferred could end up being stored in a facility at Wallerberdina against the wishes of local indigenous people. They encouraged those involved “to acknowledge that it is highly problematic that there is a real likelihood of the waste being foisted on an Aboriginal community that wants nothing to do with it.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise that the management of nuclear waste must take full account of human rights and equality obligations. That includes the importance of ensuring that security and waste management arrangements protect public safety and avoid harmful environmental impacts.

“Any concerns expressed by indigenous peoples must be addressed in full and action taken, to ensure that vulnerable communities do not suffer future adverse impacts.”

Australia’s dark history and why it matters today

First published Jan 26, 2016 by Commonspace – https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/3332/james-mcenaney-australias-dark-history-and-why-it-matters-today


JUST 12 miles off the coast from Perth, the largest city on Australia’s western coast, lies beautiful Rottnest Island. With up to half a million visitors a year it is one of the country’s most popular holiday resorts; a quick search on Google reveals images of a beautiful island paradise, all white sands and turquoise seas nestling under perfect azure skies.

It is, without doubt, idyllic, but behind the glowing smiles and glossy photographs of the tourist brochures lies a dark past: for nearly 100 years Rottnest was an Aboriginal prison, Australia’s equivalent of Robin Island. Between 1838 and 1931 around 3,700 indigenous men and boys (some as young as seven) were incarcerated on Rottnest – 10 per cent of them died there, the victims of disease, malnutrition and torture meted out by a brutal, racist regime.

Some of the buildings within which these people were held still stand, but now they serve as luxury accommodation for tourists, with Australia’s largest mass grave just a few metres away. In so many ways, Rottnest is a crushingly effective symbol for Australia – the ‘lucky country’ whose dark history hides in plain sight.

Back in 2002 I was lucky enough to spend a month in Australia as part of a ‘world challenge expedition’ organised by my high school. Over four weeks we travelled from Adelaide to Darwin (via the mesmerising ‘red centre’ of this continent-sized country) and then on to Sydney.

We were even able to spend several days in the Mutitjulu Aboriginal community at Uluru, an experience which remains one of the greatest privileges of my life.

It was, in a word, extraordinary, but even among all the teenage excitement there was something else – a pervasive, persistent sadness which at 15 years old I did not understand, and at 29 am unable, and unwilling, to shake.

It took years to even begin to properly process the way I felt about Mutitjulu. For a long time I believed that I was responding to the obvious injustice of the historical loss and ongoing suffering of a community, and a people, whose warmth, generosity and dignity touched us all.

But the truth is worse. The truth is that my feelings at that time were, more than anything else, a pained and utterly uncomprehending response to something which I am only now, as an adult, able to name: dehumanisation. I may not have understood what I was seeing, but I knew that I hated it.

Nearly 14 years have passed since those days, yet that feeling has never really left me. It simmers away under the surface and boils over, magnified by age and the burden of understanding, whenever I read articles , watch documentaries or see speeches about the treatment of the first Australians.

And on this day each year, a day which, depending on your background and perspective, is known either as Australia Day, Invasion Day or Survival Day, it all comes flooding back.

All of this might seem far removed from the politics of this smaller, colder island, but the truth is that the dehumanisation behind Australia’s shameful treatment of its indigenous population – both historically and in the present day – is really a reflection of the British imperialist world view, the echoes of which still reverberate into the 21st century.

The reduction of those who are ‘not like us’ to beings of lesser value continues to this day, and though the means by which this is achieved are necessarily more subtle, the motivations are largely the same.

The brutal reality, whether we wish to face it or not, is that the ghosts of the Terra Nullius philosophy – which legitimised the theft of a quarter of the world because those living there were at best uncivilised and at worst sub-human – have never been exorcised, and we are all haunted by them.

In Australia this is manifested not just in the treatment of the Aboriginal people (who still die far younger than non-indigenous Australians and whose children are more likely to go to prison than to finish high school), but also in the plight of asylum seekers and refugees herded into internment camps on the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Here, 9,000 miles away from Australia’s beautiful yet blood-soaked lands, that same inhuman ideology – forged in the fires of imperial expansion, exploitation and extermination – persists in our response to a refugee crisis which bears all the hallmarks of being the great challenge of our age. We may not have a ‘Great War’ to define us, but we are not short of suffering.

Faced with more than 50 million displaced people worldwide – many of them fleeing conflicts in which we are directly complicit – the UK Government (led by a man who saw nothing wrong with describing desperate human beings as a “swarm”) grudgingly agreed to accept 20,000 people over a five year period.

Now, when it is rumoured that Britain might move to help 3,000 of the unaccompanied child refugees in Europe (26,000 of whom arrived last year alone) the international development secretary is only willing to say that they will consider whether Britain, one of the richest nations on earth, “can do more”.

Nobody wants to see the bodies of drowned children washing up on European beaches, but so long as they are not ‘our’ children they are dehumanised, their suffering delegitimised. Just like Australia’s indigenous people they are condemned – first, foremost and forever – by their ‘otherness’.

Terra Nullius is the ideological thread which runs through so much of our interaction with the world. We – the civilised people – occupy the highest, most privileged position in a grotesque human hierarchy which has justified, and continues to justify, acts and attitudes of such inhumanity that they are as close to real evil as you are ever likely to experience.

So long as we refuse to face up to this we will be unable to learn from history, and we know what happens then: man’s continued inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.