National Archives of Australia
NAA homeAbout this siteSite mapSearchLinksFeedback
About UsThe CollectionRecordkeepingEducationExhibitionsPublications
Colour fill
Fact Sheet One Hundred and Twenty Nine

British nuclear tests at Maralinga

Between 1952 and 1963 the British government, with the agreement and support of Australia, carried out nuclear tests at three sites in Australia – the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australian and at Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia. An official history of the tests (JL Symonds, A History of British Atomic Tests in Australia, AGPS, Canberra) was published by the Department of Resources and Energy in 1985.

Maralinga was developed as the permanent proving ground site, following a request of the British in 1954 and, after its completion in 1956, was the location of all trials conducted in Australia. It was developed as a joint facility with a shared funding arrangement. Following the two major trials (Operation Buffalo in 1956 and Operation Antler in 1957), a number of minor trials, assessment tests and experimental programs (dating from 1959) were held at the range until 1963. Maralinga was officially closed following a clean-up operation (Operation Brumby) in 1967.

Records relating to Maralinga

Information about Maralinga is located in records created by a number of Commonwealth agencies. This information covers matters such as personnel who served in the area, security arrangements for the site, and technical and survey information (including meteorological reports).

Title or description of records
Date
Series no.
Canberra

Identification cards of employees at the Maralinga atomic test site

1955–67

A6242

Maralinga Meteorological Journal

1955–65

AP879/10

Sydney

Original plans (negatives), (Defence and Weapons Research)

1940–61

D1421

Correspondence files (Peace Officer Guard, Parafield)

1942–56

D2569

Index and reference cards to surveys

1942–78

D4461

Correspondence files (Long Range Weapon Establishment, Salisbury)

1947–ongoing

D174

Maralinga policy and administrative records

1947–83

D4996

Maralinga reports, alphabetical series

1949–60

D1767

Drawings and maps relating to the Maralinga area

1951–69

D2118

Catalogue of drawings and maps relating to the Maralinga area

1954–83

D2117

Maralinga Project Drawing Register

1954–55

D4669

Copies of drawings and maps relating to the Maralinga area submitted to the Royal Commission

1955–69

D4776

Computation books of Maralinga surveys

1957–78

D5275

Photographic records, Sydney

Aerial photographs

1955–69

D4632, D4633

Maralinga photographs

1956

D1826

Melbourne

Miscellaneous records relating mainly to atomic and long range weapons testing

1929–69

M3881

Photographic records, Adelaide

Photographs, films, drawings & glass negatives – Maralinga area

1953–61

D1768

The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia

In response to growing concerns about the safety standards observed during the conduct of the nuclear trials, especially with regard to measures taken to protect people from the exposure to ionising radiation, and the disposal of radioactive substances and toxic materials, the Australian government established a Royal Commission in 1984 to inquire into these aspects of the tests. The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s (CA 3993) gave considerable attention to the tests conducted in the Maralinga area. Many of the records of the Royal Commission are publicly available and may be examined in the Archives' Canberra reading room. The table below lists most significant records.

Title or description of records
Date
Series no.

Transcripts of proceedings

1984–85

A6448

Statements received from United Kingdom witnesses

1985

A6449

Statements received from Australian witnesses

1984–85

A6450

Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Reports; 'Z' series

1984–85

A6454

Exhibits tendered before the Commission

1984–85

A6455

Original agency records transferred to the Commission; 'R' series

1984–85

A6456

Photographs relating to atomic tests

1985

A6457

Maps of atomic test sites

1985

A6458

Final report

1985

A6460

Computer printout – list of exhibits

1985

A6470

Computer printout – alphabetical index to witnesses

1984–85

A6471

Computer printout – numerical list of items, 'R' series

1984–85

A6472

Computer printout – numerical list of photographs

1985

A6479

Computer printout – numerical list of maps

1985

A6480

Computer printout – chronological list of newspaper articles of relevance to the Commission

1985

A6482

Computer printout – keyword index to transcripts

1984–85

A6483

Research team bibliography

1984–85

A6584

Item lists for the series included above are available in the Canberra reading room. Use these to identify individual items that you wish to read.

Records relating to Aboriginal peoples of the Maralinga area

The Archives' guide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Commonwealth Records: A Guide to Records in the Australian Archives, ACT Regional Office (compiled by Ros Fraser, AGPS, Canberra, 1993, 478pp) includes references to records within the series listed above which relate specifically to the Aboriginal peoples of the Maralinga area and the effects of the testing on their lives. Check the term 'Maralinga' in the guide index to identify individual items.

For more information

You can obtain more information about the record series listed above (and the items within the series) from RecordSearch, the Archives database. Follow the links in the series lists to go directly to information on that series. You can also use RecordSearch to find out about the agencies that created the records and to locate more records on your subject. You might also explore PhotoSearch to find out if there are photos pertaining to your subject.

RecordSearch and PhotoSearch are available online or in all Archives reading rooms. Reference staff are available in the reading rooms to help you, or email ref@naa.gov.au.

Return to list of Fact Sheets

Comments or other feedback can be sent to archives@naa.gov.au

updatedAugust 2001



Home | About Us | The Collection | Recordkeeping | Education | Exhibitions | Publications | About this Site | Site Map | Search | Links | Feedback |