Federal Hansard (Entry 2186) SENATE 14 MAY 1980 QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE MARALINGA ATOMIC TESTS

(Entry 2186) SENATE 14 MAY 1980 QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE MARALINGA ATOMIC TESTS

Senator ELSTOB – “My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and may also bring some response from the Minister representing the Minister for Health. What plans has the Government for initiating inquiries into the deaths and illnesses of Aboriginals and white people who were exposed to the fall-out of the Maralinga atomic tests? According to reports received by Dr T. Cutter, who is heading an Alice Springs based Aboriginal health service team, many Aboriginals died immediately after the tests. Will the Minister consider holding a full inquiry into the short and long term effects on the health of the people living in the north of South Australia at the time of the atomic tests and check on the reports of mass burials of Aboriginals?”

Senator CHANEY – “Needless to say, this matter has been of concern to me. The concern predates the recent spate of publicity which related to Dr Cutter’s visit to northern South Australia and, of course, to a series of articles in, I think, the Advertiser in South Australia. At present the Commonwealth is seeking information on the matters which have been raised. Perhaps it is worth quoting Mr Toyne, one of the people who has been interviewed in this area and who is an employee of the Pitjantjatjara Council. I refer to his comment on radio the other morning.. When asked about possible deaths he said: all I can say is that it is quite speculative. We are still in the area of speculation. We are still seeking information. Over the past month or so l have written on a couple of occasions to the Minister of Health in South Australia seeking information from the South Australian Health Commission. I am not in a position to give a final response…..”

And he never did. What exactly transpired between Chaney and the South Australian Health Department remains unknown.

In July 1999 I wrote to the SA Health Commission, and asked for copies of the documents sent to it by Senator Chaney. I further asked for copies of the SA Health Commission response to Senator Chaney.

My request for this information was refused. After negotiation with the Freedom of Information Officer, Mr Dadds, I received the following letter. Note that the question of mass graves is side stepped, and that the Department suggests that I refer to atomic test era (1950’s) census data in order to obtain information on the numbers of Aboriginal people living in the test affected areas. Indigenous Australians were not considered as citizens at the time and so were not included in census collected and were not included in Australian census until after 1967. The truth is STILL being covered up.

Accompanying Mr Dadds’ two page letter was a 1980’s era health survey of Aboriginal health. This survey, promoted at the time by the South Australian Health Minister, Mrs Joy Adamson, as proving all was well, shows in fact the opposite. The McClelland Royal Commission found Mrs Adamson’s comments to be unfortunate.

It is my view that in 1999, there was a systemic inability of the South Australian administration to provide information relating to these important health and safety questions. So I continued looking for documentary evidence. Both Veterans present at Atomic tests and Indigenous people have stated for many years that injury, illness and death accompanied the atomic tests. In 2004, with the help of the Atomic ExServicemens’ Association, Channel 9 Archives, Film Australia and AIATSIS, I found two items of evidence which severely challenges the vigor of the following health survey and those findings of the Royal Commission which were weak regarding actual harm suffered by Indigenous Australians caused by the atomic testing and aftermath. So weak in fact that the Royal Commission ignored physical evidence present on the bodies of the afflicted witnesses as they testified to the learned Royal (Queen’s) Commission. Not surprising really is it?

The Royal Commission, in this matter, fails to answer the questions. In this aspect, it is a whitewash.

I present this evidence after the health survey below. SEVERE CULTURAL WARNING: PHOTOGRAPHIC DEPICTION OF A DECEASED INDIGENOUS PERSON OF THE MARALINGA LANDS FOLLOWS THE HEALTH SURVEY BELOW, AS DOES REFERENCE TO FILM WHICH DEPICTS INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS SUFFERING THE EFFECTS OF RADIATION.

Maybe Chaney will spill the beans on his death bed, finally admitting Yami Lester, Lallie Lennon, Mrs Bear-Wingfield and the many other eye witnesses are truthful people, more open and honest than either of the “governments” involved.


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