Yami’s daughters take up anti-nuclear fight

Karina and Rose Lester with their late father Yami. The sisters gave NIT permission for images of their late father to be used.

Sisters Karina and Rose Lester know all too well the tragedy nuclear weapons can bring.

Their late father Yami Lester, a Yankunytjatjara man of northern South Australia, lost his sight after being exposed as a boy to nuclear testing by the British Government at Maralinga in remote SA.

He went on to become a prominent anti-nuclear campaigner.

Now his daughters have taken up the battle, collecting and sharing stories that have helped the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) win a Nobel Peace Prize.

The prestigious prize will be presented in Oslo on December 10, with an event at Melbourne Town Hall to be held the same day.

Karina Lester, who lives in Adelaide, said when she was growing up her father did not talk much at home about what had happened to him as a boy when the nuclear testing took place.

But in public Mr Lester, who passed away in July at the age of 75, felt it was important to share with the world the events that shook the Wallatina community in the ’50s.

“There’s a role a parent plays in protecting your children from really knowing some of the sad, sad stories that did take place across our community,” Ms Lester said.

“He spoke a bit about where the camp was, he remembers that day, he remembers the ground shaking and this black mist rolling and the fear in the community.

“There was a huge loss for us as an Aboriginal community and we were so badly done by when the British came in and tested in our backyard that we still suffer to this day.”

Ms Lester said conditions in the community deteriorated over a week after the testing.

“When the fallout happened, that evening, people were violently ill,” she said. “There was a lot of vomiting going around in the camp. People became sick. Their eyes started getting sore and tender.

“By day two, people were really starting to suffer. By week two, people’s eyes were either burnt out or people had bad burns on their bodies.

“There were lots of rashes appearing and there was a trail of black-like soot that fell over the whole of the community.

“The oranges had shrivelled up and by that week were non-edible.”

Ms Lester said the story was a painful one, but needed to be heard.

She said it was important to take a stand against anything nuclear from weapons to waste storage facilities.

The Lester sisters gave NIT permission to reproduce the photo of their late father.

Wendy Caccetta

reporter@nit.com.au

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