Article written by Phillip Storer
In May 2016, the Federal Government shortlisted a site in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges in South Australia for Australia’s first Nuclear Waste dump. The Ikara-Flinders Ranges was formed over 540 million years ago in South Australia and is a place of great natural beauty. The First Place The Last Place considers the hazards and the impact of a nuclear waste dump on the local aboriginal Adnyamathanha people and all of the community through the eyes of local Elder Regina McKenzie. The proposed site is approximately 1 kilometre from the Hookina Springs waterhole, a significant women’s place of healing, and adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area near Hawker.
The film attempts to represent the opposition to the proposed NWF focussing primarily on opposition relating to historical, spiritual, environmental and cultural concerns.
I selected this documentary subject due to the natural beauty and filmic qualities of the area. I have had an affinity for the Flinders Ranges since camping there as a young child with family and later as a young adult and now with my own family. I also wanted to follow the story of the opposition to the siting of the Nuclear Waste Facility. There are many arguments against a waste facility being sited nearby and the strident opposition of the local Adnyamathanha is explored.
The project came about through my concern that the local traditional owners are potentially being ignored. I have a lot of respect for aboriginal culture and history and their place in this country. I made this documentary to highlight the importance for people who care to retain a ‘clear space’ to continue their traditions on the country. The proposed NWF will impose a scar on an area of great beauty and one of spiritual significance to the traditional owners.
Regina McKenzie, the central character, was presented with the joint 2016 Australian Conservation Foundation Peter Rawlinson Award for Environmental Justice for her work protecting Country from the proposed SA nuclear waste dump. “The area is Adnyamathanha land,” says Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives at Yappala Station, which adjoins the area nominated for the nuclear waste dump. “It is arngurla yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dumpsite contains thousands of Aboriginal artefacts. Our ancestors are buried there. We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, creation).”
Ms McKenzie is also a member of Viliwarina Yura, the corporation that was granted the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area, land neighbouring the proposed waste site in 2000. In 2015 Regina was also awarded the SA Premier’s Natural Resource Management Award in the category of ‘Aboriginal Leadership − Female’ for working to protect the land and establishing cultural heritage listed storylines in the area that is now threatened with a nuclear waste dump.”