Anti-asbestos Campaign, Australia


People in Australia and the UK have experienced the highest deaths from asbestos-related diseases. Around 2500 Australians are currently diagnosed each year and 5000 have died. Estimates of fatalities from such causes, 1980-2050, range from 30,000-45,000.

See more...
Basic Data
NameAnti-asbestos Campaign, Australia
ProvinceWestern Australia
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tailings from mines
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesAsbestos
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsBetween 1948 and 1966, the CSR mines at Wittenoom produced 161 000 tons of crocidolite fibre.
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1980
Company Names or State EnterprisesCSR Wittenoom from Australia
Jamies Hardie - forced to establish a Medical Research and Compensation Foundation
Relevant government actorsWestern Australian and Australian governments
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMany environmental organisations supported the campaign which finally formed round the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ASDA) see, The Slater and Gordon law firm partnered ADSA in court cases
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
OtherUse in building materials and other products means widespread contamination and exposure to humans and uncertain impacts on non-human nature.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths
OtherAsbestos mining and milling was often conducted under unsafe and uncomfortable working conditions irrespective of the lethal nature of the material involved.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime
OtherAll Australians have been and still are exposed to asbestos in the form of environmental dust from degrading building materials etc. It would be almost impossible to estimate the economic and social impacts of the widespread use of asbestos for so many decades after WWII.
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesAlternative building and brake-lining products have been developed to replace asbestos.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.People and those who care about them cannot be compensated with money for experiencing a serious illness and death as a result of asbestos exposure. It took decades of environmental campaigning and court cases to pressure James Hardie, a key Australian producer of asbestos building materials, to establish a Medical Research and Compensation Foundation. In 1985, the Slater and Gordon law firm won its first successful claim on behalf of Pilmer and the same firm continues to represent victims, working with the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA). Famous campaign leader Berbie Banton had worked for James Hardie and developed asbestosis and pleural disease, dying late 2007 (aged 61) from peritoneal mesothelioma, after being made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for his ardent advocacy, awareness-raising and campaigning.
Sources and Materials

See the variety of legislation brought in summarised here:
[click to view]


NHMRC (2012)
[click to view]

Slater and Gordon (2012)
[click to view]

All sites accessed 10 July 2012

Hills, Ben (1989) Blue Murder: Two thousand doomed to die: the shocking truth about Wittenooms deadly dust. South Melbourne: Sun Books.

There are many more publications and documentaries.

Western Australian government
[click to view]

ADSA (2012) Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia
[click to view]

Barry, Paul (1988) Blue Death 23 May 1988, ABC 4 Corners award winning doco
[click to view]


[click to view]

[click to view]

Media Links

May 1988, ABC 4 Corners award winning doco
[click to view]

Other Comments0
Meta Information
ContributorAnitra Nelson — [email protected]
Last update10/10/2014