The Baryulgil asbestos mine employed dozens of indigenous workers, many of whom have already died.
The Baryulgil asbestos mine employed dozens of indigenous workers, many of whom have already died.

“They played in asbestos piles as if they were sandpits”

THE NSW Greens are calling for a state inquiry into Baryulgil, a remote Aboriginal community north-west of Grafton where asbestos was mined and milled from the early 1940s until 1979.

Upper house MP Jan Barham said she had heard reports of areas within the town where the asbestos clean-up never happened after mine owners James Hardie shut down operations.

"I'm going to visit Baryulgil and start gathering information," she said.

"Some of the people who lived there have moved, so now there are two communities that are affected - those who left and those who stayed.

"I want to find out whether it is safe for them to be there and whether the James Hardie compensation money that was made available was enough."

The Baryulgil asbestos mine employed dozens of indigenous workers, many of whom have already died.

But it was not just the workers who were affected.

"I am told that children played in asbestos piles as if they were sandpits," Ms Barham said.

"Many of those people have died or are unwell, and services are not being provided."

Ms Barham questioned the State Government's health and finance ministers in November about what health programs and monitoring were in place to help locals affected by asbestos exposure.

She also asked whether reports of new asbestosis diagnoses still being made were true.

She expects to receive answers within the next fortnight.

"I've been told by some people there were areas where the clean-up didn't happen, and it is still a public health risk," she said.

"I want to gather as much information as I can on my visits so I can prepare a report and go from there."

The NSW Government has announced $250 million funding for a voluntary home buyback scheme for houses that used loose-fill Mr Fluffy asbestos roof insulation in the 1960s and 1970s.

-APN NEWSDESK


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