Aboriginal people affected by Maralinga nuclear tests take peace sculpture to Japan

Natalie Whiting from ABC Radio 'AM' reported this story on Thursday, April 14


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: They're two communities separated by continents and culture, but connected by a terrible past.

Members of an Aboriginal community affected by the nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga in the 1950s are connecting with nuclear bomb survivors in Japan.

A group of artists from Yalata in South Australia are flying to Nagasaki today to unveil a sculpture for its peace park - it will be the first Australian sculpture in the memorial.

The exchange is also allowing the two groups to exchange stories and discuss their experiences.

Natalie Whiting visited Yalata and filed this report.

(sound of religious singing)

NATALIE WHITING: In a simple Lutheran church in the remote Indigenous community of Yalata, locals pray for peace.

But the pastor, Russell Bryant, is taking their prayer far from the small church on South Australia's remote west coast.

A year ago Russell Bryant was part of a group of that travelled to the peace park in Nagasaki, one of the Japanese cities hit by a nuclear bomb.

RUSSELL BRYANT: When I went there I seen a lot of sculpture from different places, from overseas and there's nothing there for Australia, from our country.

NATALIE WHITING: The people from Yalata and nearby Oak Valley had stories to share with the nuclear bomb survivors in Japan.

Anangu people were forced to move to remote communities because of British nuclear tests on their lands at Maralinga in the 1950s.

RUSSELL BRYANT: When the bomb went off some people survived, some people died.

NATALIE WHITING: Is it still hard for people?


NATALIE WHITING: After returning from Japan, a men's sculpture group started working on a piece to take back.

RUSSELL BRYANT: So we were thinking oh, we can make a piti.

NATALIE WHITING: And what's a piti?

RUSSELL BRYANT: Piti means bowl like carrying fruits, carry babies like that.

NATALIE WHITING: The sculpture project is part bigger arts program called Nuclear Futures.

Paul Brown from arts production company, Alphaville, has been working on the project.

PAUL BROWN: Atomic survivors in Nagasaki and Hiroshima don't know the story of atomic testing in Australia.

The Japanese are simply amazed that this took place.

NATALIE WHITING: Today Paul Brown, Russell Bryant and six other Anangu people involved in the project are flying back to Japan to officially unveil the sculpture.

PAUL BROWN: The sculpture expresses that idea of hands passing over; the traditional dish with the bounty that's contained within it as an offering, as an exchange that represents peace.

NATALIE WHITING: Russell Bryant says it's good to share the stories.

RUSSELL BRYANT: And it's a bit different, different but they both got a lot of stories. They both got same stories.

NATALIE WHITING: The sculpture will ensure the stories from Maralinga and Yalata continue to be heard well beyond the borders of the small community.

RUSSELL BRYANT: And keep you in peace, amen.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Natalie Whiting with that report