The Day The Black And Red Cloud Came For Us
Article and photograph courtesy of Adelaide Now and The Advertiser
March 1, 2010
CLAIM: Sandra Dingaman Taylor, Maureen Williams and Mabel
Lochowiak have joined the fight for compensation.
Picture: MARK BRAKE
BRIAN LITTELY REPORTS:
MAUREEN Williams was just a baby in her mother’s arms the day the “black mist” changed her people forever.
It was 1953 and her family lived in the harsh desert west of Coober Pedy in a camp at 12 Mile.
The months-old baby, her older sister, brother, parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents were living a traditional Aboriginal lifestyle from their creek bed home when, more than 350km away, the first of nine outback nuclear bombs was detonated at the Emu Field testing site.
They did not understand what the rising black mushroom cloud off in the distance was, or that the black mist which turned red as it rolled across the desert towards their camp would strike them down with sickness.
“My aunty told me it came across the plains – thick, black and red,” Ms Williams, now 57, of Coober Pedy, said.
“It went through our camp. Straight away people got sick. They were being sick, spewing, and then they got bad skin.”
Ms Williams’ friends, Sandra Dingaman Taylor and Mabel Lochowiak, said the big red cloud went all the way to Andamooka and Woomera.
“At the time, a lot of people died around this Coober Pedy area,” Ms Lochowiak said. “There were lots of families out there and there were lots of babies born with deformities . . . lumps on their heads and with no nostrils, things like that.”
Ms Williams has always suffered from a skin complaint and needs ongoing specialist treatment. She has nominated to be a part of the class action against the British Ministry of Defence, believing the fallout from their nuclear testing at Maralinga and Emu Field in the APY Lands is the cause of her ailment.
The South Australian arm of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement is helping British lawyers collate a list of potential candidates for a class action compensation claim.
The majority of the more than 100 people who have come forward in the past week are Aboriginal, meeting lawyers in Port Augusta, Coober Pedy and Ceduna. Details of the prospective claimants are being kept quiet but The Advertiser can reveal registered interest in the class action has also come from:
A NOW 90-year-old former air movement officer at Maralinga who battled stomach cancer in 1984.
PAM JENKINS, the wife of Barrington Jenkins, a career soldier who was an engineer and mop-up man for the bomb testing in 1953. Mr Jenkins died from bowel cancer in January, aged 74, and his medical records attribute skin cancers he had trouble with since being at Maralinga to exposure to the poisonous site.
A NURSE who used to treat the “horrendous, large, tomato-like tumours” on her uncle’s legs before he died from cancer in 1982. He had been a painter helping to maintain the Maralinga Village buildings.
THE FORMER assistant to the range commander at Maralinga who received a citation and medal from Prime Minister John Howard for his work stocktaking the sites after the bomb tests and has letters from the Australian Government denying him compensation but offering to pay costs for skin cancers and the removal of a kidney.
Hickman & Rose partner Anna Mazzola said the firm also was collaborating with private injury law firm Stacks Goudkamp, who act for ex-Australian servicemen affected by the Maralinga, Emu Field and Montebello Islands bomb testing.