Australian Exhibition Highlights Asbestos Grief 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On February 26, 2010, a photographic exhibition opened in Tasmania which highlighted the personal tragedies of Australia's asbestos epidemic by focusing on 15 grieving asbestos widows from the States of Victoria and New South Wales.1 According to photographer Chris Ireland:

“I have titled the exhibition BREATHE. BREATHE is an imperative – it is what women must do every day in order to continue. BREATHE also refers to the struggle to breath each sufferer must overcome, and ultimately what they are eventually unable to do.”2

The event in Tasmania, which is the fourth in a national tour, is being sponsored by the Australian Workers' Union (AWU), WorkCover Tasmania and the Tasmanian State Government. The AMU has led calls for a national decontamination program which would make Australia asbestos-free by 2030. Speaking at the exhibition, Tasmanian AMU Secretary Ian Wakefield said:

“The asbestos plague has taken a heavy enough toll on this country already. The AWU is advocating a 'dangerous product' recall. This slow moving catastrophe has destroyed the lives of thousands of workers and their families – and will kill and maim thousands more over the next 20 years.”

The AWU is lobbying the government for a range of measures to deal with the national asbestos legacy including: setting up a national register of asbestos-related diseases, creating a National Asbestos Taskforce to prioritize action on asbestos and establishing a register of asbestos-contaminated buildings.3

February 25, 2010


1 Tassie photo exhibit breathes new life into reality of asbestos scourge. February 25, 2010.


3 The AWU is campaigning for the 'prioritised removal' of asbestos-containing materials from Australia by 2030.



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