Yami Lester is a survivor of the unofficial, unacknowledged nuclear war against Aboriginal people at Maralinga. He lost his sight in the first blasts at Emu Field and has since advocated for the rights of soldiers who were forced into the radioactive cloud by the Menzies government. Yami speaks about the important role Aboriginal people play as guardians and caretakers of country. And he speaks of the ongoing attempts by successive governments to remove indigenous communities from their country.
“The trustees of our Country, and our Elders only concern themselves with the protection of our lands for the generations of our peoples to come.
We take better care of Country than does the white fella, who drops atomic bombs on them, who kills Country and people, who makes toxic the land, who pollutes endlessly, who makes both Country and peoples sick. This has never been our history or our way.”
“If I can see one thing, it is this, we cannot allow this to happen. The Government and the media have been portraying Yirrkala and Gunbalanya as hopeless messes of drunk people and truant children and that the leases will allow the community to begin fixing the communities while the Government sticks more of its nose in. They have been saying many same things about our (APY) Country and they have had the media writing these bad stories, so that everyone will believe that signing our Country away is for our good – when it is not.
It will be the end of our people in the ways we choose to be, alongside all our other rights. This is what Governments want, to get rid of us as a problem, get rid of the Aboriginal people from Country and make them like everyone else in the cities. it will be the death of our people, and the death of true Country too.”
What every Aboriginal person knows is that there is a great secret in the connection between human beings and the land. It is a source of strength and a window into a different way of seeing. That connection must be preserved at all cost. It must be restored to those who have lost it.