Indigenous anti-nuclear activist tells of her personal work with Nobel Prize-winning ICAN

Indigenous anti-nuclear activist tells of her personal work with Nobel Prize-winning ICAN

Indigenous anti-nuclear activist tells of her personal work with Nobel Prize-winning ICAN

Updated 7 October 2017, 19:20 AEDT

For Karina Lester, the activist daughter of an Indigenous man blinded during weapons testing in South Australia, 2017 has been a mixed bag — the loss of her father, but a big win with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

For Karina Lester 2017 has been a mixed bag — the loss of her beloved father, but a big win as part of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Ms Lester's anti-nuclear stance is a very personal one.

Her father was Yami Lester, an Aboriginal elder who was blinded by nuclear fallout when he was a child.

Mr Lester died just two weeks after the United Nations agreed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons thanks to ICAN's work, which was last night named by the Norwegian Nobel Committee as the Peace Prize winner for 2017.

He was 75 and had spent a lifetime raising awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons, having been blinded during British weapons testing in Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950s.

"I think he'd be really pleased and very proud to know but also grateful that ICAN was able to provide that platform for us and that his story was so powerful," Ms Lester said.

On July 7 the United Nations adopted the treaty.

Mr Lester died on July 21.

Ms Lester has become as passionate about the anti-nuclear movement as her father.

"It's not a happy story, it's quite a sad and tragic story, but ICAN has certainly been a wonderful platform for us Anangu and Aboriginal people of Australia to really talk up strongly about what happened to us back in those days," she said.

When she was younger, she did not know what had caused her father's blindness.

"It wasn't until later in life that I realised it was such a sad story … with the doings of the British Government and our Australian Government as well … allowing for tests to happen in South Australia in the 1950s and 60s.

"[And] that they were responsible for taking my father's sight.

"There were a lot of people affected by this, not only Aboriginal people, there were non-Aboriginal people, ex-servicemen and women who were exposed to this as well."

As a representative of Indigenous voices within ICAN's 400-strong organisations around the world, she has told her father's story to audiences around the Asia-Pacific region, including the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which was struck by an American nuclear bomb in 1945.

A later attack on the Japanese city of Nagasaki prompted an end to World War II.

Ms Lester has also exchanged stories with the people of the Marshall Islands and Tahiti affected by nuclear testing by French authorities from the 1960s until the 1990s.

"Many tests have taken place or nuclear issues have occurred in Indigenous countries around the world, so it's a global issue for sure," said Ms Lester, a Western Desert Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara woman.

Her grandparents were part of efforts to prevent the establishment of a nuclear waste facility in SA.

She took her daughters to Hiroshima in November 2015 where Yami Lester's experience was well understood.

"It's important for us to continue on sharing that story for the next generation to know the story and [then] the next generation to know the story," she said.

The historic treaty pushed by ICAN needs 50 nations to sign on before it will be activated.

Australia has yet to join the treaty.