Today marks the 66th anniversary of the Totem 1 atomic bomb test at Emu Field, approximately 200 km north of Maralinga on Aboriginal traditional lands. The test resulted in serious illness, disabilities and deaths in Aboriginal communities near the site. A subsequent Royal Commission found that the test was conducted without sufficient study of wind and weather conditions or consideration of Indigenous peoples living in and moving through areas downwind.
“One of the most significant matters which led to the establishing of the Royal Commission was the assertion by Aboriginal people that a phenomenon described as a ‘black mist’ had occurred at Wallatinna after the firing of the Totem 2 test at 7:00 a.m. on 15 October 1953. The claim that such an event had occurred and that serious health effects, including deaths, had resulted was treated with ill-disguised skepticism and scorn by some sections of the scientific community most notably by the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council.”
(Excerpt from Survival in our own land: “Aboriginal” experiences in “South Australia” since 1836, C Mattingley & K Hampton, eds, 1988.)