Children in a third Kimberley Aboriginal community are using an abandoned building believed to contain potentially deadly asbestos as a playground, the State Opposition has claimed.

Labor MLC Stephen Dawson last week stepped up his calls for the State Government to establish a register of asbestos buildings in Aboriginal communities in the wake of the latest revelations about the small community of Wangkatjungka, about 130km from Fitzroy Crossing.

In July, The Kimberley Echo revealed dilapidated asbestos buildings in two Kimberley communities had remained unfenced and without signage for years, with children at times playing in them.

“A couple months ago we raised the issues of asbestos in Bayulu and Beagle Bay communities, and from that a range of communities have started to contact me with similar concerns,” Mr Dawson said.

“In respect to Wangkatjungka, I had someone in the community check out this building for me and (they) were sure there was asbestos in this derelict building that needed to be removed.”

Mr Dawson said the community had recently hosted a sporting carnival and he believed the building was also used as temporary accommodation.

“It needs to be boarded up immediately… I’ve called on the Government to do a bit of an audit in these communities to establish where the asbestos is so it can be removed,” he said.

“I haven’t received any action on it and I do have a real fear that in 20 or 30 years’ time we will have a cohort of Aboriginal people who are all suffering mesothelioma or asbestos-related diseases.”

“That’s essentially what happened when there was asbestos mined in places like Wittenoom 30 or 40 years ago.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said because the land at Wangkatjungka was leased, the buildings were the responsibility of the community.

However, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was working with the community to find a solution.

He said asbestos was in the past a commonly used building material and it was likely a number of buildings across the State, including those in Aboriginal communities, contained asbestos.

“Concerns primarily arise when the material is disturbed,” he said.

“When asbestos is identified as potentially dangerous we work quickly to ensure community safety.

“In addition, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, through DAA, is working with key State and commonwealth agencies to develop a risk management framework, aligned to government policy directions.”


Asbestos concerns at Kimberley community