Asbestos fight ‘not over’

The community remembered those lost to asbestos-related disease and vowed to prevent others from suffering the same fate at an Asbestos Awareness Day ceremony at Morwell Centenary Rose Garden on Friday.

The event organised by the Asbestos Council of Victoria and Gippsland Asbestos Related Disease Support was an opportunity to raise awareness of the harmful fibre and its devastating effects.

Guest speakers, including members of parliament, trade unionists and family members of sufferers, spoke about GARDS’ achievements and the work that still needed to be done.

Gippsland Trades Labour Council’s Steve Dodd shared some alarming facts, including more than 10,000 people had died from asbestos-related disease since the 1980s and this number was set to rise dramatically – “we haven’t reached the peak”.

He lamented asbestos-related deaths did not receive the same recognition nationally, as those who died during war or in road accidents.

“We need to speak about the danger that has not passed,” Mr Dodd said

“The only way we can make sure that people don’t suffer is to stick together.”

GARDS chief executive Vicki Hamilton thanked all who had supported herself and the organisation to carry out their work of supporting sufferers and lobbying for legislative and education-based change.

She said positive research programs into cures and vaccines for mesothelioma were being carried out and gave an update on the progress of removing of a “dangerous” federal government asbestos household guide, which was still available.

Ms Hamilton reiterated what other speakers had mentioned – that a third wave of asbestos-exposure was upon the community.

“People are still being exposed,” she said, adding that automotive imports and tiles from overseas filled with asbestos were available in Australia.

However Ms Hamilton said the biggest danger now was exposure through home renovations.

“I can’t stress enough to take all the precautions when renovating yourself. Get an asbestos audit on your home,” Ms Hamilton said.

“Latrobe City has asbestos home removal kits available and it may not seem like much, but it’s important to protecting yourself.”

The event was interspersed with performances from the Coal Valley Male Choir, the GARDS bag pipers and Newborough Primary School’s choir.

It concluded with an ecumenical service, officiated by Celebrant Beryl Stevens, where family members and others laid wreaths on a bed of crosses for those lost to asbestos-related disease.