Britain’s Dirty Deeds at Maralinga

New Scientist, 12 June 1993 by IAN ANDERSON , MELBOURNE
Magazine issue 1877–britains-dirty-deeds-at-maralinga-fresh-evidence-suggests-that-britain-knew-in-the-1960s-that-radioactivity-at-its-former-nuclear-test-site-in-australia-was-worse-than-first-thought-but-it-did-not-tell-the-australians-.html

“Britain’s dirty deeds at Maralinga: Fresh evidence suggests that Britain knew in the 1960s that radioactivity at its former nuclear test site in Australia was worse than first thought. But it did not tell the Australians”

Open snippet at the New Scientist Site:

(see Graphic) Next Thursday in London, Australian ministers will demand that Britain pay at least A $75 million ( £33 million) to clean up land at Maralinga in South Australia contaminated by British nuclear tests more than thirty years ago. The Australians also want A $45 million to compensate the Maralinga Tjarutja, the Aboriginal tribe that has been deprived of access to about 3000 square kilometres of its land as a result of the tests.

The meeting is expected to be heated. Recent government statements suggest that Britain will refuse both demands. It will argue that Maralinga was satisfactorily cleaned up after the tests finished and that, in an agreement reached in 1968, Australia signed away the right to make claims against Britain for mopping up.

The Australians will argue that Britain is in the wrong, both factually and morally. ‘If they had been as far out in the …

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end quote

That articles is bit long in the tooth now, I have the whole thing in box around here somewhere, but can’t put it up due to copyright.

There is a perplexing thing about the state of knowledge held by Australia in regard to this pollution at Maralinga.

The test sites there were routinely monitored by the Royal Australian Navy up until the 1970s. This is on the public record. A cleanup some years later was undertaken and now the islands are a tourist destination.

There is strong reason for thinking that the Australian Army also conducted monitoring surveys of Emu Field and Maralinga nuclear Test sites in South Australia for at least the same period.

I have a recollection that these surveys did take place. It is reasonable to assume that they did.

If the Australian government had control of the land involved, it would be unbelievable to think that no Australian surveys of the land took place.

The then Premier of South Australia, John Bannon, visited the Maralinga lands in 1984 in preparation for the hand back of the land to it’s Aboriginal owners, who were excluded from that land, and removed from that land, the 1950s.

Bannon was accompanied on his visit to the nuclear test site by scientists from ARPANSA, including Peter Burns. The scientists monitored the Maralinga site and made the discovery that the area was highly contaminated.

It was at that point that the politicians and radiation experts came to understand that what the nuclear veterans and Aboriginal people had been saying about the contamination since the 1950s was true.

As this all unfolded in the local media at the time, and over the decades since 1984, I have been constantly amazed at what the civil powers claim not to know, especially at a Federal level.

I have very good reason for thinking that Australian Army radiological surveys did take place at Maralinga. It is safe to assume successive Australian governments would have monitored, out of duty of care if nothing else, the extent of radiological pollution at the nuclear test sites.

So why was Bannon unaware? Why as Australia’s nuclear watchdog, ARPNSA, in seeming total and absolute ignorance? (even for a nuclear authority).

I smelt a rat at the time and I still smell it.

So anyway, in 1984 Premier Bannon had to delay somewhat the hand back to its owners.

Here’s the ABC (Australia) transcript which reported on the eventual hand back of all the land.
Broadcast on the day of the event, Friday, December 18, 2009:

Maralinga traditional owners get their land back

” MARK COLVIN: More than 50 years after Britain’s nuclear tests at Maralinga, the traditional owners have finally got the last of their land back.

Most of the Maralinga lands had already been returned to the Aboriginal people, but 3,000 square kilometres remained cordoned off. The site known as Section 400 was heavily contaminated by radiation and hazardous chemicals.

After years of Federal Government remediation, that last parcel was returned today to the Maralinga Tjarutja people in an emotional ceremony at Maralinga Village.

Nance Haxton reports from there.

(Sound of atomic bomb)

NANCE HAXTON: Maralinga was the site of seven of the now infamous British nuclear tests, with the first atomic bomb set off there in 1956.

ABORIGINAL ELDER: We’ll have a minute’s silence today for those who have passed on, those who have fought very hard for their country.

NANCE HAXTON: Hundreds of people gathered under trees at Maralinga Village today for the official hand-back of the land that was taken off them for the tests. Maralinga Tjarutja chairman Keith Peters says having the land returned will bring healing to the community.

KEITH PETERS: Our people fought, they fought so bad to get the land back, back in the past in the ’80s, and they’ve finally made it, to get the land back.

NANCE HAXTON: Members of the Maralinga Tjarutja community cried as the South Australian Governor Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce handed over the deed, such was their relief at having the last parcel of their land back.

Governor Scarce says today closes a sorry chapter in Australia’s history.

KEVIN SCARCE: In Britain’s race to develop a nuclear weapon capability this area was declared off limits to the traditional owners and they were forced to leave. Most were moved to coastal grey-sand country at Yalata, a place which they had no connection.

NANCE HAXTON: Maralinga Tjarutja Council member Mima Smart says it’s a special day for her people.

MIMA SMART: But their spirits are here and we can feel it with this beautiful day today, wind blowing, their spirits are here with us.

NANCE HAXTON: You’ve waited a long time for this?

MIMA SMART: Waited a long time. It took that long and we have to talk and talk.

NANCE HAXTON: The Maralinga lands are no longer desolate, with rolling red sand hills covered in dense scrub. But in the Maralinga Village, old cement blocks on the ground are an eerie reminder of the hundreds of people who once lived in buildings there during the nuclear tests.

South Australia’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jay Weatherill says it’s hoped that the remaining buildings and land can be used by the Aboriginal people for community and tourism facilities.

JAY WEATHERILL: There are opportunities now both with the handing back of this land, not only to restore people and their wellbeing but also to create some economic opportunities in Maralinga village.

NANCE HAXTON: Given the history though of the land is it a bit optimistic to think tourists will come here?

JAY WEATHERILL: No I think that this is a fascinating site. I mean the story of the Maralinga clean up, the story of the fight for justice; the artefacts and relics of the 1950s era are of great interest.”

end quote.

The story of the Maralinga Rehabilitation Project is one I have not told yet. Events overseas have delayed this blog by about one year.

I see constant parallels – especially in realms of untruths – between events in Fukushima, Japan and Maralinga, South Australia.

Noone will be able to tell me otherwise, even if they are the greatest radio-chemist the world has ever seen.

Here’s a photograph of me unpacking military radiation detectors (PDR 72a GM meters) at the RADIAC Centre in about 1972.


The Army had thousands of the things at the time, and they had to be regularly calibrated. I might have been a pretty darn gormless 18 years old at the time, but I wasn’t completely stupid.

It is far too long a stretch for me to believe that in 1984 the Australian government did not know precisely the state of the land at its nuclear test sites. (This is my opinion.) Nor do I believe that successive Australian governments were more gormless than I was in 1972.

I have heard so called radiation experts in Japan compare the Fukushima emissions to nuclear testing, and in that comparison claim that the bombs were safe and so is Fukushima.

Mr Noda, if the bombs were safe in 1957, why the FUCK were the owners of the Maralinga land unable to return home in 1984?

What was the joint like in 1957? Better or worse than it was in 1993? Worse obviously.

So, my assumption is that the land most affected by Fukushima is not much different, in the terms of layman, and that’s all I am, to what Taranaki ground zero, Maralinga, was like in 1957.

And they say the people there at the time were perfectly safe and that the authorities have no case to answer.

What utter bollocks.

It has been shown that Great Britain has lied in the European Court of Human Rights.

The thousands of Australian Military radiation detectors were shipped to a warehouse in Tasmania. Presumably they are all utterly useless by now.

The veterans – well the governments involved are apparently just waiting for them to either shut up or die, whichever comes first.

There is still an area north of Taranaki that the Aboriginal owners are not allowed full use of. Even after millions of Dollars, it is still not safe to hang around in, live in or hunt in.

Not too far away, the Olympic Dam uranium mine is about to become the world’s biggest open cut mine.

In the 1940s and 1950s Australia exported uranium to Britain. Britain turned it into plutonium at Windscale, and then brought the stuff back to Australia in the form nuclear weapons which it exploded here.

Funny how history tends to repeat.

One Response to “Britain’s Dirty Deeds at Maralinga”

  1. CaptD Says:

    N☢T Funny if you are one of those that get too much exposure…

    Nuclear = $$$$$ = Unhealthy Spoiled Earth

    Great Post.
    Liked and Tweeted…

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