Indigenous women call for ban on nuclear weapons

Indigenous women from Australia and the Marshall Islands are touring four Australian cities this week to speak about how nuclear testing has impacted their lives, and why a treaty banning nuclear weapons is urgently needed.

Sue Coleman-Haseldine, of the Kokatha Mula nation, and Abacca Anjain-Maddison, from the Marshall Islands, spoke to over 150 governments in Vienna in 2014 at the third conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Coleman-Haseldine said:

The bombs have destroyed a large part of Australia and despite several attempts it will never be safe or clean. There are many Aboriginal people who cannot go back to their ancestral lands and their children and their children’s children and so on will never know the special religious places it contains.”

They are joining forces again to bring their personal stories to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. They will be joined by Rosemary and Karina Lester, the daughters of Yankunytjatjara elder Yami Lester, who was blinded by the Totem 1 nuclear test at Emu Field in 1953.

Both Lester sisters have been involved in the ongoing South Australian royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle and spoke out against the possibility of radioactive waste dumps on Australian soil. Referring to the nuclear testing conducted in South Australia, Rosemary Lester said:

Many people died immediately, but others are living with chronic health issues, cancers and disabilities. Not to mention depression, the painful loss and trauma suffered mentally, the psychological and social damage, and watching loved ones’ lives diminish. It has eroded our culture and further marginalised our people.”

The United Kingdom conducted 12 major nuclear weapons tests in Australia between 1952 and 1963 at Monte Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga with the approval of the Australian government. The US conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, which exposed thousands of people to radioactive fallout.

Speaking tour details →