According to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS),
it is committed to providing every member of the community, including
indigenous members, with the opportunity to speak with the department and be consulted
about the site selection process. The same information and opportunities are
provided to all members of the relevant communities, whether the community is
Indigenous or not.
DIIS maintains that it continues to work closely with the local traditional
owners on the NRWMF project and the government has committed that it will
preserve, protect and minimise the impact on indigenous heritage and cultural
aspects of the land.
In relation to the Wallerberdina Station site (Hawker), DIIS indicated
that a Heritage Working Group has been established which includes
representatives of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association RNTBC (ATLA)
and the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation (VYAC):
The department is engaging with representatives from both corporations
as both have members who can speak to the cultural heritage value of the land
and the potential impact of the Facility on cultural, environmental and social
values. Traditional owners, who have been authorised by the boards of ATLA and
VYAC, are working with the department to conduct an Aboriginal Cultural
Heritage Assessment of the Wallerberdina Station.
A number of Aboriginal people have also been selected to participate in
the Barndioota Consultative Committee and the Economic Working Group.
In relation to Kimba, there has been less Indigenous engagement by DIIS:
The department has
also sought to consult with representatives of the Barngarla People, who hold
native title in an area near the Kimba sites. These discussions are ongoing but
will provide for the views of the Barngarla to be made into the process as well
as identifying, protecting and minimising impact on any significant culture and
heritage at the nominated sites. The department is looking to create a
'Barngarla Heritage Consultative Committee' with a role similar to that of the
Heritage Working Group at Wallerberdina Station.
Indigenous stakeholders expressed cultural and heritage links to the
different geographical areas associated with the proposed sites. As with most
aspects of the selection process, there were mixed views regarding whether
Indigenous engagement had been appropriate depending on whether stakeholders
were for or against a NRWMF in their community.
ATLA is the peak body for all matters relating to land, culture,
heritage, language and native title for Adnyamathanha people. The proposed
NRWMF near Hawker is located on Adnyamathanha land and is opposed by ATLA:
does not exist we have made that very clear from day one and we continue to
oppose this waste dump at this site...As with any situation, there are one or two
Adnyamathanha who are supporting this dump but the vast majority remain totally
opposed to the dump and ATLA as the representative body has always been totally
While ATLA is the native title body for the proposed site, the VYAC is
another Adnyamathanha body with cultural and heritage links to the site at
Wallerberdina. The VYAC consists of decedents of the late Mr Malcolm [Snr] and Mrs
Ruth McKenzie, and many of its members are also members of ATLA.
Within the VYAC, members hold diametrically opposed views in relation to
the siting of a NRWMF near Hawker. This has been reflected in how support for a
NRWMF has changed over time. In 2016, the YVAC ran a public campaign opposing
the siting of a facility near Hawker. By May 2017, however, the then Chair of
the VYAC, Ms Dawn Likouresis, stated:
The majority of our
community would like the facility to go ahead. The VYAC members have room for
their own opinions and at a recent special meeting VYAC held a ballot for the
project and 85% of members who voted were in favour.
Representatives from the YVAC have put forward arguments both for and
against a NRWMF to the inquiry. Proponents for a NRWMF emphasised the economic
and employment opportunities for Indigenous people. For example,
Mr Malcolm McKenzie stated that:
What's going to
happen here this year is a great opportunity for Aboriginal people, for
Adnyamathanha people—having a job and input into things. We know the status of
Aboriginal people around Australia now, a lot of them haven't got jobs, a lot
of them haven't got training but through this process we're going to be working
with the government to build that capacity of Aboriginal people to contribute
to work. This is not going to destroy culture; it'll enhance it.
Similarly, Ms Angelina Stuart commented that:
Thinking about my
grandkids and great grandkids, I want to see development on the land, so that
they can return to the land and surrounding areas, and so they can come back
and get opportunities of employment. They need to be able to come back to the
Mr Bruce Wilson from DIIS drew the committee's attention to a comment
from Ms Deidre McKenzie, current Chair of the VYAC:
...who describes what a
positive experience it was for over 30 members of her community to work with
AECOM and the department to support the assessment work being undertaken on the
site. In her words, it has been a life-changing experience for several of the
Opponents to a NRWMF cited concerns about such a facility affecting
sites of cultural heritage. Indeed, ATLA asserts that this has already happened
during the initial heritage assessment process.
ATLA's concerns about the storage of radioactive waste currently held at
Woomera have not been allayed by the government's reluctance to allow anyone to
visit that storage facility:
We've been invited to
go and look at the Lucas Heights site, but why go all the way to Lucas Heights?
Have you got waste over there at Woomera that we can go and visit? Why don't
they take us there? Why wouldn't they be happy to take us to Woomera and show
us how well they look after this waste?
In relation to the consultation process, ATLA contended that:
ATLA was not contacted
until phase 2 of the Wallerberdina proposal. We were ignored by the government
for quite some time. So we were not even a part of the process for the first
two "advancement stages". ATLA is the RNTBC and the ARA and we were
ignored so clearly the government does not respect us as Traditional Owners!
ATLA was disgusted and frustrated by the arrogance of the government to
completely ignore us as the Traditional Owners...
ATLA also noted that, once DIIS determined native title was
extinguished, the department considered that it have to consult with the
traditional owners about heritage matters:
They keep on making
the point that the native title process has been extinguished—or native title
has been extinguished.
While an Indigenous Land Council is not the nominator for either of the
sites, Section 5 of Part 2 of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act
2012 provides the intent to examine claims and impacts of indigenous
heritage in that it states:
(2) A nomination
there is a sacred site within the meaning of the Aboriginal Land Rights
(Northern Territory) Act 1976 on or near the land—contain evidence that the
persons for whom the site is sacred or is otherwise of significance are
satisfied that there is no substantial risk of damage to or interference with
the sacred site as a result of the nomination or subsequent action under this
ATLA claims that the external heritage consultants, RPS, engaged by DIIS
to undertake the heritage assessment process were not independent and did not
appropriately consult with those indigenous people with the relevant knowledge
about cultural heritage:
In the first meeting
of the heritage assessment process when they went there, it went through a
process of appointing the heritage survey and the assessment crowd, the
specialists. They've ignored our representatives. Our people had some real
issues about who they were appointing, because this person or this
company—well, initially the process was that it would be totally independent.
Someone would be selected who hadn't worked with any one of the people in our
group, either Viliwarinha or the ATLA representatives or even ANSTO. It would
be someone totally independent. But that wasn't the case, because RPS has been
involved with and worked for the government previously and also worked with
some members who were sitting on the panel, so it wasn't totally independent.
That's why ATLA pulled out. It was flawed from day dot. ATLA didn't want to be
part of a flawed process.
Ms Regina McKenzie highlighted that ATLA thought that they would be able
to choose who did the heritage assessment, given they were already working with
a group of professionals to undertake a cultural assessment of the area for
storylines and other significant heritage reports.
However, Mr Malcolm McKenzie gave a different opinion regarding the
opportunities afforded to ATLA through the heritage assessment:
We did that heritage
assessment site test out there. Viliwarinha Yura was invited to attend that
process and so was ATLA. Viliwarinha Yura went through that process—went
through the monitoring process. ATLA decided not to participate in that
heritage assessment...When they say they weren't invited, from my understanding,
Minister Canavan asked them to meet him so they could discuss this opportunity.
They declined to take those opportunities.
Ms Angelina Stuart described her experience with the DIIS cultural
heritage assessment process:
On this land, this
site at Wallerberdina, I've been out there with the heritage assessment with
RPS. I know where they walked, and where the site is, and there are no visuals
sites on the ground, I didn't see anything. Any little cuttings would be from
people passing through. It's a lie to say the stories and lore of the land
would disappear if a facility was built on Wallerberdina.
Ms Regina McKenzie submitted that the Aboriginal cultural heritage
investigations at Barndioota were not undertaken in accordance with the
government's best practice requirements:
...this failure to
adhere, recognise or use the Commonwealth best practice guidelines has led the
Consult with inappropriate
Aboriginal people who do not hold cultural information for Barndioota, and
Completely ignore the significant
cultural/gender restrictions associated with the NRWMFP area, and
Alienate relevant culturally
appropriate people from participating in the NRWMFP assessment, and
Not have access to vitally
important cultural information associated with the NRWMFP area.
Further, it was argued that the government had not followed The Burra
Charter, a document that sets the standard of practice for conservation and
management of places of cultural significance.
In a supplementary submission, ATLA noted that other Indigenous groups
should also have their views heard:
ATLA has over 800 members.
Viliwarinha has 81 Adnyamathanha members and is a core group of ATLA. All
Viliwarinha members are eligible to be ATLA members. Viliwarinha is a
neighbouring group to the proposed site and their views should be taken into
account in this process; however, other neighbouring groups, all of whom are
core groups of ATLA, such as Untied Yuras in Hawker, the Milyarakana and Wonika
Yuras have not been properly consulted and their views must also be taken into
Ms Regina McKenzie went on to outline the impact of the consultation
process more broadly:
...it has caused
significant mental health issues within our broader Aboriginal community and
continuing lateral violence within our immediate family. The NRWMFP Aboriginal
consultation process has left me feeling ostracised within my own family and I
find myself constantly witnessing aggressive, misogynistic and culturally
inappropriate behaviour from a select few who have been validated through the
DIIS Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment process.
Ms Regina McKenzie summarised the views of many of her peers in relation
to the selection process:
We've always had the
rough end of the pineapple. It's not fair that Aboriginal people today live on
this land and we have no voice and no say. Our culture is disrespected and it's
Claims regarding the assessment of cultural heritage at the nominated
site near Hawker were contested by Mr Bruce Wilson from DIIS noting that the
Department had finally developed and released its long awaited heritage and cultural
assessment of the Wallerberdina site:
In relation to the
proposed hundred-hectare site Wallerberdina Station, there continues to be
claims that it is on or near or would harm the registered cultural sites of
Hookina Spring and Hookina waterhole. These claims continue to cause
considerable distress in the Adnyamathanha community, and they are simply not
true. As shown on the footage in a video on the proposed site, available on our
website, the hundred-hectare area under consideration is some 12 kilometres
from Hookina Spring and around eight kilometres from Hookina waterhole. There
can be no way this facility would impact either of those sites, nor would we
allow it to do so. Moreover, we have now released a heritage and cultural
assessment of the proposed site, which indicates, based on the information
supplied by the community members who were consulted, that there are no
significant heritage or cultural sites that may be impacted by the facility.
This report was undertaken by independent heritage consultants, RPS, who had
many conversations with a range of men and women elders and other members of
the Adnyamathanha community.
The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) is the
prescribed body corporate for the Barngarla native title holders which
encompass the two nominated sites near Kimba. The BDAC noted that:
Although native title
over the actual sites is extinguished, the Barngarla people still have heritage
rights under the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act.
However, the BDAC also commented that:
There is a
peculiarity of the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act which you may not
be aware of. There is a process where sites can be registered, but that's quite
an expensive process. It can cost up to $10,000 to $20,000 for native title
holders to register a site, and for that reason most sites are not registered.
So in fact the overwhelming majority of sites which have heritage and cultural
significance to Indigenous people are not registered in South Australia, but that
doesn't mean that they're not recognised, that they're not identified or that
they're not well known.
The BDAC does not consider that engagement by DIIS has been adequate:
BDAC believes that
community consultation in relation to the site selection process for a National
Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) has been patently inadequate,
bordering on non-existent. We hold this view given the lack of contact by the
Federal Government and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (the
Department) from the outset.
The BDAC submitted that it made initial contact with DIIS in April 2017;
three months after the Lyndhurst and Napandee sites were nominated. Since this
time, the BDAC notes that it has constructively and professionally engaged with
over ten companies and government agencies. The BDAC considers that the core
difference between these interactions and its interactions with DIIS is 'that
the Department has not meaningfully engaged with Barngarla'.
Further, the BDAC contested the assertion by DIIS that there were no
Aboriginal heritage issues in the area. Despite repeated correspondence to the
Minister and DIIS, the BDAC asserts that it has not received a satisfactory
response to issues that it has raised regarding heritage concerns as
apart from the Department not having made contact with the Aboriginal
traditional owners or native title holders for the area, was the Department's
assertion that there were no Aboriginal heritage issues in the area surrounding
Lyndhurst and Napandee. This assertion was made without any consultation with
these traditional owners. Further, Barngarla have repeatedly asked, on three
separate occasions, for the Department to provide the basis of this assertion,
which the Department has failed to do.
Since then, DIIS has published a clarifying public statement in an
update to the March 2017 Newsletter:
In relation to the
two nominated sites at Kimba, there are no heritage sites registered, and we
are committed to establishing whether there are any unregistered sites.
Overall, the BDAC concludes that:
...there has been no
appropriate consultation process. The approaches made by BDAC have been
rebuffed by a combination of meaningless pro forma correspondence, bureaucratic
tangents, and obfuscation, which has resulted in a contrived consultation
process completely lacking in transparency.
At the Canberra hearing on 2 August 2018, Mr Bruce Wilson from DIIS
In relation to the
Aboriginal heritage sites in Kimba, I would like to clarify that the department
is committed to working and engaging with the Barngarla people. While the
numerous community forums and information sessions the department has run have
been open to the Barngarla people, it is fair to say that direct engagement has
been very limited, particularly given that few of the Barngarla now live in the
immediate vicinity of Kimba. In saying that, we acknowledge this does not in
any way diminish their connection to the country as the traditional owners.
Given this, and at the direction of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal
Corporation, we have engaged with their community through their legal
representatives, and that has undoubtedly slowed the engagement process.
However, the department has undertaken and released a desktop heritage
assessment which confirmed there is no registered heritage on either site. We
obviously need to do deeper on-site assessment, and we are committed to working
with the Barngarla community in this process...While we have not made as much
progress as we would like to have at this point, it will not stop us ensuring
that any heritage which is identified at the site is appropriately managed and
It would appear that identifying and assessing indigenous cultural and
heritage at the nominated sites has been a complex and difficult task for DIIS.
Recognising this, there would seem to be areas within the DIIS Indigenous
engagement strategy and execution which may not have conformed to best
In regards to Hawker, the conflicting stance of members of the
Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation (and by extension ATLA) would have
complicated DIIS's efforts to undertake the Indigenous cultural and heritage
assessment for the site near Hawker. Nonetheless, the committee considers that
without the full involvement of those Indigenous stakeholders with relevant
cultural and heritage knowledge, it is unlikely that the Indigenous cultural
and heritage survey is comprehensive.
In regards to Kimba, the adversarial nature of the correspondence
between the BDAC and DIIS has not assisted in the timely resolution of an
Aboriginal heritage assessment for the nominated sites. While communication
between DIIS and representatives of the BDAC has improved since April 2018, the
Aboriginal heritage assessment issue remains unresolved. This is unfortunate as
there appears to have been adequate time from the acceptance of additional site
nominations until now for the BDAC and DIIS to work constructively towards
completing the Aboriginal heritage assessment.
The committee believes that the Minister should intensify and expedite
efforts to fully engage with the Indigenous stakeholders near Kimba and Hawker
so that comprehensive heritage assessments for all nominated sites can be
The committee recommends that the Minister intensify and expedite
efforts to fully engage with the Indigenous stakeholders near Kimba and Hawker
so that comprehensive heritage assessments for all nominated sites can be
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