Day 22 review: A panel discussion about lessons learnt from past activities on Aboriginal lands in South Australia dominated today’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission proceedings. The 90 minute panel discussion involved seven representatives from the Maralinga Tjarutja and Yatala communities, with a focus on creating effective relationships with Aboriginal people and how to best engage with the community. While the day’s first session involved Keith Thomas, CEO of the South Australian Native Title Service, the afternoon session was dedicated to the panel discussion. Maralinga Tjarutja is a corporation representing the Traditional Owners in relation to the management, use and control of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands in the far western region of South Australia. Yalata Community Incorporated is an association aimed at promoting the development of the Yalata community and their lands. Both bodies represent the people belonging to the same Western Desert cultural group. The panel comprised:

  • Andrew Collett AM, Counsel for Maralinga Tjarutja & Yalata Community Incorporated. Mr Collett is an independent barrister in Adelaide who has provided legal advice to the Maralinga people since 1984.
  • Christopher Larkin, Senior Public Service Administrator (retired), a Kokotha man with over 40 years of experience working in government departments and agencies delivering programs and services for community, housing, health and land management in South Australia, particularly those focused on Aboriginal interests and issues. He has worked closely with Maralinga Tjarutja and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) communities over many years.
  • Dennis Brown, Maralinga Tjarutja Project Officer, a Traditional Owner of the Maralinga lands and has worked as Project Officer for Maralinga Tjarutja since 1988. He worked closely with Dr Archie Barton AM, the Aboriginal leader of the Maralinga Tjarutja community, during negotiations with the Commonwealth and State Governments relating to the contamination and rehabilitation of land from the British nuclear tests.
  • Dr Scott Cane, Consulting Anthropologist, has over 35 years of experience working in the field with Aboriginal people around Australia. During the 1980s, Dr Cane performed anthropological work with the communities affected by the British nuclear tests at Maralinga. He assisted Maralinga Tjarutja during negotiations with the Commonwealth and State Governments regarding the clean-up, compensation and establishment of the Trust Fund to administer the compensation sum.
  • Richard Preece, Maralinga Tjarutja Council General Manager , who has worked closely with Aboriginal communities in a number of roles within State and Commonwealth Government departments and agencies over the past 40 years. During the mid-1990s Mr Preece was involved in the Commonwealth and State working group which conducted negotiations with Maralinga Tjarutja regarding compensation for contamination resulting from the British nuclear tests. He served as General Manager of the APY Council in 2013 and is currently serving as General Manager for the Maralinga Tjarutja Council.
  • Patrick Davoren, Senior Public Service Administrator (retired), has held a number of positions in Commonwealth Government departments advising on nuclear related issues and strategies. Mr Davoren was the Secretary of the Technical Assessment Group established in 1986 to advise the Commonwealth Government on rehabilitation options for the lands contaminated by the British nuclear tests. He also served as Secretary of the government body established to plan and implement the clean-up at Maralinga and Emu. In these roles he worked closely with Maralinga Tjarutja throughout their negotiations with Government.

The key topics included:

  • Lessons learned about developing and maintaining processes to create effective working relationships with Aboriginal communities in relation to the Maralinga clean-up;
  • Elements of communicating and negotiating with Aboriginal communities and supporting decision making on complex issues;
  • Developing long term sustainable relationships between government and Aboriginal communities

Video and transcripts of each session will be uploaded into the Public Sessions archive. The next public session is on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, in the Commission’s office, 50 Grenfell St, Adelaide. Click here for topic and witness list for this session which covers Topic 14 – Transportation of nuclear materials.