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Govt accused of ignoring asbestos woes amid i -

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Govt accused of ignoring asbestos woes amid intervention

Broadcast: 03/04/2009

Reporter: Anna Henderson

Residents of a remote central Australian Aboriginal community have accused the Federal Government
of a double standard that could have deadly consequences. They say the Commonwealth took over their
community under the intervention in a bid to improve the health and wellbeing of children, but it
is ignoring a serious asbestos problem in the town.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Residents of a remote central Australian Aboriginal community have accused
the Federal Government of a double standard that could have deadly consequences. They say the
Commonwealth took over their community under the intervention in a bid to improve the health and
well-being of children, but it's ignoring a serious asbestos problem in the town. And now it seems
this might not be an isolated case. Anna Henderson reports from Areyonga in the Northern Territory.

ANNA HENDERSON, REPORTER: This is Areyonga, 200 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs. It's here
where children once used to draw with toxic asbestos.

JUDY BRUMBY, ELDER: They didn't know it was poisonous 'cause it - they thought it was chalk or
something that they could play with it.

ANNA HENDERSON: There's asbestos scattered throughout the community, here on the sidelines of the
half-finished football oval, near a men's ceremony ground and metres from a water tank. It's also
present in the school and church and the people of Areyonga want it gone.

CRAIG WOODS, COMMUNITY REPRESENTATIVE: We've got the intervention put into the Northern Territory
and because of the health reasons for the kids and yet, you know, the asbestos is not addressed,
you know, because of this intervention.

ANNA HENDERSON: Asbestos in Areyonga is not a new problem. It's been documented in a Federal
Government report published in June last year. Yet this community is still waiting for action.

JUDY BRUMBY: Clean our community. We don't want sick people living in our community. We want
healthy people and children.

ANNA HENDERSON: The asbestos was first identified 18 month ago when workers discovered it near the
new football oval. They've now got real health concerns after unknowingly working so close to the
toxic material. Until the asbestos is removed, work can't continue and the oval sits dormant.

But the concerns about asbestos extend far beyond Areyonga.

PETER FITZPATRICK, COMMUNITY DOCTOR: My understanding from having seen some of the reports from
FASCIA is that it is very widespread, there are many communities in which there asbestos that needs
to be removed.

ANNA HENDERSON: And because the effects of asbestos can take decades to become evident, for the
people of Areyonga, it's a wait-and-see exercise to find out just how much damage it's caused. Anna
Henderson, ABC News, Lateline.