For the first time in 20 years, the Yalata Anangu community on South Australia’s far west coast has access to its own fuel, and jobs and tourism opportunities are expected to flow.
Until now, the closest fuel outlet for Yalata’s 250 residents was a 105 kilometre return trip to Nundroo.
The old Yalata Roadhouse was condemned in 2006 due to health and safety concerns — including large amounts of asbestos.
The building, which was brought to Yalata from Maralinga, was removed and the site cleaned up four years ago under the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program.
The asbestos-contaminated roadhouse on the national Highway 1 stood derelict for two decades as another symbol of the plight of the Anangu.
They were left homeless after British and Australian atomic bomb testing from 1956 to 1963 at Maralinga contaminated their traditional lands.
Some families resettled at Ooldea and others at Yalata, taking ownership of the Yalata Reserve in 1974.
Yalata Anangu Community chief executive David White said the recent opening of the self-serve fuel station was a proud day for the people of Yalata.
“We used to have fuel a long, long time ago,” he said.
“This community’s been promised for many, many years that it’s going to have fuel again and as of the 19th of August we had our first sale of fuel from our land.”
Mr White said community members wanting to hunt on their land previously had to drive to the Nundroo roadhouse to get fuel.
“If you wanted to go hunting on your own land you’d have to go 52km to Nundroo to fill up, 52km back and then out [o hunt] so immediately we’ve got a saving,” Mr White said.
“And here we are — we advertised ourselves, we’re proud of ourselves and we did this all ourselves.
“So we’re getting people motivated and encouraged to look after and fund themselves with these little side businesses.
“There’s lots of opportunities here for both sides, for tourists and for us.”
Roadhouse and gallery to come
Yalata Anangu Community Council chairperson Duane Edwards said the self-serve fuel outlet was already making life easier for residents.
“For work I’d take a tanker down and fill up with a couple of months’ worth of fuel and now I dragged the tanker down here yesterday and it only took me 15 minutes instead of three hours, four hours,” Mr Edwards said.
“We don’t get much from the fuel, but we’re grateful it’s here – we’re happy to have fuel.
“It’s moving forward, we’ve got to start getting our own businesses going and going forward.”
Mr White said the fuel was just one part of a major project to reopen a roadhouse to generate employment and provide a service to east-west travellers on the Eyre Highway, including truckies.
“Stage three is likely to happen at the end of October where we’ll actually re-establish a roadhouse out there,” Mr White said.
“We’ll have ovens and hotplates and coffee machines and art displays and artefacts, and hopefully some tag-along tours with our local members and elders.”
Mr Edwards said the roadhouse would be a good source of income for Yalata.
“That’s where we’ll make our own money,” he said.
“Everyone all along here in the Aboriginal community always said this was a goldmine.”