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Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story

 The word Maralinga is one that appears from time to time in modern society with a new generation asking what it was all about and the older generations, know now what it really was all about; all have come to the same conclusion, which is that it was and is one of the worst, and most appalling incidents carried out in Australia by the British for reasons best known to them and only them; and to this day some 60 years on, still only known to them to a large degree; still kept closely guarded under the official secrets act or similar.

Elizabeth Tynan has gone a long way to presenting a case of what can be considered a diabolical time in Australian history that has left a legacy none really want to be concerned over. How long will the effects of this ‘Machiavellian’ project continue to effect the future generations of Australian, British and others who were there in one capacity or another, is yet to be discovered.

That the nuclear testing carried out at Maralinga was undertaken under the nuclear warfare hysteria following the end of the Second World War is nowhere near an excuse; that it was considered by the British Government of the time to be a necessary step in their defence against the likes of Russia and China becoming world powers is, as time has told, largely deplorable.

But what was, what is Maralinga; how did it all come about and become sanctioned by the Menzies Government. How was it that the British Government had so much power and the Australian Government so little? How was it the media of the time did not publish more on the nuclear testing being carried out in their own backyards and how was it that one scientist, Ernest Titterton could be allowed to obtain such power, that he managed to be able to virtually demand secrecy was upheld at all times.

Some of it is explained by the rational of the 50’s. Australia was still considered a British colony; Menzies was a man who strongly believed in the traditional ties to Britain. After all we had just walked side by side with them during a horrific war.

But when it came to using Australia as a nuclear testing site, surely you would wonder why more questions were not asked, why as the time went on and Britain showed no signs of stopping was there not a public hue and cry. What was there in it for Australia? As history now tells us nothing at all other than devastation, destruction and a legacy that simply will not go away, as far as the lands around the testing zones are concerned?

The British decided to test their new bombs in Australia because in their eyes we had a lot of open country where no one lived. They were also off-side with their American allies at the time over Suez Canal. The Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia was the first choice, the second the dessert of inland Australia known as Emu Fields and Maralinga. They showed scant regard to any people living in the area, scant regard to people working on what was to become a nuclear testing zone that used plutonium, hydrogen and other material in their race to be the first to have nuclear warfare capacity.

This scant regard to the effects on human life, on the lands of the indigenous occupants, the lack of concern as to the fallout from the nuclear radiation carried by the prevailing winds, is still to a large extent, relevant today.

It is a chapter in Australia and Britain’s history that shows both countries in a very poor light: Australia for not asking more questions and accepting on blind faith that Britain was the BIG Brother and would not do anything too horrible on our shores and Britain for knowing exactly what they were doing and going to incredible lengths to keep it Top Secret.

The effect of those ten years of nuclear testing at Maralinga are still being dealt with today by the men who have lived long enough to tell a sad and sorry tale; for the children and grandchildren of these same men who have been affected by the effects of massive doses of radiation: for the lives destroyed, for the Governments concerned to not recognise the damage done to human life without having to be publicly shamed is appalling.

Indigenous occupants are now only just, in 2016, being allowed to access some of the land destroyed; scientists are still carrying out testing and more testing on the lands to discover the extent of the radiation still measurable.

The outrage has simply not been enough by anyone. It should be a roaring that demands to be heard and should not have to be discovered through the likes of WikiLeaks.

Read the book and then make your own judgment on this subject that, regardless of how you try to view it, is nothing but a ‘shocking legacy’.


AuthorElizabeth Tynan
PublisherNew South Publishers
DistributorNew South Books
ReleasedSeptember 2016