Traditional owners left out of dump vote

Kimba council in South Australia didn't consider giving traditional owners a vote on a nuclear dump.
Kimba council in South Australia didn't consider giving traditional owners a vote on a nuclear dump.

A South Australian council did not consider native title holders when deciding who should vote on a proposed nuclear waste dump, a court has heard.

Kimba District Council chief executive officer Deborah Larwood gave evidence at a Federal Court hearing between the council and the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation on Wednesday.

The Barngarla people have argued the council's decision to exclude native title holders from the ballot because they do not live in the municipality is discriminatory.

Ms Larwood told the court the council had decided to hold the ballot in accordance with eligibility guidelines set out under the Local Government Elections Act.

She said there was never any discussion about including traditional owners in the poll until after that decision was made, when the council received a letter from the Barngarla people.

"There was a lot of issues that would arise if the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation went outside of the guidelines to be allowed to vote," she said.

"It (would have) then opened up: should we be letting all other owners who are non-ratepayers have a vote?"

Two sites near Kimba, on the Eyre Peninsula, have been short-listed as potential locations for a low-level radioactive waste storage facility, while a third is near the Flinders Ranges town of Hawker.

The Kimba vote was stalled last year after the Barngarla people won an injunction in the South Australian Supreme Court, where the case was then referred to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Dan O'Gorman, for the Barngarla people, again argued on Wednesday the ballot was in contravention of the Racial Discrimination Act.

He said the breach occurred because the council chose to use the eligibility guidelines established under the Act - it was not compelled to do so.

Also called to give evidence on Wednesday was Bruce Wilson, principal advisor to the National Radioactive Waste Management Taskforce.

Mr Wilson said the ballot was a "tried method that had community understanding and integrity" after a similar vote was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission on behalf of the council in 2017.

"That process was run, that worked well... it was agreed by ourselves and the council that they would use that method in the second ballot for that reason," he said.

Australian Associated Press