• The ICAN group in Melbourne on Sunday before they left on their 900 km journey. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The ICAN bike ride has left Melbourne, with the anti-nuclear weapons campaign group hoping to pressure Canberra to sign on to the new UN treaty.
Brooke Fryer

3 Sep 2018 - 12:57 PM  UPDATED 3 Sep 2018 - 1:00 PM

A team of cyclists is riding from Melbourne to Canberra to urge new Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne to sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The non-governmental organisation behind the bike ride, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), will be carrying their Nobel Peace Prize medal on their 900 km journey.

ICAN was awarded the prize last year for their role in securing the new UN treaty, and the group has the support of Kokatha Elder Sue Coleman-Haseldine.

Ms Coleman-Haseldine is a survivor of the British nuclear testing at Maralinga and she told NITV News her community is still dealing with the health impacts.

“All these years later you still see the effects of radiation fall out from these tests," she said.

"There’s cancer, there’s birth defects, there’s plenty of young people now having heart problems and before nuclear testing that would not have been heard of."

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Ms Coleman-Haseldine said it means a lot that ICAN is pushing the government to sign the treaty.

“If we can’t win and ban nuclear weapons, then nuclear weapons are going to destroy the earth,” she said.

Ms Coleman-Haseldine will join the group when it arrives in Canberra, where she will call on federal politicians to sign the treaty.

“I will be asking the government of Australia to reconsider their position on nuclear armament," she said.

"If Australia signs up to ban the bomb treaty, that’s the right step for Australia and we can lift our heads up high again."

The cycling group left Melbourne on Sunday and will arrive in Canberra on the 20th of September, marking one year since the UN nuclear ban treaty opened for signatures.

Australian Director of ICAN Gem Romuld told NITV News the long bike ride is to tour the Nobel Peace Prize and talk about the treaty with communities along the way.

“The treaty is really significant as it is the first treaty to really outlaw nuclear weapons and to set out a path for their total elimination,” Ms Romuld said.

“It is relevant for Aboriginal communities in Australia who have suffered the impacts of nuclear testing. These nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s poisoned vast tracks of land and many people are still suffering the inter-generational health impacts.”

The International Review of the Red Cross said in a 2015 statement that exposure to radiation can have long term genetic mutations and an increased risk of most cancers.

Participants of the ICAN ride are hoping to seek meetings with leading government and opposition MPs on their arrival in Canberra.

Ms Romuld said the cyclists will be changing each leg of the trip, with a core group of eight ICAN members riding the entire way and supporters joining in for shorter sections.

“Australia needs to stop being an enabler… and to reject any roles of nuclear weapons in our security doctrine, along with the majority of the world, to put these weapons behind us,” Ms Romuld said.

First assistant secretary of International Security Division, Richard Sadleir, told senate estimates in October last year the government "made a decision not to sign the treaty".

“We will not sign or ratify the ban or the prohibition treaty because we don't regard it as an effective measure to eliminate nuclear weapons,” Mr Sadleir said.

The reasons he gave were "the grave threat posed" by North Korea and that treaty provisions are "incompatible with our alliance with the United States".

Ms Romuld said the government’s decision to not sign the treaty was "extremely disappointing and shameful".

Follow the ICAN riders, see where they are on this map.

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