Civil society groups and members of the communities affected by the federal government’s proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) are deeply disappointed with Justice White’s ruling that the exclusion of Barngarla Traditional Owners from a ballot intended to gauge community support was not a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Ballots were to be held in the Flinders Ranges and Kimba districts in August 2018. Eligibility to participate was severely restricted and while non-resident rate-payers were included, Traditional Owners who live outside the small geographic areas were excluded.
The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, Native Title Holders for the Kimba District, sought an injunction in the Supreme Court, asserting that their exclusion breached the Racial Discrimination Act. This effectively put the site selection on hold.
In December 2018, the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) lodged a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission based on poor treatment and consultation with Traditional Owners throughout the divisive site selection process. This case is ongoing.
Mara Bonacci, Nuclear Free Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Australia said: “Today’s announcement is very disappointing, but not surprising. The federal legislation governing the nuclear waste management process, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, is undemocratic and systematically disadvantages Aboriginal people. The Act gives the federal government the power to extinguish rights and interests in land targeted for a radioactive waste facility. The Act allows the Minister to proceed with a nuclear waste dump without securing the consent of Traditional Owners. Traditional Owners, local communities, pastoralists, business owners, local councils and State/Territory Governments are all disadvantaged and disempowered by the NRWMA.
“It is important to note that today’s ruling is not a vindication of the federal site selection process, only finding that it is not a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act. The lack of inclusion of Aboriginal people is inconsistent with community expectation, best practise and Australia’s international obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is galling that Justice White’s ruling was delivered in NAIDOC week.
“The Federal government process has also denied a voice to many Australians concerned about this issue and about responsible radioactive waste management – this is a national issue and national responsibility, the burden of which should not be placed on regional and remote communities.
“It is appalling that federal resources Minister Matt Canavan is contemplating proceeding with a nuclear waste dump on Barngarla land despite the clear opposition of Traditional Owners. The SA Marshall Government also needs to voice its clear opposition to the imposition of a nuclear waste dump.”
“This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of a famous day in South Australia’s history. On July 14, 2004, a campaign led by an Aboriginal Women’s Council, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, finally persuaded the Howard Government to abandon its plan to impose a national nuclear waste dump on SA. It seems nothing was learnt from that experience.
“Despite today’s ruling, community members, civil society groups and many others will continue to fight to protect South Australia from becoming home to Australia’s radioactive waste and for a fair and transparent site selection process based on responsible radioactive waste management”, Ms Bonacci concluded.