MARALINGA DOSSIER
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Aborigines died in test site bunker

10jul01

FOUR Aborigines were found drinking alcohol in a concrete bunker before a nuclear bomb was detonated at Maralinga, it has been alleged.

The son of a dead veteran has provided a written statement to The Advertiser saying his father privately revealed the incident shortly before his death in 1984.

The man, who asked not to be named because of links to the Federal Government, said his father, a former Polish army sergeant, told him he encountered the Aborigines when he worked as a mechanic during the Operation Buffalo tests in 1956.

His task was to position test vehicles on blast sites and retrieve them after they were exposed to the effects of the blast.

"It was on one of these outings Dad had a smoko and went to go to the toilet," said his son. "He walked a few metres away from the test site and started to unzip his pants when he noticed a concrete roof perfectly level with the top of the ground.

"He found a square concrete room, with a window with no glass, a doorway but with no door. He crouched down and saw up to four Aborigines inside drinking spirits and wine, heaps of it.

"He shouted out `What the hell are you doing here? You are not supposed to be here'. They flicked their hands at him as though to shush him away.

"He complained to the supervisor with him and was told, `Forget about it, don't worry about it and say nothing.' After the explosion Dad went out to see the vehicles he had placed and looked around and there was no trace of the building."

The allegations support evidence given by two servicemen to a 1984 royal commission that the bodies of four adult Aborigines were found in a crater at Maralinga in 1961.

The inquiry heard how inadequate efforts were made to remove Aborigines from within a 300km radius of the atomic tests, leading to a separate incident in which a nomadic family slept inside another contaminated crater at Maralinga. An Australian soldier who helped the family, John Hutton, told The Advertiser yesterday he was ordered to never speak about the incident otherwise he would be shot or imprisoned.

Mr Hutton, 64, of Sydney, said he was at an area known as Pom Pom on May 14, 1957, when an Aboriginal man wearing a loin cloth, Charlie Milpuddie, approached a monitoring unit's caravan carrying several spears, dingo pelts and a billy can.

"We ran the counter over him and he was red hot (with radioactivity)," he said. "A sergeant came out from Maralinga and went to the crater from Marcoo (a ground explosion on October 4, 1956) to get his wife (Edie, who was pregnant and later had a stillborn baby), a boy and a baby girl. They were hot as well. We gave the man and the boy a shower but his wife was pretty shy and only let us wash her hair.

"We had to shoot two of their dogs because they couldn't be decontaminated. The family were driven to the mission at Yalata."

The Milpuddie family were among an estimated 1200 desert Aborigines exposed to radiation from the nine atomic tests held at Maralinga and Emu Field, 480km northwest of Woomera, between 1953 and 1957. Many subsequently suffered from leukemia and other cancers, birth defects, thyroid problems, blindness, infertility and growth deficiencies.

The Aborigines were poisoned when they were hit by radioactive clouds during the tests and for many years afterwards when they entered areas contaminated with radioactivity.


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