Nuclear Pasts

On Australian territory, between 1952 and 1967, British scientists tested twelve atomic bombs, performed hundreds of ‘minor trials’, and attempted unsuccessful clean ups. Test sites were at Monte Bello Islands off the West Australian coast, and at Emu and Maralinga in the South Australian desert. [1] These were, and remain, scientific experiments that continue to play out in the ill health and changed lives of Aboriginal people and nuclear veterans from Australia and Britain.

The promises of post-cold-war nuclear disarmament lie broken. There is experimentation and posturing by new nuclear weapons states and perseverance with weapons programs among established nuclear players. There have been more than 2,000 nuclear weapons tests since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet only partial justice for atomic survivors.

The contamination of landscape endures, and there is world-wide concern about consequences of the nuclear age – a future already colonized by residual radioactivity from continuing tests and legacies of Cold War. Half-lives of radioactive materials extend many thousands of years.

The Nuclear Futures Partnership Initiative continues a tradition of creative artists responding to atomic weapons tests and their legacies. We are influenced by renewed efforts of atomic survivor communities in search of recognition and justice, by failure of extensive cleanup operations to decontaminate test sites, and by the evidence of ongoing impacts on descendants of those exposed to radiation through bomb testing. We are inspired by the resilience and forward-looking initiatives taken on by the very same communities that have survived the full force of the atomic age.

[1] Commonwealth of Australia, 1985. The Report of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, Appendix G Chronology.

Nuclear Futures – political and partner position statement

The Nuclear Futures program delivers a simple message, one that all our partner organisations agree with…. That the stories of atomic testing – its impact on communities and the resilience of those communities – should be kept alive, spread far, commemorated and recognised. Nuclear Futures aims to draw people in to an ‘open conversation’ about things nuclear, while asserting that the history of atomic testing needs central consideration in current debates.

The focus of the program is community arts and cultural development, driven by creative community partnerships including atomic survivor communities, government agencies, philanthropic interests, cultural and educational institutions and local interest groups. Nuclear Futures’ role is to facilitate art-making and storytelling on community-led themes, and these themes have focused our work on the history of community resilience in the face of ongoing impacts, on stories of post-Cold War community development, and on calls for peace.