Senate hears from Hawker community

HEARING: Senate’s Economics References Committee at the public hearing in Kimba.
HEARING: Senate’s Economics References Committee at the public hearing in Kimba.

The Senate’s Economics References Committee heard from locals in Kimba and Hawker about the selection process for the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.

The Senate committee held a public hearing regarding the two nominated sites in Kimba on Thursday, July 5, before arriving in Hawker the following day to discuss the Wallerberdina Station site.

Groups both for and against the proposal were given the chance to present to the committee and were questioned about the engagement from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) within the community.

Members of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) were present at the hearing, reiterating their unanimous vote against the facility.

“Our country has had enough, it is time for healing,” ATLA CEO Vince Coulthard said in April.

Malcolm McKenzie, who is the Co-Chair of the Wallerberdina Station site’s Economic Working Group, also attended the hearing to provide a pro-waste management facility perspective.

The Adnyamathanha man recently said it was promising to see the government and the community working together to deliver potential employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

“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,” Mr McKenzie said.

“The money that is being invested will hopefully get more Aboriginal people in my area working. It is about building relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.”

However, many others in attendance raised concerns about the lack of detail provided regarding the employment opportunities.

“It has been the same proposal for decades and it was originally about six jobs, then it was maybe 15,” Conservation Council SA’s Nuclear Waste Campaigner Mara Bonacci said.

“Then all of a sudden, around the time that the ballot got announced, it became 45 jobs for the exact same proposal.

“So there were a lot of questions about how the employment benefits tripled with no actual changes to the proposal.”

The Senate is due to report its findings on August 14, just six days prior to the commencement of the postal ballot that will be used to measure community support for the three nominated sites.

Community members told the Senate about the uncertainty surrounding the ballot.

“The definition of community support still has a massive question mark over it,” Ms Bonacci said.

“No one knows what ‘broad community support’ is. The government is saying they need broad community support for it to go ahead, but the exact percentage of the vote has not been made clear.”