Wittenoom Asbestos Disaster: Remembrance and action

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and UnionsWA have today unveiled a plaque at the Remembrance Wall in Perth’s Solidarity Park and plans for a permanent memorial at the park to remember the victims, survivors and families that to affected by the asbestos disaster at Wittenoom.

Melita Markey, Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia spokesperson, said:

“For more than twenty years to 1966 of blue asbestos mining at Wittenoom around 20,000 men, women and children – workers, residents and visitors – were exposed and the toll of death and illness continues still.

“Wittenoom is now a declared contaminated site because of health and safety risks associated with asbestos.

“Until now the survivors and victim families of Wittenoom have had no place as a focus for their memories, grieving or to signify the importance in their lives of this disaster. 

“As important as it is to remember those who have fallen from this disaster, there remain today the need to ensure justice for survivors and family members and the fight for a cure.

“Unlike other states of Australia, in WA there are no compensation rights under law for those who have been cared for by victims of asbestos when those victims are unable to provide care as a result of their illness.

“Today’s memorial heard from The Hon Kate Doust, MLC, President of the Legislative Council, on her private members’ bill to address injustice for those being cared.

“Victim families and survivors have renewed our call for the Parliament of WA to urgently address this unjust treatment of carers and those cared for.

“Another injustice yet to be properly addressed relates to those family members of asbestos workers at Wittenoom.

“While workers have had a long fight for justice through workers’ compensation, many residents and victims exposed and suffering from asbestos related disease, have not been adequately compensated.

“This injustice also needs to be addressed in WA through law reform.

“Disaster of Wittenoom is not over.

“Former workers, residents and visitors and still being diagnosed and many more will live in fear of future diagnosis.

“Of course, asbestos is still to be found in homes and building across the country and particularly in WA.

“A failure to use working people accredited to remove asbestos, particularly for DIY home renovation, will pose a risk to health for decades to come.

“The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia is working hard with medical researchers to work towards a cure for asbestos related diseases.

Meredith Hammat, Secretary, UnionsWA said:

“A recent decision of a formal management order for the purposes of this heritage park at Solidarity park has vested responsibility for the management of this site into the hands of UnionsWA.

“It is significant that the first major decision on the management of this site by UnionsWA is the unveiling of this plaque on the Remembrance Wall which honours those killed through work.

“Further, work has now begun to create a significant and dedicated memorial on the site for all of these affected by the Wittenoom asbestos disaster.

“The health and safety of working people and their families has always been among the highest priority for unions.”


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