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   friend claimed to have scientific evidence that the British had

   conducted high-yield, above-ground nuclear tests at Maralinga, a

   desert area in north-west South Australia.

  

   A 1984 Royal Commission subsequently revealed that between 1953 and

   1963 the British government had tested nuclear bombs at the site,

   forcing more than 5000 Aborigines from their native lands. In December

   1993, after years of stalling, the British government agreed to pay

   [sterling]20 million toward cleaning up the more than 200 square

   kilometres of contaminated lands. Back in 1968, however, the Menzies

   government had signed away Britain's responsibility to clean up the

   site. In the 1970s, the Australian government was still in denial

   about exactly what had happened at Maralinga.

  

   As Mendax's mother and her friend drove through an Adelaide suburb

   carrying early evidence of the Maralinga tragedy, they noticed they

   were being followed by an unmarked car. They tried to lose the tail,

   without success. The friend, nervous, said he had to get the data to

   an Adelaide journalist before the police could stop him. Mendax's

   mother quickly slipped into a back lane and the friend leapt from the

   car. She drove off, taking the police tail with her.

  

   The plain-clothed police pulled her over shortly after, searched her

   car and demanded to know where her friend had gone and what had

   occurred at the meeting. When she was less than helpful, one officer

   told her, `You have a child out at 2 in the morning. I think you

   should get out of politics, lady. It could be said you were an unfit

   mother'.

  

   A few days after this thinly veiled threat, her friend showed up at

   Mendax's mother's house, covered in fading bruises. He said the police

   had beaten him up, then set him up by planting hash on him. `I'm

   getting out of politics,' he announced.

  

   However, she and her husband continued their involvement in theatre.

   The young Mendax never dreamed of running away to join the circus--he

   already lived the life of a travelling minstrel. But although the

   actor-director was a good stepfather, he was also an alcoholic. Not

   long after Mendax's ninth birthday, his parents separated and then

   divorced.

  

   Mendax's mother then entered a tempestuous relationship with an

   amateur musician. Mendax was frightened of the man, whom he considered

   a manipulative and violent psychopath. He had five different

   identities with plastic in his wallet to match. His whole background

   was a fabrication, right down to the country of his birth. When the

   relationship ended, the steady pattern of moving around the

   countryside began again, but this journey had a very different flavour

   from the earlier happy-go-lucky odyssey. This time, Mendax and his

   family were on the run from a physically abusive de facto. Finally,

   after hiding under assumed names on both sides of the continent,

   Mendax and his family settled on the outskirts of Melbourne.

  

   Mendax left home at seventeen because he had received a tip-off about

   an impending raid. Mendax wiped his disks, burnt his print-outs and

   left. A week later, the Victorian CIB turned up and searched his room,

   but found nothing. He married his girlfriend, an intelligent but

   introverted and emotionally disturbed sixteen-year-old he had met

   through a mutual friend in a gifted children's program. A year later

   they had a child.