National Archives of Australia
Series A6455 Item AB1
Exhibits tendered before the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia During the 1950s and 1960s
G M Eames and A C Collett - Preliminary submission on behalf of the aboriginal people - Presented 2/10/84 at Sydney
Example interview for Kanytji
Copyright P J Mackett 2020
NB There are a lot of abbreviations here but most is straightforward.
Maralinga / Emu Atomic Tests
Kanytji (principle informant), Bingkayi, Jackie Kumantjara, with Angelina Lambina. [n1]
Anangu Interview 19
Taken at Wallatina Well 15.10.83 by Susan Moenne-Green.
Interview, partly interpreted by Myra Watson. Also transcript by Cliff Goddard, R. Bradshaw's notes and Susan's notes.
Events at Wallatina after one of the Emu Tests.
Recorded on tape #005, #006, #007 and #008 (extracts).
Personal details of informant
Kanytji (res: Mimili), long-standing resident of Granite Downs and Milili area.
Pingkayi (k/ Kanytji, res: Mimili), long-standing resident.
Jackie Kumantjara (deceased Mimili), long-standing resident.
Angelina Lambina (res: Indulkana), long-standing resident.
Date/Location of Incident
Wallatina (Walytjaka) Homestead, now on Granite Downs Station in 1953. [n2]
Shannon (sib/ Yami) was born a long time after the incident.
A comet was seen, close up to Wallatina, a little while after the incident.
Yami went to Adelaide soon after Shannon was born. During that time, Kanytji was away at a big
ceremony at Yalata having left Yami at Wantapila swamp (on Granite Downs. Kanytji thinks that
Yami left for Adelaide 3 months after Shannon was born.
People involved in incident
People at Wallatina:
Kanytji (b: :Wallatina) working on the station (ie. not in the camp) when he heard the explosions
Pingkayi (k/ Kanytji)
Yami's baby sister
Harry Jack (Wallatina?, b: Wallatina)
Kanytji's two big sisters
Tommy Dodd (ini: Tutu)
Tommy Dodd's wife
Kukika (b: Wallatina). single woman at the time
Kukika's younger sister
Kelly (Judy's sister's, ini: Wlaytjaka, son; Shirley‘s sister’s son)
Jimmy Wallatina (JK)
Kanngi (JK), (b: Wallatina),single woman at the time
JK's brother (JK) [n12]
Jacky Seven (a toddler)
Teddy Edwards (JK) Distribgtion oi
Pingkayi's grand-mother (ini: Wanyila)
Distribution of other people
At Welbourne Hill:
Probably nobody (JK)
Probably nobody (JK)
At Wintinna: (JK)
Kunmanara (Ginger?) Baker
Nelly‘s child, Toby (a small child), and another child
Angelina's husband (deceased)
Old Sid (?), a shepherd. (Angelina's uncle?)
Nora (then a young, unmarried woman)
Topsy (then a young, unmarried woman)
Betty (then a small child)
George Lambina (M/ Angelina Lambina, a young child walking)
At Granite Downs:
Alec Baker (res: lndulkana, a initiate)
The events occurred after winter, but before full summer. Toward the end of frost season.
The weather was like that at Wallatina when this interview was recorded.
Light wind from the south, which changed to a cold wind when, moving slowly, the black cloud arrived.
There were southerlies for three days and three nights.
Four explosions were heard [n3], from the direction of the homestead. [n4] They were heard early
in the morning, but after it had begun to warm up a bit (after 8 am., perhaps about 9:30 am.).
The sun was up.
People thought that it was the sound of wnaampi (mythical serpent) fighting with one another
somewhere in the south. [n5] People just sat around after the explosions until the “cloud” came.
(i) nature of
In the late afternoon, same day as the explosions (kalala palula arangka, a few hours after they
were heard, a big low cloud (matari, yurnga) had come over from the south on a gentle, south wind. [n6]
It moved slowly and covered Wallatina by dusk, partially obscuring the sunset.
The wind that blew the cloud up stopped and allowed the cloud to remain over everything and everyone.
There was no wind for a while. The second wind came up and blew the cloud a little bit quickly away.
A very little wind like now (ie. 12:30 pm, a gentle, sporadic breeze).
As it approached, part of it was low-hanging, and seemed to be coming right along the ground,
like a black low shadow. But there was also a cloud higher up.
No one knew what it was. [n5] They thought it was a cloud or just smoke.
“It was not like a proper cloud, like smoke.” (JK)
It had a strange smell, a bit like the flowers of the water bush (ilpara) or the watara. [n8]
The cloud looked a bit like a dust storm, only darker. [n6] It was like being in the shade, but still in the day.
Through the night, there were only light winds and the cloud appeared to hang over people throughout the night.
The next morning, some of it had passed or been dispersed with a stronger, southerly wind (*it was as if a second
wind pushed the cloud away*). But some was still around.
The cloud only stayed for one day. The high cloud went first, during the first night, leaving the low one.
(ii) effects of
As the cloud came over, it became cold and people started to shiver. It made people begin coughing and made
them hurt in the chest (Susan: and they got the shakes). Very quickly, when it got to people it made them cough.
Overnight, some old people and kids started coughing and getting sick. [n15]
In the early morning, people found a thick, “dark dew” covering the ground, bedding and plants.
It ran down the plants making them black. It dripped off the leaves. (Susan: the guck was like soft,
weak, watery tar, it was not like ashesl). The dew got on JK’s skin and soaked him as well as other people. (JK)
It also covered the surface of the water in the claypans which, the next day, was unpleasant to drink.
The water in the troughs was dirty (or dusty) to begin with but the difference could be seen after the
cloud because it was a little black, not just dusty as usual. (JK) lt tasted like nothing Kanytji knew of;
it tasted funny. (JK) lt made the mouth (Susan: throat) dry very quickly and burned going down. it made
the lips dry out.
By that time everyone (*the whole lot*) started getting sick. Sore eyes then coughing, sore chest and
guts ache. It “chilled people to the bone”.
The following night, one person died. People were very ill and coughed all night. They had guts ache
and diahorrea for day after day.
Flesh had “wet sores”. (?) (Susan: no sores)
By two days, same people were really sick. Eyes were red and sore (Susan: burning) and closed up so that
you could hardly see. Extreme weakness and apathy. Weak inside the bones and muscles. Numbness. Too weak
to hunt. People “were crawling/crouched all over the place”. Fever, peeling skin, (Susan: skin got soft
and baggy and then afterwards it got hot and tight), but no hair loss.
Skin was burning; sitting out in the open, you’d get really hot. (?)
Mr. Cullinan got sick.
Pingkayi coughed a great deal and it hurt a lot and she was very cold. She's had a had eye ever since.
Kanytii got sick. Coughing, skin got hot and tight, head hurt and eyes hurt [Cliff: weakness].
He recovered, being a strong young man at the time.
Yami and his brother, Kelly, (Judy's sister's, ini: Halytjaka, son) got really sore eyes. Yami also
had a guts ache etc., then feyer and extreme weakness. He couldn't lift the blanket Pingkayi put oyer him.
When he recovered, his vision was poor for a while. Kelly also recovered. Kanytji and Pingkayi covered
both Kelly's and Yami's heads with blankets because their heads were so hot.(K2) Pingkayi kept forcing
Yami to get up and walk and kept testing him to see whether he was able to see anything. (K2) Kelly got
better first and was able to see and after about three days Yami could see as well. (K2) Yami was sitting
on the ground looking down and all of a sudden he realised that he could see the ground and other things
as well. (K2) Yami was then OK but only one eye was completely normal. [K2] Both boys were OK by the time
they got to Larry's Well. (K2)
Kanytji helped provide for Kelly and Eileen Brown (ini: Kanpakuta).
JK didn't get sick, but was coughing like Kanytji, eyen though the dew got on his skin and soaked him. (JK)
JK did have one eye effected, it got sore and closed. (JK)
The youngish women and children were OK, except when they were coughing when the smoke/cloud came over. (JK)
People who died:
Intjalki (k/ Wendy Mangi, res: lndulkana), was the first one to die and he died on the first night
of the cloud's arrival. [n13].
Judy's (k/ Jackie Kumantjara?) sister's husband(lat Wallatina).
Three (un-named) people, at Larry's Well.
Pingkayi's sister, at Charlie‘s Well.
Kanytji's brother, at Charlie's Well.
kanngi's baby sibling [n14] (K2)
Lilly's (Wallatina?) sibling [n14] (K2)
Murika‘s two babies
Murika's baby daughter
Pingkayi's grandmother (ini: Wanyila, buried near Wallatina Homestead) [rn3]
After one or two days, some plants died and dried out. [n9] The guck had settled on the plants
and trees and they were covered right down to the ground.
Dogs and cattle were also effected after drinking, coughing and weakness. Lots of cattle died
after drinking water from the troughs. They died before people did and they were coughing and
sneezing like dogs do sometimes. Cattle swayed from side to side as if drunk. Dogs were particularly
effected. They acted “drunk”, then lying down to die. Their eyes were watery, mouths dry, but fur
did not fall out. [n16]
After the explosions were heard, people stayed around the camp until late afternoon. Then a big,
over-cast cloud came up.
People decided to shift camp from Wallatina thinking that they would get better on other ground.
“But all the land had gone bad”.
Tommy Dodd (who did not know what was happening either) shiited everyone to the creek by Larry's Well,
that is Tjinawakantja creek. They stayed three days (?) and three people died there. (?) Then they went
to Charlie's Well [n17] where Kanytji’s brother died and Pingkayi's sister. At this time Ianytji
and “the old man” were distributing rations and he was told of the deaths by Yakiti (res: lndulkana?) [rn2]
who was at Charly's Well. Kanytji returned (to Wallatina?) and the cawp shifted again to a gap calledd
Tjanmatapanpatjara All of the shifts were assisted (initiated?) by Tommy Dodd and no one else. Dodd had
camels and a trailer, and worked at Wallatina.
As people shifted from place to place, people got worse and worse.
Mrs. Cullinan put drops in peoples‘ eyes and then they would be able to open theam for a while afterwards.
Present/subsequent medical data of people involved
Wallatina: the Cullinans
Melbourne Hill: Jack Giles
Wintinna: Giles‘ brother
Granite Downs: Charly Page
Kanytji said that he never saw MacDougall at Wallatina, although he says that he could have missed him.
He never heard of MacDougall going to Coober Pedy. Used to see his at Mimili.
rn1: Check the cause of death of JK's younger brother. Is this the same man that Yami talks about
as his uncle who died at the Granite Downs strip?
rn2: If Yakiti is still at lndulkana, he will need to be interviewed.
rn3: Kanytji is not adverse to locating gravesites appropriate for him but he said that they
may have heen washed away as people were not buried very deeply.
n1: Kanytji gave most of the information in this interview. lnformation on the airplane was supplied
by Jackie. Angelina spoke about events at Wintinna, and her information is in a separate interview.
Pingkayi added some details to the events at Wallatina. There was no disagreement among these informants.
Any information not supplied by Kanytji indicated by a P, JK, or AL. Information received on the second
day of interview, at the site of the Wallatina camp in the fifties is indicated by K2, P2 etc.
n2: It was later discovered that, during the “black cloud” incident, the Aboriginal camp was set up
just to the north-east of the homestead buildings.
n3: Susan asked how many bangs were heard, one or two. The answer given by Kanytji was four.
Susan asked JK, “did you hear one bomb or more than one bomb?” JR: “In the morning we heard only one,
and after a while we heard another and after a while another again.” In the same interview,
he later said four “sounds”.
n4: This interview was taken at a place, south of the holestead. The camp, at the time of the
explosion, however, was north of the homestead. Susan is clear that the direction of the explosion
was from the south.
n5: This may indicate that people had no previous warning.
n6: In her notes, Susan says that the cloud was “black” in colour. “Everything was like night,
very dark, even though it was in the middle of the morning. There was no light. You could not
see the trees.” JK used the English word “cloud”. Again, referring to JK in Susan's notes,
“the cloud was definately black, like a lot of smoke and it came realy slowly and spread
out on the horizon as it cane towards them.” JK also described it as a ‘dark, smoke-like cloud.”
n7: In Cliff's transcription, the wind which brought the “cloud” was described as “light” and “cold”;
the cloud “came with a wind of its own. A south wind came up.” However, in Susan‘s notes, she says
that “a big (strong) cold wind brought the cloud up from the south. The wind was strong but brought
the cloud up quite slowly and very very slowly everything got cold.”
n8: Susan says that it smelt “like ilypara burning. Alternately. there is a pretty flower (“putipalawa”)
which Kanytji did not know the name of which blooms in the sand hills around Christmas time and which
smells like the smoke smelled like.”
n9: Susan says that inside two days the trees were dying. Inside four days the leaves were withered
and falling to the ground in circles beneath the trees. Kanytji referred to the mulga trees around
Wallatina well. He said that this lot are all new. The original lot were here when the cloud came
over and they withered and all died.
n10: Shannon, Yami‘s younger sibling, was not born at the time.
n11: JK didn‘t see any wildlife dead. He said we were all too sick to notice and too sick to hunt.
He did see a few, little parrot-like birds (tjulinytjulinypa) dead on the ground. On p. 17 of
the transcript, however, JK says he says the dogs died, cattle fell down, and some birds died
and some didn‘t.
n12: Susan mentions in her notes that JK's younger brother who had then just been initiated got
very sick and went to Granite Downs to be picked up by an airplane. They waited and waited and
he died at the airstrip next to which he is buried. lt is almost certain that this incident is
not connected with the cloud, but more details are needed. See rn1.
n13: In Susan's notes, Kanytii said that Anmanari's husband died. Anmanari is the name of
Wendy Mangi (Vachon).
n14: It is unclear from Susan’s notes if people are saying that these two babies died as a result
of the cloud. At any rate, they both died soon alter the incident.
n15: It is unclear it people got sick on the first night after the “cloud “ arrived or on the
night (ie. after the “dark dew”). See transcript p. 7. However, on p. 9 of transcript,
old people and kids got sick on the first night. And p. 21 seems clear.
n16: Aminals starting experiencing symptons probably at the same time as the people.
n17: This is probably “Sailor's Well”.
Date of Last Entry
11-13 September 1984