Asbestos report reveals significant impact on indigenous communities

Date: May 18, 2017

Remote indigenous communities face unique challenges in dealing with the presence of asbestos, a new government report has revealed.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) commissioned a nationwide study into asbestos management practices in an effort to mitigate the ongoing risks that the hazardous material presents.

Asbestos exposure can result in various fatal diseases, the most dangerous of which are asbestosis and mesothelioma. The substance was used extensively in building materials and other industrial products throughout the 1960s and 1970s before the risks were fully realised.

However, mesothelioma and asbestosis symptoms often take decades to appear, meaning many sufferers are only now being diagnosed. NSW Health claims that different types of asbestos also pose different risk levels, with airborne fibres considered the most dangerous.

Anyone who develops a dust disease due to exposure during employment may be entitled to compensation in NSW.

The effect on remote communities

Peter Tighe, chief executive officer of the ASEA, said asbestos is a significant problem across the entire country, but remote regions encounter specific issues with management and removal.

“Indigenous corporations and land councils inherited ageing infrastructure that was full of asbestos – structures such as housing, churches and public buildings – and they require targeted resources to deal with this legacy,” he explained.

“The cost of removing asbestos in remote areas is up to three times higher than for other parts of the country. And in most cases the communities have limited resources and many other priorities to address.”

According to Mr Tighe, ASEA’s research brings innovative solutions to the problems that these communities face. However, he acknowledged that every region is different, so the report provides a variety of options to fit each area’s specific needs.

ASEA recommendations

The ASEA report highlights seven approaches that can help local governments and other authorities work with remote communities to deliver more effective asbestos management processes. These are:

  • Develop partnerships between asbestos management organisations, as well as encourage participation from indigenous corporations and land councils;
  • Adopt co-operative methods of utilising existing equipment and infrastructure for asbestos removal;
  • Optimise engagement though elders, long-term residents and other senior community leaders;
  • Follow best-practice models for communicating with remote populations;
  • Include asbestos management activities within other waste-disposal initiatives;
  • Boost staff capabilities in regional councils, land councils and Aboriginal corporations; and
  • Ensure effective attraction, training and retention of qualified locals for asbestos management to maximise cost savings.

“The findings of this study will give remote communities and governments practical options to consider, which can overcome the enormous obstacles to dealing with asbestos,” Mr Tighe stated.

Has mesothelioma or asbestosis affected you or your family? Please get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today for more information.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.