FINALLY, SOME JUSTICE FOR AUSTRALIA'S NUCLEAR TEST VETERANS
Negotiations with the Nick Xenophon Team were instrumental in finally securing the Gold Card benefit for Australian veterans who served in the British Occupation Forces in Japan from 1945-1952 and also those involved in the British nuclear tests in Australia from 1952-1967.
Until the Federal Government's announcement today, Australian nuclear veterans were not eligible for the Gold Card – which covers medical expenses and treatment for all of a veteran's medical conditions.
It is automatically available for all veterans who served in theatres of war – but inexplicably was denied to those who were subjected to a nuclear blast.
Until now, Australia's nuclear veterans had to jump over the onerous hurdle of proving their illness and medical conditions were directly linked to the exposure to radiation.
Senator Nick Xenophon has pursued this issue for over six years in the Senate, moving amendments to extend the Gold Card to nuclear veterans, including those Australians who served in the British Occupation Forces in Japan from 1945-1952, involved in the clean up and occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
More recently he has been joined in advocacy for the veterans by his NXT colleagues in Canberra, particularly Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore.
“Ignored, and treated with contempt by successive governments since the 1950s, these nuclear veterans will finally get the recognition and assistance they so strongly deserve,” Nick said.
“Getting access to the Gold Card will make a very big difference to the surviving veterans – many of whom have suffered terrible health and illnesses as a result of their exposure to radiation.”
Of the 17,000 Australian soldiers and civilians directly involved in the British nuclear tests in Australia, at Emu Field and Maralinga in SA and Monte Bello Islands off the coast of WA, it is believed only about 1,100 are still alive.
“This has been a shameful episode of Australian history. This at least is a belated recognition for the hazardous warlike service these veterans endured,” said Nick.