Family campaigns to stop the nuclear waste facility in Hawker

PHOTOGRAPHY: Adnyamathanha/Luritja woman Juanella McKenzie has been campaigning to stop the nuclear waste dump facility being built in Hawker.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Adnyamathanha/Luritja woman Juanella McKenzie has been campaigning to stop the nuclear waste dump facility being built in Hawker.

In the middle of the Bush just outside of Hawker, Michael Donovan captured these powerful images with nothing but a mobile phone.

The woman depicted is Juanella McKenzie, a proud Adnyamathanha/Luritja woman who is passionate about campaigning against the proposed Nuclear Waste Dump in outback South Australia.

Also featured in the series of photos are the couple’s daughters, who are being educated on the importance of protecting and preserving country. 

Michael’s work has since appeared on the Australian Photography website and his portfolio has been shortlisted for the 2018 Photographer of the Year competition in the People and Portrait category.

Although he has been interested in photography for a long time, Michael only began to take it seriously more recently.

“I was surprised at how good they turned out,” Michael said.

“Juenella is very culturally connected. Shes just got that fight in her to try and protect her country.

“My main thing was just to capture that they are apart of the land. I wanted to make it look like they were actually coming out of it.”

The family took a trip from where they now live in New South Wales, to the Hooking Waterhole – or the Punga Pudinah in Adnyamathanha language.

The site is a sacred spot for Adnyamathanha women, a place where Juanella grew up and learned traditional Dreamtime stories and songs.

Juenella said the photoshoot was a chance to educate her daughters on the importance of self identity and belonging to country.

“I feel like it’s important our daughters are empowered as young girls to become empowered young women, strong in their roots,” she said.

“To see that sense of pride that the little ones felt was pretty special because our people are losing their way and to have that instilled in the kids now is really amazing.”

It was vital to Juenella and Michael that the setting was as traditional as possible to capture the significance of the waterhole and how meaningful it is to Adnyamathanha people.

Important cultural rituals are still practiced there today.

Juenella burned the kangaroo skin in the photo herself – it depicts a story of women coming together, sharing knowledge and building each other up.

The emu feather weave was also handmaid with feathers from her country and gumnuts from Michaels homeland.

“Our people are fighting to stop the nuclear waste dump being built in close vicinity to such a special place,” Juenella said.

“We hope these pictures bring awareness to the fact we have a thriving culture and we say no to a nuclear waste dump being built near our sacred site.”

Winners of the Australian Photography 2018 Photographer of the Year competition will be announced in February.