Maralinga and British nuclear testing in Australia

Between 1952 and 1963 the British Government, with the agreement and support of the Australian Government, carried out nuclear weapon tests at three sites in Australia - the Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast, and at Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia.

Between 1984 and 1985, the Australian Government established a Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia. The Royal Commission report, delivered in 1985, found that significant radiological hazards remained at many of the Maralinga test sites.

In response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, a $108 million rehabilitation project was successfully implemented between 1995 and 2000 to rehabilitate the former nuclear test sites at Maralinga. In 2009, the test site land was returned to traditional owners.

Related pages

  • Rehabilitation of the former Maralinga and Emu nuclear test sites
    Detailed information regarding the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Test in Australia and rehabilitation of the former Maralinga and Emu nuclear test sites.
  • The future of Maralinga
    Detailed information about the current state of Maralinga - including the safety and monitoring of the site, and current site management arrangements.
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card – British Nuclear Testing
    From 1 July 2017, eligibility for the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Health Card - All Conditions (Gold Card) was extended to all Australian participants in the British nuclear test program in Australia.  This means that people who could possibly have been exposed to ionising radiation as a result of their Defence service, employment or presence in a nuclear test area in Australia are able to receive treatment for any medical condition, not just conditions caused by their possible exposure.
    Eligible persons may include Australian Defence Force personnel, Commonwealth employees and contractors, as well as any other civilians (such as Indigenous people and pastoralists) who were present in a test area during the relevant time.  Commonwealth Police, Australian Federal Police and Australian Protective Service Officers who patrolled the Maralinga nuclear test area up to 30 June 1988 are also eligible.
    For further information regarding eligibility for the DVA Gold Card for Australian participants in British nuclear tests, please consult the factsheet at the link below (which also details how to apply) or contact DVA on 1800 555 254.

More information

For further information about British Nuclear testing in Australia, visit the National Archives of Australia website. This details a large and varied collection of documents relating to the conduct of the British nuclear tests in Australia, including at Maralinga and Emu, and on the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia (1984–1985).

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