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Economics References Committee
Selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility in South Australia

CHURCHILL, Ms Johanna, Principal, Norman Waterhouse Lawyers, Solicitors for Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC

DARE, Ms Linda, Director, Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC

MILLER, Ms Jeanne, Director, Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC

SIDHU, Ms Geeta, Solicitor, Norman Waterhouse Lawyers, Solicitors for Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC

SMITH, Ms Helen, Director, Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC

TAYLOR, Mr Leslie, Director, Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC


CHAIR: Thank you for appearing before the committee today. I understand that you have a preference to speak in a particular order. Mr Taylor, would you like to start?

Mr Taylor : Yes. I was born and bred in Kimba. I went to the school over here. I played football on this oval over here. I used to live up at the tanks. What I'm saying is that I grew up in this town, and not one of the Kimba district council has even come along and asked or talked to me about any of the things that are going on with the facility. I'm just a bit disappointed about that. It's not as if a lot of the Kimba community don't know who I am. Just for one person to come up and say anything about it would have been fantastic so I could give an opinion on how I think about it and what should go on. As for that, Johanna Churchill, who is the Barngarla lawyer, is able to speak on issues and things.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms Churchill : The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation is the registered native title body corporate for the Barngarla native title that was recognised by the Federal Court in January of 2015. In June of 2016 their determination was clarified, and it includes an extensive and expansive area—in particular the areas around Kimba and the areas around both sites, the Lyndhurst site and the Napandee site. The Napandee site is only a couple of kilometres away from the Pinkawillinie Conservation Park, and the Lyndhurst site almost abuts the Lake Gilles Conservation Park.

Although native title over the actual sites is extinguished, the Barngarla people still have heritage rights under the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act. I understand that the announcement of these two sites was made around the beginning of 2017. In March 2017 there was information released by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science stating that there were no heritage sites identified in the area. That statement caused quite a lot of concern and hurt to the Barngarla people. There is a peculiarity of the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act which you may not be aware of. There is a process where sites can be registered, but that's quite an expensive process. It can cost up to $10,000 to $20,000 for native title holders to register a site, and for that reason most sites are not registered. So in fact the overwhelming majority of sites which have heritage and cultural significance to Indigenous people are not registered in South Australia, but that doesn't mean that they're not recognised, that they're not identified or that they're not well known. In any event, there was no communication between the department and the Barngarla people prior to the announcement of the two locations. There was no consultation with the Barngarla people prior to the release of material on the department's website saying that there were no sites. Barngarla has been seeking consultation with the department since 2017. I note that there are a number of statements in other parties' submissions saying that there's been extensive consultation with Indigenous people, which is just not true.

In April 2017 Norman Waterhouse, acting on behalf of the Barngarla people, wrote to the department explaining who they were, that they were acting for the Barngarla people, and that there'd been a determination that the sites were in that determination area. They also expressed their concern about the reference to the statement about there being no heritage sites.

On the 10 July we again wrote to the department but that time requested more specific information. Although the Barngarla board members of BDAC have been happy to meet with the department, they wanted that meeting to be meaningful and in good faith. They wanted some information to be able to consider matters before they met with the department, so they asked about what protocols the department was proposing to deal with Aboriginal heritage issues and what assessments the department might have already made in relation to heritage matters, because you would presume that some sign of assessment had been made from the statement that there had been no sites. There were some communications, which I think you've been provided, between Norman Waterhouse and the department following those two letters. But the position, as far as we're concerned, is that there's been no meaningful exchange of information from the department up until only last month. Towards the end of December we had still not got an answer from the department about what assessments they had made, so the BDAC board engaged an anthropologist, Dr Dee Gorring, to conduct our own heritage assessments, because of concern about the delays in getting information from the department.

We wrote to the department on 21 February requesting access for sites, for the purposes of that assessment being carried out, and advising that the BDAC would contact the department after that assessment had been complete for the purpose of working a way forward for these consultation processes. The department advised that they couldn't provide access to the sites. You've been provided a redacted version of the report. The material that was provided following our initial submissions—I think that was only provided to you in the last few days—is somewhat compromised, but it has identified that there are nine confirmed sites and nine potential sites that are affected.

As part of that assessment team, which included some of the BDAC board members here. Mr Brandon McNamara, who's a Barngarla elder, invited the department to come along to a board meeting on 3 March and that invitation was declined. There were also statements made to the assessment team that the engagement of Dr Gorring to carry out the assessment was premature, which we find quite surprising. If the department has already issued statements that there's no heritage and not provided information about what heritage assessments of its own it has made, to then make a comment that for Barngarla to carry out its own heritage assessments was premature is a bit surprising.

There have been a number of requests for the department to retract or replace the statement they've made that there is no heritage and these have been refused. In any event, on 18 May Norman Waterhouse wrote to the department issuing an invitation for the department to attend BDAC board meetings on the 27 May, provided that the information that had been requested a number of times be provided and provided that a retraction be made of that statement. It's important to know about that retraction. I know that it's a Commonwealth department and they might not be aware of heritage matters in South Australia but I would have thought that if you were going to go down this path that you would make an attempt to find that out.

We actually wrote to the department explaining in quite a bit of detail the difference between registered and unregistered sites and that a statement that there are no known sites or identified sites was offensive to the Barngarla people. In any event, although we didn't get the retraction that we've requested, we did get on 18 June a letter from the department which was the first provision of meaningful information about the process and protocols that would be in place for engagement with Indigenous people around heritage matters. On 25 June we wrote a letter to the department requesting involvement in a ballot.

We are aware from correspondence that's available on the council's website that there has been some discussion between the department and council about potentially extending the ballot beyond the electoral roll. The Barngarla people are keen to take part in a ballot. They are the native title holders of the surrounding areas and they don't see why they shouldn't have a say on this matter in the same way as local ratepayers—some of whom live further away—can have a say.

There has been some suggestion by the department that the Barngarla people are better off just having a meeting. A meeting doesn't have the same weight as a ballot. Barngarla people are quite widely dispersed. The majority of Barngarla members would not be able to attend a meeting. A meeting would not be scrutinised by an independent body and it wouldn't have the rigours and protocols surrounding a proper postal ballot. I don't think that the outcome would be in any way persuasive. The simple matter is, irrespective of all those good reasons not to have a meeting and to proceed with a vote by ballot, why wouldn't the Barngarla people be able to vote in the same way that other parties are able to vote?

CHAIR: Ms Churchill, I am loath to interrupt you, but I note that others wish to speak as well and we'd like to have some time for questions.

Ms Churchill : I had actually come to the end of that.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms Churchill : The only thing I would say is it's still unclear whether the department will support a ballot to be undertaken. We're unclear as to whether they'll give a retraction. There was some confusion around that potential in the last few days.

CHAIR: Ms Miller, I understand you have a short statement.

Ms Miller : Yes. I just want to say that I was also born in Kimba. My family moved to Port Augusta when I was very young. Although I live in Port Augusta, my people are still the native title holders of this land, so we're still concerned about what happens. I want to know why the department did not notify us and why they're saying there are no Aboriginal sites here when they didn't even consult us. They have consulted the Kimba community, but as native title holders of this land and Aboriginal people they should have consulted us as well. I find that saddening and totally disrespectful.

CHAIR: Thank you. Ms Smith?

Ms Smith : I'd like to confirm what Johanna was saying. You have public meetings and that where you can have your say, but you need to be involved in the ballot vote for your rights to the country.

CHAIR: Thank you. Ms Dare?

Ms Dare : The Barngarla community have all come together and are united as one. We actually are saying that we do not want the waste dump to be put here on our country.

CHAIR: Okay. I might just kick off the questions. I'm not sure who would like to answer on behalf of the group. I note from the submission—and, Ms Dare, this is the point you just made—that the facility does not have the support of your group nor of the broader Barngarla community. I take it that, quite aside from the deficiencies in the consultation process, you have the position where you oppose the facility.

Ms Dare : We do not want it at all. We are all united as one. We're not going to let it come on and destroy our country after we've fought for 20 years to get our country, to be recognised as the native title holders.

Ms Churchill : The Barngarla people in particular have got a somewhat unusual history. It's the only native title determination that hasn't been dealt with by consent, apart from one other; it was actually fought by the state government for 20 years. The Barngarla claim was originally lodged in the Native Title Tribunal in 1996. The Federal Court proceedings commenced in 1998. Their native title was only recognised in January 2015, and the determination area settled in June 2016. They've only had their ceremonies to celebrate that determination, actually in Whyalla, in the last week of June. I think it's fair to say they're somewhat exhausted, but elated, by that process. This is another battle for them to fight, and it's been very difficult for them.

CHAIR: Okay. I note from the department's submission—I'll just read out what the department has said as it's at odds with what you said to some extent. It says:

The department has also sought to consult with representatives of the Barngarla People, who hold native title in an area near the Kimba sites …

      …      …      …

These discussions are ongoing but will provide for the views of the Barngarla to be made into the process as well as identifying, protecting and minimising impact on any significant culture and heritage at the nominated sites. The department is looking to create a 'Barngarla Heritage Consultative Committee' with a role similar to that of the Heritage Working Group at Wallerberdina Station.

What's your reaction to that?

Ms Churchill : I'd disagree that there's been meaningful discussion. In fact, the first mention of a consultative committee was only in June. I mentioned to you that was the first time we got meaningful information from the department about what it proposed to do about engagement with Indigenous people about heritage issues. One of the difficulties of getting that so late in the piece is, as I've mentioned—that letter was on 18 June; that was the first mention of it. And it was only in a couple of slides, so we're still short on detail. We've still not been provided with any information about what assessments the department has made of its own. As I said, the following week, after that letter, the Barngarla had their celebration in Whyalla. They had Barngarla people come from miles and miles to come along to that. There were a couple of hundred people there, including dignitaries.

That's been the first attempt to provide meaningful information. Barngarla had been prepared to meet with the department, but they wanted to know beforehand what they were going to discuss. They wanted an agenda, they wanted a structure around a committee, what its brief would be, what it would look like. They wanted to meet and discuss those matters with the department when it had all of that. If the department was to have met them any earlier, then I think the meetings would not have been as useful. They would have focused around the department's unwillingness to make the retraction of the statement about there being no sites. I just dispute that there has been a history of effective communication around these matters.

CHAIR: I understand that there's correspondence from the department, although I haven't got it to hand. I understand there's a letter of 11 August 2017 that advises that heritage assessment occurs in phase 2. What's your understanding of whether heritage assessment has started as yet?

Ms Churchill : I'm just a bit confused by the department saying that there are no heritage sites and then talking about having heritage assessment later on. As I have mentioned, Barngarla have carried out their own heritage assessment, which has been compromised by not having full access. That report, Dr Dee Gorring's report, I think has been provided to you in a redacted form. I'm happy to get instructions about providing an unredacted version of that report to you. But the point is we wanted to have some rigour around what that process was so that could be the matter of discussion when there were meetings between the department and the Barngarla.

CHAIR: But does that comment in the department's submission I read out to you give you some confidence that you will?

Ms Churchill : Sorry, but could you read that comment out again? I've got it in my material somewhere.

CHAIR: That they'd formed a consultative group, discussions are ongoing and they're looking to create a Barngarla heritage consultative committee. They want to create that.

Ms Churchill : Yes—

CHAIR: Is that a useful step?

Ms Churchill : but in that same letter they said they didn't know who to talk to. They said there were three other Barngarla organisations, and they were going to write to them all and they were going to write Philip Teitzel, the Barngarla lawyer who passed away last year. And yet we've been writing to the department since April 2017, advising that we are the lawyers for the Barngarla people. The references to other Barngarla organisations—yes, those organisations exist, but that doesn't make them the native title holders. It's the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation that is the native title holder.

Senator GALLACHER: In respect of native title, is it extinguished on the lease or the site that's been proposed?

Ms Churchill : The native title can be extinguished, but it doesn't mean that there is no heritage there.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay, I just wanted to clear that up.

Ms Churchill : In fact, when I spoke to Bruce Wilson, from the department, a couple of days ago—I was trying to clarify the position around the postal vote, the ballot—he mentioned native title being extinguished on these parcels as a reason for not having the Barngarla people take part in that vote. I find that quite surprising, given that local residents don't have any rights over those particular parcels of land and yet they're allowed to vote.

Senator GALLACHER: I can tell you: before a dollar of Commonwealth money is appropriated to this project, they will need to give certainty and clarity about native title. Senator Smith has chaired the Public Works Committee; he knows. There will have to be wide consultation and agreement as part of the proposal to appropriate money for a facility, which then is referred back through the House of Representatives.

Ms Churchill : That's very comforting.

Senator GALLACHER: That process is in place. We probably need to try to find out what's happened here.

Ms Churchill : Well, it hasn't happened as far as the Barngarla are concerned. That's the point we're making. These four people here are board members of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, which holds, as agent for the Barngarla people, the native title rights. They have not been consulted. I'm very pleased to hear that that's the intention, that they do be consulted.

Senator GALLACHER: That's the law; that's how it works.

Senator DEAN SMITH: It's the law.

Ms Churchill : That's right, but it hasn't happened to date.

CHAIR: Just in relation to the community benefit fund, your submission says that you weren't aware of that. Have you now become aware of it?

Ms Churchill : No.

CHAIR: You're not familiar with anything about that?

Ms Churchill : No. The correspondence in the materials that have been provided to you is all the correspondence that the Barngarla have been provided with. In any event, I think the position is that it wouldn't matter; they would oppose the facility. The heritage assessment report from Dr Gorring would show why that would be the case. It's not a matter of compensation; it's a matter of interruption of their heritage.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Just sticking with your final comment there, Ms Churchill, to me there are two issues, and please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. There is the issue of whether or not cultural heritage sites exist. Then there is the issue of whether or not the community supports the proposition of the facility. Would you agree that those two issues are separate and distinct?

Ms Churchill : Yes, that's right.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Sticking with the issue of the community's support, how did the Barngarla community come to its view, in your letter, that it opposes the site?

Ms Churchill : Barngarla was only registered fairly recently, as the determination was only made in 2015 and 2016. So Barngarla has actually only been incorporated as a separate legal entity for the purpose of activating those native title rights, but there had been previous meetings of Barngarla people—informal community meetings—leading up to the establishment of the BDAC as an organisation. In those meetings there were discussions around nuclear facilities—not necessarily in this exact location—but previous discussions. We have on the BDAC board six board members from Whyalla, three from Port Augusta and three from Port Lincoln. Each of those people are responsible for liaising with their local communities about matters generally and reporting back to the board. I don't think the board members are aware of anyone who has expressed any support for the facility, but there have been lots of conversations expressing their disapproval of the facility.

Senator DEAN SMITH: So there's two elements here. There's the informal community meetings, to use your evidence, that happened before the BDAC was formally constituted?

Ms Churchill : It is best described as an ongoing conversation, I think.

Senator DEAN SMITH: No, sorry, I'm interested in the legal status of the BDAC and then what conversations and meetings were had prior to that formal establishment of the corporation. Then I'm interested to understand what decisions have been taken by the board in regard to this issue.

Ms Churchill : The decisions taken by the board are that they want to have the ballot for that exact reason—to determine what the level of support is. Their view, their feeling, is that the community is very much against it. Their own personal views are against it. Everyone they speak to is against it. But they have asked for the ballot for the very purpose of determining exactly what the level of support amongst the—

Senator DEAN SMITH: Ms Churchill, you're a lawyer?

Ms Churchill : Yes.

Senator DEAN SMITH: I think you understand the significance of what I'm trying to create. I thought I read in the documentations the statement that the BDAC opposed the site?

Ms Churchill : The BDAC board is its governing organ; it is how it acts, and it exercises its powers. The BDAC board is against the facility, based on information that's been provided to it by its members.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Is there a resolution of the board?

Ms Churchill : There may or may not be; I don't know.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Ms Churchill, you're the legal representative?

Ms Churchill : I'm actually one of the legal representatives, and I've actually not been the person who's taken the lead on this. The person who's been taking the lead on this is overseas, and so I've had to come up to speed on this matter only in the last few days.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Is there anyone else at the table that can provide an answer to me? It's not necessary to provide it now, but is anyone else at the table able to advise me whether or not a board decision has been made to oppose the site? If not, it can be taken on notice.

Ms Churchill : I think we'll take it on notice. I don't think anyone here would want in a forum like this to say something which might not be true. I think no-one here would want to make a statement either way, which may or may not be true.

Senator DEAN SMITH: So you'll take that on notice.

Ms Churchill : There was certainly a board resolution to engage Dr Gorring to conduct the assessment, which would be something that you would do as part of the process of finalising your position on that.

Senator DEAN SMITH: I can't quite find it, unfortunately, but it struck me as a quite definitive statement in the submission in regard to what the BDAC position was. I was looking to ascertain whether or not that definitive statement was supported by a board decision. That's enough from me for the moment. Thank you.

Senator PATRICK: Ms Churchill, in relation to the information that you believe the department has withheld from you—

Ms Churchill : Well, I don't know whether they've withheld; I don't know what I don't know. They may not have that information.

Senator PATRICK: Or the information that hasn't been forthcoming or that's missing?

Ms Churchill : That's right, yes.

Senator PATRICK: Can you, on notice, provide the committee with where you think the shortfalls are? We may, as a committee, decide to ask the department for that information, if we think it's relevant.

Ms Churchill : Yes. Certainly, as I said, the letter of June was much more useful in terms of saying that there would be a consultative committee, and I think it mentioned how many Barngarla people would be on that committee, which was one of the things that we were after. We still don't know what assessments they have made, and that would be something that we can get back to you about.

Senator PATRICK: If you were to take that on notice, that would be good. You talk about a ballot. I presume there's nothing that fetters people in this region from participating in the election itself?

Ms Churchill : That's right.

Senator PATRICK: How would you see a ballot being incorporated into the decision about broad community support and any weighting that you would request in respect of that?

Ms Churchill : I would have thought that we could provide a register of members to the AEC or whoever conducted the ballot and they would be able to take part in a ballot in the same way that anyone else would take part in a ballot. As I said, in a letter from KelledyJones Lawyers to council in May, there was reference to a request made by the department to council to have an expanded ballot beyond the ballot of residents on the electoral roll. I would have thought that it would happen in exactly the same way. Bearing in mind that you've heard about Barngarla people who have lived here, were born here and had parents and grandparents live here, and just because they have moved away doesn't diminish their connection to this country and their heritage. So to just say, 'Well the Barngarla people who live in Kimba can have a say, and that should be enough,' isn't really appropriate; it's not culturally appropriate.

Senator PATRICK: I appreciate that. I guess there's the issue of double voting that would need to be sorted out.

Ms Churchill : Yes, but that can be done.

Senator PATRICK: Also weighting, in terms of whether or not you view the weighting of the individuals involved would in some way be altered because of that connection with the land.

Ms Churchill : That's not something that we've considered. We haven't been able to have a discussion about it, because we haven't been able to get some clarity about what the position was. We would have been very happy for the AEC to run that ballot and be able to deal with potential duplications and things like that.

Senator PATRICK: In respect of the sites that have been nominated, it was made clear to us by the previous witnesses that they are quite comfortable to let people onto the land to conduct surveys or to visit the land. You indicated in your evidence at the start that there had been some resistance or—

Ms Churchill : There's actually a letter from the department saying that they can't arrange access for the site.

Senator PATRICK: So in some senses there's an administrative complexity, but would you accept prima facie that the land nominees will allow you—

Ms Churchill : If they would. I mean, that's what we were hoping would happen—they would have been contacted and that access would have been granted.

Senator PATRICK: It seems to me there won't be a problem if you were to contact them directly. So native title is extinguished over the over the nominated sites, but you said that on those sites you believe there are—

Ms Churchill : Heritage. Native title is Commonwealth legislation and the heritage act is state legislation. I have to confess I'm actually a commercial corporate lawyer, so I do governance and compliance. Nick Llewellyn-Jones is my colleague who's had the conduct of this matter for the Barngarla for the most part, and he's actually the native title lawyer. But, as I understand it, heritage exists separate from native title. So although you might have native title extinguished, it doesn't mean that you don't have sites that are protected under the heritage act, where, if they're registered, you need to get ministerial approval for them to be damaged in some way. Even if they're not registered, under the heritage act the minister is required to liaise and speak to the native title holders before making any decisions.

Senator PATRICK: And you say there are heritage sites on the land?

Ms Churchill : I understand that from Dr Dee Gorring's report.

Senator PATRICK: So, being a lawyer, you'd be aware of section 109 of the Constitution? Because obviously this particular process is set up under federal law, and so it's within the power of the Commonwealth to do what they're doing. Section 109 states that where the federal law overrides state law is only where there's an inconsistency. Are you of the view that that is an override situation or that in fact there is no inconsistency between federal law and—

Ms Churchill : I'm not a constitutional lawyer. I thought that the terms of this reference was to ascertain whether there'd been appropriate consultation, and I don't think that it's necessary to answer that question to get to that issue.

Senator PATRICK: Where I'm going is, through this entire process, I wonder if we end up getting to the end of it and we end up with a legal challenge and whether or not the process is dealing properly with a potential litigation? That's where I'm going to with the question.

Ms Churchill : The difficulty is that the Barngarla, having only recently had their determination, have not got any compensation money. So they obviously can't look to running any kind of legal challenge on a constitutional question. So it's important that they be involved in the process.

Senator PATRICK: I'm presuming they would reserve a right to protect those heritage sites?

Ms Churchill : Absolutely.

CHAIR: I've found that letter that I was looking for earlier—the letter of 11 August 2017. I'm just trying to reconcile what's in that letter and that attachment to something you've said in this document which summarises the correspondence. You say that between 7 April 2017 and 20 February 2018 Barngarla continued to correspond with the department but the department does not agree to meet with Barngarla. But in that correspondence I can see quite clearly an offer to meet in the letter of May?

Ms Churchill : My view, having looked at this correspondence, was that Barngarla was willing to meet provided it was given the information so that it would have a purpose and agenda for that meeting. In the 10 July letter, Norman Waterhouse wrote requesting specific information about the protocols that would be put in place around heritage and asking about what assessments had been carried out. That information wasn't provided. A meeting is one thing, but to have a meeting where information has been provided beforehand, where there is an agenda and where those matters can be discussed is another. The Barngarla weren't interested in having a meeting without there being some material provided beforehand and without a retraction of the statement which offended them from the outset, having been made, so that the meeting could actually be meaningful, constructive and actually progress—rather than just have a meeting about—

CHAIR: So the decision of the corporation was not to meet under those circumstances?

Ms Churchill : Yes. Well, the instructions from the board were that they would be happy to meet once that information had been provided.

Senator GALLACHER: I agree with you that we're looking at the appropriateness and thoroughness of the consultation as one of the issues here, and I do note a letter from back to Mr Llewellyn-Jones which actually has an agenda and—

Ms Churchill : That's a June letter. I will reiterate what I have said a number of times: that's the first time, from April 2017 to June this year, that the Barngarla got any information where such a meeting could occur. But, as I said, the next week they had their celebrations in Whyalla, which was a huge event—

Senator GALLACHER: Absolutely, I understand.

Ms Churchill : Yes, and then the next week we were actually preparing for this.

Senator GALLACHER: I suppose the point is that there is a door open now.

Ms Churchill : Absolutely. It's not entirely clear, but there have been some further communications with the department in the last 48 hours. I'm still very unclear as to whether or not they support the ballot.

Senator GALLACHER: Just for clarity, for the committee—you're a lawyer, but I'm not. He may be. The reality is this: we're here to make sure that everybody has a bit of skin in the game and gets consulted widely about the whole issue. It's very clear that you have a native title claim and you have a board. I think it is also clear that maybe an assessment was made that native title was extinguished on the pastoral property, so perhaps people didn't judge that as well as they could. Anyway, you've raised that issue and it's been accepted. Have any of you been informed about nuclear waste facilities? Have any of you been to Lucas Heights? Has anybody spoken to you about the fact that this is medical waste used in the treatment of better imaging of heart disease and cancer treatments? Have you any idea at all what's being proposed here, in a detailed sense? Has anybody educated you about it?

Ms Dare : I hear that they want to put it in the ground, put barrels and things like that under the ground. I still disagree with it because, at the end of the day, this is my family's country. You have to understand where we're coming from now. This is my family's country and we want to save it the way it was. We've got sites there, special sites that belong to us, but nobody seems to be listening to us.

Senator GALLACHER: I understand that. Your position is your position. Everybody's got the right to have their position. As someone who carted yellowcake out of Jabiru for a couple of years, I know that people in a different part of the country made a different decision. They allowed uranium mining in that part of the country.

Ms Dare : That's them.

Senator GALLACHER: That's exactly right. That's what we' re all about here. I'm just curious about whether there has been any intent to educate people about what a low-level or intermediate-level waste facility looks like or does.

Ms Dare : At the end of the day we still disagree with it.

Senator GALLACHER: Absolutely.

Ms Churchill : There was the material that was provided in the June letter. But that board hasn't had a chance to meet since then.

Senator GALLACHER: I think that's very clear from the letter.

Ms Churchill : That's been the difficulty. We've been seeking this information since last year, and it's only been since June 2018 that there has been a structure proposed with a working party and information. But it's only very basic, the information that was included in the material provided last month. That was the slides.

Ms Miller : I've only heard about things in the media and stuff like that. I've heard that Woomera had a leakage from a plant that they had up there for 30 years. It's going to cost them a lot of money to fix that. It's going to cost government. We haven't got a really good track record with cleaning up nuclear waste, have we? It's going to cost a lot of money. What if it leaks here?

Senator GALLACHER: The Woomera storage facility and this one won't look the same, trust me. That storage facility up there is part of the problem. We have over 100 sites that are not built specifically for purpose and are not doing their proper job. They're all a risk. That's the problem.

Ms Miller : That's my fear—it's going to leak.

Senator PATRICK: On the evidence provided that you haven't been to ANSTO, the department has made a submission where they said that ANSTO tours have involved traditional owners. Could I clarify that no-one here, from your organisation, has been to ANSTO?

Ms Churchill : We don't know. BDAC has hundreds of members.

Senator PATRICK: Can you take that on notice? Is it possible to find out?

Ms Churchill : I don't know how we'd know. We would have to write to them all and say, 'Who went on such a tour?'

Senator PATRICK: Just going to Mr Taylor, you said in your evidence at the start that no-one has consulted you. My understanding is that there is a body set up in the community that you can go and talk to any stage. This is not a criticism of you. If you feel that someone should come and talk to you, that's fine.

Mr Taylor : Only because they know who I'm. That's the reason.

Senator PATRICK: Have you ever taken the opportunity to go and have a chat with the departmental representatives that are resident here?

Mr Taylor : No, not at this stage.

Senator PATRICK: Once again, this is not a criticism. Your view is that it would be helpful if perhaps they came and talked to you and to other members of the organisation?

Mr Taylor : That's right. I was born in this town and have lived in this town, and 95 per cent of the people know who I am, to be able to come up and talk to me.

Senator PATRICK: You're essentially saying that the departmental officers here are passive in the way they are approaching the consultation, in that they require you to go to them, and it would be helpful if they were active in coming to you?

Mr Taylor : Yes. I don't know.

Senator DEAN SMITH: In the evidence we've heard already today it's clear to me, although certainly I can't speak for other members of the committee, that when people have made themselves available and sought out some of the facts and some of the evidence base from a variety of different organisations with a variety of different views, it has increased people's level of understanding to ensure that they can make an informed decision, irrespective of what that final decision might be. Is it the ambition or aspiration of the BDAC to invite relevant experts to come and speak to the community to share their evidence and their perspectives, not necessarily to change the corporation's view, but to give people a more informed basis on which to come to a view?

Ms Churchill : Yes. I think the intention is to have them meet with the board and to then negotiate a process for discussion.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Has the legal representation of the community changed in the last four years?

Ms Churchill : Yes. Philip Teitzel ran the native title litigation passed away last year. He was very sick in the lead-up to passing away. He died of cancer. While he was alive there was a slow process of handing over matters to Norman Waterhouse. As with other Indigenous groups, there is not necessarily one lawyer for all things. There is quite often a native title lawyer and another lawyer that will do something else. To some extent they play tag teams. Norman Waterhouse have been the lawyers for the Barngarla, and in fact supported Philip Teitzel even before the determination was made. But Norman Waterhouse have been the lawyers for the Barngarla people since 2015 or 2016, I would say.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Is it not possible that the breakdown in communication might have been on the other side of the ledger?

Ms Churchill : What do you mean?

Senator DEAN SMITH: Not on the government's side. Is that not a possibility?

Ms Churchill : I don't think so. We wrote to the government from April 2017 saying that we were the lawyers for the Barngarla people.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Could you on notice provide us with the details of how the legal representation has changed over the last four years, and what different types of legal representation might have been used for different sorts of issues?

Ms Churchill : Yes.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Finally, I notice that in November 2017 there was a media release. I'm not familiar with the project, but it talks about the Aurora Solar Energy Project. That media release makes it very clear that a heritage agreement was negotiated and signed. So it strikes me that there is a level of diligence on some aspects of the community's engagement but not on others.

Ms Churchill : I don't understand that point. Are you saying they're not being diligent around this process?

Senator DEAN SMITH: If you look at the media release, there's a heritage assessment that's been negotiated and signed and a media release has been issued.

Ms Churchill : I don't see the relevance of that. Those processes happen when someone applies to the organisation and agrees to fund—

Senator DEAN SMITH: So who was the legal representative?

Ms Churchill : I suspect it was my colleague Nick Llewellyn-Jones.

Mr Taylor : Would it be because Barngarla is spelt in two different ways?

Ms Churchill : How are you spelling 'Barngarla' in that matter.

Senator DEAN SMITH: B-A-R-N-G-A-R-L-A.

Ms Churchill : That's the right way. I have to say I'm not the native title lawyer. These are not the sorts of things I do. I don't do the heritage agreements. I deal with governance matters—

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate all of you coming before us today.