Australian Atomic Confessions, largely self-funded reveals Australia's nuclear history from the 12 British atomic bomb tests in the 1950s to the Cooper Pedi Kunga Tjutas, senior Aboriginal women in Cooper Pedi, who survived the bomb tests and fought to stop an international nuclear waste dump on their country in 2005. Told through the eyes of atomic ex-veterans and Aboriginal Elders who are custodians of land where uranium is found, it explores the concept of uranium being seen as ancient cultural heritage, as opposed to an exploitable economic resource. Global consequences of nuclear testing and dumping in unexpected places is also explored.
While the documentary managed to educate younger generations not aware of the nuclear history in Australia, analysing the political dimensions and effectiveness of this project are more complex. A letter from the then Federal Minister of Veterans Affairs in 2006 said the film, shown to his staff, "confirmed it was successful in engaging emotionally with the hearts and minds of the audience"... A few months later atomic ex-veterans involved in the tests won free cancer treatment. Yet the letter also said the film was "principally about the concerns of Indigenous people with nuclear events and their lands". The present Australian government recently nominated to build another national nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory. Indigenous Traditional Owners opposed to the dump wrote to the Governor General asking her not to give royal assent or sign the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill into law. "We worry about the impact on country and animals and bush tucker and the old stories and new kids."
Katherine Aigner has spent 15 years working with Indigenous knowledge holders and custodians around Australia and overseas. She made educational documentaries on preserving cultural heritage, worked as an assistant curator at the National Museum of Australia and as an associate curator at the Vatican Ethnological Museum. Having lived and worked in Berlin and Rome she is currently completing a Masters by Research degree at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University on Indigenous filmmaker, scholar and keeper of culture, Lorraine Mafi-Williams.