Aboriginal employment at Wallerberdina Station site

WASTE MANAGEMENT: Chairperson of the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation and Heritage Monitor Deidre McKenzie and AECOM Hydrogeologist Melinda Morris at the Wallerberdina Station site. PHOTO: supplied.
WASTE MANAGEMENT: Chairperson of the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation and Heritage Monitor Deidre McKenzie and AECOM Hydrogeologist Melinda Morris at the Wallerberdina Station site. PHOTO: supplied.

Thirty Adnyamathanha community members were employed at the Wallerberdina Station site for the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility from mid-April to June.

The employees were tasked with conducting site studies alongside engineering company AECOM to determine whether the site near Hawker would be suitable for the national facility.

The site characterisation works involved cultural heritage awareness inductions and monitoring cultural heritage values during field activities such as drilling bore holes and groundwater wells.

Workers also conducted ecological surveys of the site and installed cattle-proof fencing around the investigation wells.

The seven-week employment period was facilitated by the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation.

Co-Chair of the Economic Working Group Malcolm McKenzie said it was fantastic to see relationships between the Viliwarinha people and AECOM workers being developed.

He hopes the potential facility will boost employment for the local Aboriginal community.

“Some young people were employed for the first time. Even though this was a short period, it proves to young Aboriginal people if you do your schooling and training, there are jobs out there for you,” Mr McKenzie said.

“If the new facility goes ahead, there will be 45 new jobs. I can see Aboriginal people having many opportunities to participate. It would be great news all around.”

The site studies, combined with Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment and results from community consultation, are expected to be decisive in the preferred choice of location.

The Wallerberdina Station site is one of three sites being considered for the project, with the other two proposed locations situated in Kimba.

AECOM’s Principal Hydrogeologist Melinda Morris said it was beneficial for both parties to share knowledge and build relationships.

“Members of the Adnyamathanha who worked on the fieldwork program provided an important cultural context, and we provided them an understanding of the science behind what we are doing,” she said.

“The community were interested in what we were collecting and why, and obviously also in ensuring that we were culturally sensitive when carrying out our fieldwork.”

Principal Advisor to the National Radioactive Waste Management Taskforce Bruce Wilson said the site studies were potentially just the beginning of an “ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship”.

“The continuous strong involvement of this community is very important,” he said.

“We will work with them in the siting process and, if the facility proceeds here, the operational phase over several hundred years.”