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01 February 2013

Judy Nunn: Maralinga

This is one of Judy Nunn's best books about an infamous time in Australia's recent history. It details the madness and excitement of early nuclear testing in the late 1950's and early 1960's and the criminal negligence of both the Australian and UK governments in despoiling a part of Australia's environment and heritage.

This is an important book which clearly points out how casually governments dealt with the effects of testing early nuclear devices in Australia that they didn't fully understand and the long-term effects on those who participated, especially the impact on the local Aboriginals whose lives were affected.

Judy Nunn tells the story through the lives of English and Australian officers and MI5 agents who were there and an adventurous young English journalist Elizabeth Hoffman who is drawn half way around the world in search of the truth.

I was aware of some of the impacts and the clean-up problems but was still stunned with reading about what actually happened. My wife knew little about what had happened and was shocked by the revelations and kept asking me "Did this really happen?". Yes it did. Even in 1985, over 20 years later a report found that significant radiation hazards still existed at many of the Maralinga test areas and millions were spent on further clean-ups. In 1994 the Australian Government paid compensation of $13.5 million to the local Maralinga Tjarutja people.

I read this book in print format when it was published in 2009 and it is in my very short list of best novels written about Australia. I was reminded to recommend this book to others via Amazon as I have just read a great short story by Judy Nunn - The Wardrobe - which contained a promotional chapter for "Maralinga".

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