Beta Radiation Burns in the Australian Bush

20 Jul

Cultural Warning for Australian Aboriginal people: The pages following this one contain pictures and words which show and describe the suffering of a person who is deceased.

Permission to convey the information and images has been provided by Eileen Crombie and the Elder Women of Coober Pedy. Photographer Michele Madigan has provided her permission for the use of her work. It is the wish of the relatives of the person that her name be used.
Lallie Lennon has provided permission for information and images relating to the beta radiation burns she suffers to be displayed.

Michele Madigan has provided permission for her interview material and photographs of Lallie to be communicated to the public.
The following text is largely taken from “The Black Mist and its Aftermath – Oral Histories by Lallie Lennon
A Submission to the Government of South Australia, the Commonwealth
Government of Australia and the International Atomic Energy Agency
Oral Historian Michele Madigan, 2006 and 2009
Transcription and Commentary by Paul Langley”
(of the above governments and agency, the only one who failed to respond to the submission was the IAEA (no surprise there. This information does not promote the use of nuclear technology).


The following texts provide important information in regard to the impact of fission technology on the health, welfare, safety of Australian Aboriginal people:

Maralinga dust / Lallie Lennon
Lennon, Lallie Kantjuringa Local call number: B P957.37/W1 Principal Author: Lennon,
Lallie Kantjuringa Title: Maralinga dust / Lallie Lennon Source: Women of the centre / edited by Adele Pring Apollo Bay, Vic.; Pascoe , 1990; p. 88-98; ill., map, port. Imprint:
1990 Annotation: Personal observation of effects of Maralinga testing on health of her
family Collection: Print – Book Analytics Topical: Defence – Missile and weapons testing
– Nuclear weapons Topical: Family Topical: Health – Gastrointestinal system Topical:
Health – Skin physiology and disease Place: Maralinga (Far West SA SH52-12) The
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Mura Library

Lester, Yami & Institute for Aboriginal Development (Alice Springs, N.T.) 1993,
“Yami : the autobiography of Yami Lester”, Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice

Lennon, Jessie and Madigan, Michele, “I’m the one that know this country!” (Revised
ed). Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2011.

In the course of the following presentation,  the descriptions of nuclear fallout clouds and nuclear fallout deposition given by Australian Aboriginal people are compared with US military documents describing the same things. The conditions suffered by Aboriginal Australian people as a result of contact with nuclear fallout cloud particles are compared with US MIlitary Medical descriptions of the conditions suffered by US MIlitary Personnel as a result of contact with nuclear fallout cloud particles.
The US military texts cited are:

“The Effects of Nuclear Weapons”, Compiled and Edited by Samuel
Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, in 1950. The Third Edition, prepared and
released in1977. Preface and Chapter 12.

“Evaluation of Radioactive Fallout”, Armed Forces Special Weapons
Project, 1955, AFSWP-976B (EX) Extracted Version, (partially declassified
version) 1981, United States of America.

(Available at
The above texts, and the source documents from which they are constructed, were secret documents until  after the events suffered and reported by Australian Aborigines from October  1953. In particular,  the  events relating to beta burns suffered by the people of the Marshall Islands and described within  Glasstone and Dolan,  did not occur until 1954.
The horror of the Australian Aboriginal experience pre – dates the horror and suffering inflicted upon the Marshall Islanders by the Castle Bravo event of 1 March 1954.

Although similar events occurred in the US State of Nevada in 1953 – beta burns to livestock,  eye injury to livestock,  skin rashes to children, sore eyes in children and adults – and although these events were reported at the time (Cronkite, AEC), the reports were secret at the time and were not declassified until the 1980s or later. (Gallagher, Fallini, Bordoli-Laird,  Sen. Kennedy, US Dept of Energy Opennet).  These accounts have never been referenced or cited or used in any way in relation to the beta radiation burns suffered by Australian Aboriginal people. Even though McClelland’s Royal Commission into the British Atomic Weapons Tests worked closely with US authorities to gather relevant information regarding US nuclear weapons tests. The best these esteemed people could come up with was the underground Sedan Test.

The information, observations and testimony relating health effects made by Aboriginal witnesses are accepted as being long standing, reliable and consistent over time.  The following quotation from the Proceedings of the McClelland Royal Commission confirms that Australia considers the Aboriginal Australian accounts to be credible:

“6.4.92 (a) The differences in the details of Aboriginal accounts of the Black Mist are to be expected after the passage of over thirty years. The accounts are sufficiently consistent in general for them to have credibility.
(b) An oral history of the Black Mist existed for many years before the incident became known to the general public.
(c) Meteorological, mathematical and statistical modelling indicates that a black mist passing over Wallatinna and Welbourn Hi 11 could have happened.
(d) There is no reason to disbelieve Aboriginal accounts that the Black Mist occurred and that it made some people sick. Both radiation exposure and fear can lead to vomiting. At Wallatinna, the vomiting by Aborigines may have resulted from radiation, 1t may have been a psychogenic reaction to a frightening experience, or it may have resulted from both of these.
(e) The Royal Commission believes that Aboriginal people experienced radioactive fallout from Totem 1 in the form of a black mist or cloud at and near Wallatinna. This may have made some people temporarily ill. The Royal Commission does not have sufficient evidence to say whether or not it caused other illnesses or injuries.
(f) Gi ven the histor ical uncertainties and the current state of scientific knowledge, the evidence presented does not enable the Royal Commission to decide one way or the other whether the Black Mist caused or contributed to the blindness of Yami Lester.”  Source: McClellland et. al., “The Report of the Royal Commission into
British Nuclear Tests in Australia”, ISBN 0 644 04434 9, Set of two volumes, Volume 1, paragraph 6.4.92, Conclusions, text pafe  194, pdf page 215.

The reason why the Royal Commission claimed not to have  “sufficient evidence to say whether or not it  (the black mist nuclear cloud) caused other illnesses or injuries.”, is covered in the following text.  It is a pathetic statement for the Royal Commission to make, especially in the light of the detailed US documentation on the effects of nuclear fallout it had in its possession. The relevant sections of these documents are quite skillfully omitted in the Commission’s reference lists.
It is important to appreciate what was actually found by the Royal Commission in this matter. The next page consists of a full quote of Chapter 6.4 of the Findings of the McClelland Royal Commission.


One Response to “Beta Radiation Burns in the Australian Bush”


  1. Beta Burns in the Australian Bush « Paul Langley's Nuclear History Blog - July 20, 2012

    […] am constructing a new blog here: Share this:FacebookMoreEmailPrintStumbleUponDiggTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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