• Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners Heather Stuart, Enice Marsh and Regina McKenzie. (Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners)Source: Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners
As a royal commission hands down it's final report about whether South Australia should lead the way in nuclear waste, the fight over the nuclear waste dump in the community of Hawker heats up.
Laura Murphy-Oates

6 May 2016 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 6 May 2016 - 5:07 PM

Adnyamathanha woman Regina Mckenzie says the Indigenous community is still reeling from the news that the final shortlisted site for the nuclear waste dump will be in her community.

“We were devastated it was like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away,” says Regina.

“My niece rang me crying ... it was like somebody ripped my heart out.”

Recently the Federal Government announced that out of the six sites voluntarily nominated around the country for a nuclear waste dump, one had been shortlisted- Barndioota, six kilometres north of Hawker in the Flinders Rangers, South Australia.

Regina plans to take her concerns to a public meeting on Friday night in Hawker, where the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will pitch the waste facility to the community.

She says a group of traditional owners, farmers, community members and environmentalist groups, including the Conservation Council of SA, will make their opposition clear.

One of them is 73-year-old Adnyamathanha Elder Enice Marsh, who is making the two hour trip from her retirement home in Gladstone to attend.

“I think it’s totally disrespectful that the government haven’t come to me or the traditional owners in the first instance or when they announced it on Friday,” she says.

“We’ll be campaigning very hard against the government to change this position and to strike out the site.”

Sacred sites under threat 

Their main concerns is the potential damage to a string of sacred sites that are part of a 70km long songline, running directly through Barndioota. a property leased from the crown by former Liberal senator Grant Chapman.

There are also concerns about the impact on neighbouring Yappala Station, an Indigenous protected area run by Regina and a group of Adnyamanthanha traditional owners.

“The IPA is right on the fence - there’s a waterhole that is shared by both properties,” says Regina. 

The waterhole- a  traditional women’s site and healing place- is just one of many archeological and culturally significant sites in the area that Yappala has registered with the South Australian government over the past six years.

In that time they’ve uncovered thousands of artefacts as well as calcified remains and have continued to practice culture on the land.

“We still go hunting and gathering and we still go to the waterhole because it is a place of healing…It’s [the waste site] going to stop us practicing our culture.”

What's next

In a statement announcing the decision, Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg said his department visited each of the six communities "at least three times" during the 120 day consultation period earlier this year, and Barndioota "displayed a broad level of community support."

He also emphasised in his statement that the shortlisting of Barndioota "does not represent a final decision", but rather the next stage of the consultation process, with a final decision to be made within a year.

During this next phase the department will also establish an office in the area and undertake an ‘independent heritage assessment in consultation with the traditional owners’ and explore ‘eco-tourism opportunities’ with Indigenous stakeholders.

The Barndioota community will also be provided with $2 million for local projects to compensate for any disruption these assessments may cause.