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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1883

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (12:12): Today I rise to talk about the great work being done by Holroyd City Council to tackle the problem of asbestos in my electorate. Australia suffers one of the highest rates of incidence of mesothelioma in the world with estimates of 13,000 cases by 2020 and a further 40,000 to 45,000 cases of asbestos related cancer.

It is a dreadful disease. The survival rates for mesothelioma are extremely poor with only five per cent of patients still alive five years after diagnosis. We have known about the dangers of asbestos for a long time. As far back as in 1917 and 1918 several US studies showed that asbestos workers were dying unnaturally young. From 1916 Prudential Insurance in the US would not give life insurance to anybody who worked in an asbestos related industry, yet the material continued to be produced for decades.

The issue of asbestos is a significant one in my electorate of Parramatta where James Hardie built its factories in the thirties. The factory remained open until 1982 and continued to sell its stockpile until 1987. Asbestos was used in the surrounding houses and also as landfill. The legacy is in our land, under our houses and our schools and in places that we are unaware of, as well as in the living bodies of many people who worked in the factories or shared a house with workers, and with the lost families and community members who succumbed to the fibres.

Today most houses built prior to 1990 in Holroyd have asbestos used in their construction. Thankfully, Holroyd council is recognised as a national leader in tackling the issues surrounding asbestos, a recognition afforded to it by the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia in 2010. The council have been instrumental in managing the high prevalence of asbestos in my community. For example, during Asbestos Awareness Week in November last year they launched a program to educate home owners, handymen and renovators about the dangers of asbestos. They have also been working with youth, together with students from Holroyd High School. Along with the Information and Cultural Exchange, Holroyd council last year developed the 'Ease the wheeze' educational video launched during Asbestos Awareness Week. It highlighted the health dangers of asbestos and used the students' creative song writing and filmmaking skills to sell the message. This kind of youth oriented medium is ideal for getting the message across to our youth. The young people of the area did a fine job in making that video; it really is very well done. I congratulate the Holroyd City Council for the work they are doing to educate the community about the dangers of this quite prevalent material in our electorate. They have done an extraordinary job, and I commend their work to the House.