• Regina and Vivienne Mckenzie travelled by car from the Flinders Ranges in SA to Melbourne to meet with resources minister Josh Frydenberg tomorrow. (The Point)Source: The Point
Adnyamathanha traditional owners have travelled from remote South Australia to Melbourne to speak with Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg.
Laura Murphy-Oates

The Point
25 May 2016 - 7:36 PM  UPDATED 25 May 2016 - 8:20 PM

Regina and Vivienne McKenzie are on a mission to save their traditional lands from becoming the site of Australia's first nuclear waste dump.

The sisters travelled more than 1,000 kilometres from South Australia, to the heart of Melbourne for a meeting with Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg, which they hope will change their fate.

“He is going to say no to the waste dump – that’s my wish, that is my prayer, and I believe in my heart that is what he is going to say,” Vivienne told ‘The Point’.

Their land, an Indigenous-protected area called Yappala station in the Flinders Ranges, sits adjacent to what could one day be the nation’s nuclear waste dump.

The government announced in April that out of six sites voluntarily nominated around the country, the 6,000-hectare Wallerberdina property, owned by former Liberal Senator Grant Chapman, is their sole focus.

The Adnyamathanha people say that the property is home to ancient human remains, thousands of artefacts, a sacred waterhole and sits at the heart of a 70-kilometre songline - the route of a 'creator-being' in Indigenous spirituality - the first to be registered in South Australia.

Despite years of work documenting that heritage, they say so far no one has spoken to them about the waste dump.

“They have not consulted with us whatsoever,” says Regina.

“Yet we are the ones that know the place and that’s an insult.”

Regina says she will be calling on Mr Frydenberg to visit their lands. “He should come back to the country, he should come and talk to the people.” 

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Last week the government held a meeting with the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association, a land rights body, but only after government representatives twice cancelled meetings with the group in the months prior.

The waste dump plan is currently in phase two, with heritage and environmental surveys to be conducted by the government in the coming months.

Mr Frydenberg told 'The Point' that "legitimate issues have been raised about the Indigenous heritage in the broader area." 

As a result, "the government will undertake a comprehensive and independent heritage assessment and further consult with key stakeholders before any final decisions are made," he says. 

Support growing in Melbourne

After a long journey the night before, the Adnymathanha women were received by around one hundred people at Northcote Town Hall on Tuesday night to listen to their panel discussion about the nuclear waste site.

The event was organised by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Friends of the Earth, who also fundraised to bring the sisters to Melbourne.

Dr Margie Beavis from the Medical Association for Prevention of War spoke on the panel and says she believes the government and the media have provided misinformation about nuclear waste and nuclear medicine.

“There was a thing in the Adelaide Advertiser saying that unless we have a dump, they're going to run out of space for nuclear waste by 2017,” she says. “This is wrong on so many levels and ANSTO [the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation] did very little to counter that.”

The government's claim that one in two Australians will need nuclear medicine in their lifetime is not backed up by any research, she adds.

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Alex Bhathal, the Greens candidate for the federal seat of Batman where the meeting was held, spoke in support of the Adnyamathanha people.

“Prime Minister Turnbull gave an undertaking that the process would be voluntary for the choice of a nuclear waste dump, and it’s up to his government to ensure that it is a voluntary process,” she said at the event.

“At the moment the Adnyamathanha people are saying, ‘no, we don’t want it’ and I think it’s up to Josh Frydenberg to honour that.”