And that’s a wrap! Atomic Survivors’ Delegation.
Last week, four special people that know intimately the personal impacts of nuclear weapons testing, on physical health, mental health, and on country, travelled to Parliament House in Canberra.
They brought their expertise and personal testimonies to speak with parliamentarians about recognition, respect, and repair, and to urge Australia to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The delegates went from meetings, to phone interviews, to TV studios, to events and to more meetings. They criss-crossed the entire Parliament House. They met with the Foreign Minister and the office of the Prime Minister, Assistant Ministers and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum.
They spoke about the shock of witnessing a nuclear test, the post-traumatic stress disorder that followed, the oily black mist that coated and poisoned the land, the wide range of mental and physical health impacts, the loss of loved ones far too early, the lack of recognition of suffering, the lack of accountability, the impact of government lies and obfuscation.
They argued that Australia must join the ban to prevent such humanitarian harm from happening again, and also to fulfill it’s obligations under Articles 6 & 7 to provide assistance to victims and remediate impacted environments. It’s about the past, the present and the future.
Karina Lester, Walatina SA
Karina Lester is a Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands) in the far northwest of South Australia. Karina is a senior Aboriginal language worker, an ICAN Ambassador and a prominent nuclear free advocate. Her father was blinded by the Emu Field nuclear tests.
“Our mob were not informed of those tests that were about to take place on our traditional lands. Consent was never given by Anangu for the Emu Field tests… Anangu need to know about these harms because we’ve lived with what these weapons have done to our families. Our loved ones died, our loved ones suffered, and we are the generations that continue to share those stories.”
June Lennon, Port Augusta SA
June is a Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya and Pitjantjatjara woman. She is Director of the Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation. June was four months old when the Totem 1 nuclear bomb was detonated at Emu Field. Her mother, Lallie, and brother Bruce, were recipients of compensation due to their ill-health, caused by radioactive contamination.
“My older sister Jenny was holding me sort of under a tarpaulin that dad had, you know, thrown over a branch of a tree… Where we were after the bomb went off the black mist came over and settled on all the trees and everything else, so that effectively took away our supermarket.”
Douglas Brooks, Adelaide SA
In 1956, Doug Brooks stationed at the Monte Bello Islands at 18 as a serving member of the Royal Australian Navy. He was aboard HMS Alert on the 19th of June when, as part of Operation Mosaic, a 98 kiloton atomic bomb was detonated just ten miles away. He and the rest of the crew were exposed to the full blast of the explosion.
“Immediately following the issue to fire the bomb, I experienced an enormous flash of intense burning bright light. I could see the bones of my hands as I covered my eyes—as if they were being x-rayed. A great sheet of heat burnt the backs of our necks. The bang from the detonation was that loud my eardrums felt like they had been perforated. Followed by a shockwave that travelled across the sea shaking the ship causing me to lose my footing on the deck… Fear about the ramifications of this insane event commenced to haunt me and an intense hatred of the service began to manifest itself. I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1991, and the same year I was told that I had an untreatable bone disease.”
Maxine Goodwin, Sydney NSW
Maxine is the daughter of an Australian nuclear veteran, who became ill as a result of his involvement in the first atomic test in Western Australia. Maxine’s goal is to uncover what her father experienced, learn how the nuclear tests have affected, and will continue to affect, veteran’s descendants.
“Specialising in Dakota aircraft, my father serviced planes that were contaminated while patrolling the west Australian coast. He was also onboard one of the planes that was directed to fly through the radioactive cloud… My father became ill when I was a child and passed away at the age of forty-nine from lymphoma. My mother, a widow at forty-four, applied to the Australian government for compensation, but her claim was denied.”
PARLIAMENTARY MEETINGS AND EVENTS
Parliamentary Friends of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, co-chaired by Josh Wilson MP (Labor), Senator Jordon Steele-John (Greens) and Russell Broadbent MP (Liberal) hosted a press conference and event with the delegates, releasing this statement acknowledging their “bravery, fortitude, and advocacy” and affirming that “Australia’s timely signature and ratification of the Treaty would be a meaningful contribution to strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime at a time when that is urgently needed.”
- Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator for South Australia
- Tim Gartrell, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister & Kathy Klugman, International Advisor to the Prime Minister
- Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Environment and Water, Labor MP for Sydney, NSW
- Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Assistant Minister for Defence, Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Labor Member for Kingsford Smith NSW & Chris Ketter (Advisor), Advisor to Richard Marles MP VIC, Defence Minister, Deputy Prime Minister.
- Peter Wellings (Advisor) Office of Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Labor Senator for the NT
- Josh Wilson MP, Labor Member for Fremantle WA, Co-Chair of Parliamentary Friends of TPNW & Susan Templeman MP, Labor Member for Macquarie NSW, led the Australian Delegation at 1MSP of TPNW
- Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Labor Member for Cooper VIC & Graham Perrett MP, Labor Member for Moreton QLD.
- Greens briefing with five Senators: Senator Jordon Steele-John, WA, Spokesperson on Health, Foreign Affairs, Peace, Nuclear Disarmament and Disability Rights, Co-Chair of Parliamentary Friends of TPNW, Senator David Shoebridge, NSW, Spokesperson for Justice, Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Dorinda Cox, WA Greens Spokesperson for First Nations Issues, Senator Janet Rice, VIC and Senator Barbara Pocock, SA.
- Russell Broadbent MP, Liberal MP for Monash VIC, Co-Chair of Parliamentary Friends of TPNW.
- Senator Kerryanne Liddle, Liberal Senator for SA, Member of the Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.
Calls on PM to sign treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, ABC Radio National, featuring Karina Lester.
Atomic testing descendants lobby for recognition and compensation, ABC Radio Canberra, featuring Maxine Goodwin.
Survivors want PM to sign treaty to ban nuclear weapons, The West (AAP)
ABC SA Mornings, Regional ABC Radio, featuring June Lennon
Afternoon Briefing – Atomic survivors delegation meet with Penny Wong, ABC TV, featuring Karina Lester
“The onus is on us to keep that story alive”: First Nations leaders call for Australia to sign Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, ABC Radio Canberra, featuring Karina Lester
‘We could see the bones in our hands’: Bomb test survivor’s fight, Adelaide Advertiser, featuring Doug Brooks
Images credit: Jesse Boylan.