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'Wittenoom Children's Walk ' Campaigners complete epic journey

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ADASA Media Release

Published on

A Perth group of family and friends whose loved ones died after living and working in the Western Australian mining town of Wittenoom, will today complete a 600 kilometre walk from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to Perth to raise funds to find a cure for Mesothelioma.

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 kids, 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. 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 more than  $100,000 for medical research.”

So far, asbestos related diseases have claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Wittenoom workers and family members. 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 Western Australia. 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 around 2025. As many as 45,000 people could die over the next two decades if an effective treatment or cure is not found.

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 and his wife Rose Marie run the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA).

Mr Vojakovic said people are 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. 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,” said Mr Vojakovic.

“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.”

Mr Vojakovic said there were many organisations that helped make the walk a success.

“We would like to thank law firm Slater and Gordon for their support during this fundraising campaign, and that the four staff members who completed the 600 kilometre journey with us.”

“Slater and Gordon in WA have been helping asbestos victims and their families secure compensation for more than 25 years and continues to be a good friend of the ADSA,” he said.

“I’d also like to thank Adams Coaches who donated the use of a 48-seater coach. Without their generous donation the walk could not have gone ahead.”