The Australian government has been looking for a place to put its nuclear waste since the 1950's and, as Ferguson stated in an interview with ABC News, "It's time for Australia to front up to it's responsibilities. It's a moral issue. If you want access to nuclear medicine, then take responsibility for storing your waste." Yet according to Nuclear Radiologist Dr. Peter Karamoskos the nuclear waste had “nothing to do with nuclear medicine" and is being used "to get the public on side through an emotive campaign of disinformation."
The waste needing to be stored included low level and intermediate level waste. Even low level waste remains hazardous “for about 300 years,” according to Karamoskos. Intermediate level waste, most of which is stored at the Lucas Heights reactor near Sydney and in Woomera is “the most dangerous waste in Australia” and “remains hazardous for many thousands of years."
Ferguson and the federal government in Australia were eager to get the waste dump approved, as Muckaty was the fourth site selection. Green Senator Scott Ludlam criticized the government process as being “based on the flawed premise that if you take some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the country, you tell them this material is perfectly safe, and you offer them a cheque for $12 million maybe somebody will put their hand up. It’s an unbelievable way of dealing with the nation’s inventory of toxic waste.”
Diane Stokes (center), Bunny (foreground)
To finish off our Muckaty experience, more of “the mob” came out and spent time with us, including Kylie Sambo. Two fires were lit and a large group sat around each fire representing to different skin systems - one of the many complex social systems that are part of Aboriginal culture. It was nice to get to hang out with everyone again; we were able to have more meaningful interactions and I got to meet some of the local children. We ended up exploring the surrounding area and found an abandoned school bus to hang out in. We were all hopping over the seats and running down the aisles and they told me their real names and that they all spoke 3 different local languages.
When I came back to the fires, the other tour members were mingling with each of the skin groups and eating Kangaroo tail that had been slow cooked for many hours by being buried under hot coals. I ended up speaking with Bunny Nabarula, a Warlmanpa elder and one of the most dedicated campaigners against the waste dump. She told me about how she had traveled to Melbourne with her grandchildren to do activism and lamented that more community members didn’t get involved, saying they “were scared”. I also talked with one of the mom's and she told me that she often walked long distances with her children out in the desert and along the river and knew all of the local medicines and edibles.