Response to Vince Coulthard

11 May 2018

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science fully respects the views of Aboriginal people in relation to the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, and is actively engaged with those in the Aboriginal community oppose the proposal, as well as those who strongly support it.

Any claims that the Department, the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, or the Australian Government, are not engaging in sufficient consultation with Traditional Owners are simply not supported by the facts.

Here are those facts.

We are consulting with the communities around the sites that volunteered to host the facility, with special and direct efforts being made to reach out to, and gather the views of, local Aboriginal communities.

While the nominated site at Wallerberdina Station is not subject to native title, Minister Canavan has asked that the Adnyamathanha’s views on the facility be specifically taken into account given their close ties with the land, which is what is happening.

The Minister has personally met with many Adnyamathanha people in relation to this project and wants to ensure that local culture and heritage are protected and that the project delivers lasting benefits.

The recent visit by the Minister was at the invitation of the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation (VYAC) and the Minister was pleased to meet their elders and many of the children on his visit.

The department did make several calls to Mr Vince Coulthard, CEO of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA), in advance of the Minister’s recent visit to arrange for a time to meet, but unfortunately, as has happened before, Mr Coulthard did not return calls or messages.

To the broader question of engagement, our efforts in this space have been detailed almost to the point of itemisation in our submission to the Senate Inquiry, which is available for everyone to see at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Wastemanagementfacility/Submissions.  

Those efforts include establishment of a Heritage Working Group, which includes representatives of ATLA and the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation (‘VYAC’) who can speak to the cultural heritage value of the land and any potential impact of the Facility on cultural, environmental and social values.

The Adnyamathanha are also represented on the Barndioota Consultative Committee and the Barndioota Economic Working Group, both of which meet on about a monthly basis at times and places agreed by the members.

And we also have additional, regular meetings with the VYAC and representatives of ATLA, including in February when we met with Mr Coulthard and some of his executive to again discuss the project, progress and next steps.

And finally, we have previously reached out to the Barngarla people in relation to the nominated sites in Kimba, including offering to meet with their Board. We are ready to engage further at their request.

In summary, the Government is making a huge effort to engage with Aboriginal communities and organisations in the relevant areas, including members of the Adnyamathanha. Our high level of engagement will continue with all of the people who want to meet with us regardless of the views on the project. But we cannot engage if our calls or messages are not returned.

Bruce Wilson

Principal Advisor

National Radioactive Waste Management Taskforce