ABOUT 24 asbestos campaigners stopped in Merredin on Wednesday afternoon as part of their 600-kilometre walk from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to Perth to raise funds to find a cure for mesothelioma.
The campaigners included a group of family and friends whose loved ones died after living and working in the WA mining town of Wittenoom in the Pilbara region.
While the Wittenoom asbestos mine has been closed for nearly five decades, its deadly legacy continues to be felt by many Western Australians.
No group of people demonstrates this more clearly than the children of Wittenoom.
Many of these children, now adults, who were in Wittenoom because their parents worked in the town, are being diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses.
One of the walkers, Derryn Carnaby, lost her father, mother and two of her brothers to mesothelioma – an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the lungs, heart and abdomen after exposure to asbestos fibres.
Mrs Carnaby said the heartbreak of losing four members of her family to the disease and the concern that thousands of others exposed to asbestos fibres will suffer the same fate is driving her to help find a cure.
“My brother was four when my parents lived and worked in Wittenoom,” she said.
“He died at the age of 36.
“Mum and Dad and another brother also died from mesothelioma years later.
“No family should have to suffer such devastation.
“There is no cure for asbestos related diseases.
“We want to change that and hope to raise $100,000 for medical research.”
At the time of print they had raised about $50,000.
So far, asbestos-related diseases have claimed the lives of more than 2000 Wittenoom workers and their families.
Medical experts warn that anyone who lived in Wittenoom during the mining period would have been exposed to asbestos and are at higher risk of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestos and pleural diseases.
There is also great concern for the next generation of victims.
Evidence is starting to emerge of a new wave of asbestos victims in WA.
What’s most concerning about this is that few have been to Wittenoom and instead, they have been exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres through activities like home renovations.
But, it seems the worst is yet to come.
Epidemiologists report asbestos diseases are expected to peak in Australia at about 2025.
As many as 45,000 people could die over the next two decades if an effective treatment or cure is not found.
It is for this reason that the Asbestos Diseases Society Walk for Wittenoom Children was organised which saw the campaigners start in Kalgoorlie-Boulder on Tuesday, May 1 and trek through the Goldfields and Wheatbelt to the finish line in Perth on Saturday, May 5.
Robert Vojakovic, who worked at Wittenoom and has spent the past 33 years campaigning to help the victims of asbestos related diseases, also took part in the walk.
Mr Vojakovic, who heads-up the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia, said people were still being exposed to the deadly fibres and need to know the dangers of asbestos.
“Even though the Wittenoom mine closed at the end of 1966 we are seeing more and more people being diagnosed with asbestos related illnesses,” he said.
“This insidious product made its way into the wider community through its use in everyday products.
“It was used as insulation, carpet underlay, vehicle brake pads, fire retardant, in kitchen appliances and building products.
“Every dollar raised from this walk will go to medical researchers at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital to help them find a cure for this horrible disease.”
Public support is urgently needed for the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and all donations are welcome; those of $2 or more are tax deductible.
For more information call the society on 9344 4077 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to PO Box 1394, Osborne Park 6916.