Maralinga atomic bombs - 'Eye' witness account

Nov 16, 2013, 10:22 AM

British atomic bomb testing began at Maralinga in South Australia in 1956 and 1957 with minor trials continuing into the early 1960s.

But it's only more recent decades that stories have emerged about what happened to the people living near the site.

One of those stories is Yami Lester's, a Yankunytjatjara man, who was only 10-years-old when the testing began.

"I was a kid.

"I got up early in the morning, about 7 o'clock, playing with a homemade toy.

"We heard the big bomb went off that morning, a loud noise and the ground shook.

"I don't know how long after we seen this quiet black smoke - oily and shiny - coming across from the south.

"Next time we had sore eyes, skin rash, diarrhea and vomiting everybody, old people too.

"Some of the old people, I don't know how many died."

Mr Lester was unable to open his eyes for several weeks, and when he did, he couldn't see.

By 1957 he was completely blind.

"When I was in Alice Springs in 1984 I heard Sir Ernest Titterton, who was saying blackfellas were all looked after.

"That it was all clear where [the] Maralinga testing occurred.

"I thought to myself 'he talking the wrong way.'

"He doesn't know what happened on our end.

"So I picked up the telephone and that's where it all started."

Mr Lester began telling his story, and his actions eventually led to the McClelland Royal Commission in 1985.

Source: Caddie Brain ABC Rural