Nuclear policy a ‘death sentence’ for Indigenous land

Tess Ikonomou |

Indigenous elders are vowing to fight plans to build nuclear power plants.
Indigenous elders are vowing to fight plans to build nuclear power plants.

Indigenous elders are vowing to fight plans to build nuclear power plants, warning the development will be a “death sentence” for their connection to country.

The opposition has pledged to build seven nuclear plants at the sites of coal-fired power stations if it wins the next federal election.

While no costings have been provided, the coalition has promised to provide more detail before voters go to the polls.

Energy experts have cast doubt on the timeline provided by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on how quickly the nuclear plants can be built.

Yallourn Power Station
The coalition has pledged to build seven nuclear plants at the sites of coal-fired power stations. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

They have also questioned whether the proposed sites are geologically suitable for nuclear technology.

One of the sites earmarked for a nuclear plant, Tarong in Queensland, is located on Indigenous elder Aunty Jannine Smith’s country.

“Over my dead body. I will be in a tent outside Tarong gates,” she told AAP.

“It’s a death sentence to that land.

“It’s not happening. I can guarantee you now it will not happen at Tarong.”

Ms Smith said building a nuclear plant on that land would be “severing the connection to that sacred site of ours”.

“We are the custodians of the land, the land is our mother and we don’t own our mother, we care for her,” she said.

Queensland Conservation Council’s Paul Spearim said “white Australia has a short-sighted approach to country”.

He pointed to Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia where the British held nuclear tests.

More than 1000 Indigenous people were exposed to radiation from the tests.

“You have forced poison onto the lands of traditional owners, and now Peter Dutton is proposing to create poisons that would last (hundreds of thousands) of years,” Mr Spearim said.

“We have learnt that white Australia cannot be trusted with nuclear power, and you continue to act without care for our sacred country.

“We will fight these poisons, they are not welcome, and we will fight against proposals to force them upon us.”

Other sites put forward for nuclear plants include Loy Yang Power Station in Victoria, Callide in Queensland, Mount Piper at Lithgow in central west NSW and Liddell in NSW’s Hunter region.

Small, modular reactors would be built at Northern Power Station in Port Augusta and at Muja Power Station, southeast of Perth.

AAP