About the book

September 2016 marked 60 years since the first British atomic tests were conducted at Maralinga in South Australia, decimating an Indigenous community and irreversibly contaminating the land and its people.

In 1956, Australia provided 3200 square kilometres of desert to the British Government, along with logistics and personnel. Australian prime minister Robert Menzies blithely agreed to the tests and relinquished control over them. This book reveals the devastating consequences of that decision.

Here, Elizabeth Tynan reveals how Australia allowed itself to be duped, and contributes to the fight for justice for nuclear veterans, Indigenous landowners and the contaminated land itself.

Book cover of Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga story by Elizabeth Tynan
Published by: 
NewSouth Publishing

About the author

Dr Elizabeth

Elizabeth Tynan is a science writer and academic at the James Cook University (JCU) Graduate Research School in Queensland, Australia. A former journalist, she completed a PhD on aspects of British nuclear testing in Australia, and is co-author of the book Media and Journalism: New approaches to theory and practice, now in its third edition.

Image of author Elizabeth Tynan

Judges’ comments

This book reveals new details about one of the most important stories in recent Australian history - the atomic tests by the British government in the South Australian desert at Maralinga in the 1950s. This well-executed work offers compelling and at times shocking information about an exercise that has been mired in secrecy and controversy for decades.

Elizabeth Tynan has produced a readable account, which mixes excellent knowledge of science and social and political history. The research is detailed and balanced and the narrative is well paced. Tynan is a clear writer and her tone remains confident yet curious throughout. The book shows an astute understanding of the Cold War context in which the tests took place yet does not avoid the betrayal of Australians by their political leaders nor the shameful treatment of the health and safety of Aboriginal Australians in particular.

Atomic Thunder is a book that speaks to Australian audiences and raises issues of government responsibility and transparency that continue to resonate today. It is an impressive work of history - a book that is long overdue and one that is likely to remain the definitive account of that period.