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April 23, 2018

Asbestos dust cloud threatens Beagle Bay school

Parents have been keeping their children away from a remote Kimberley school amid fears an old asbestos building being demolished just metres away poses a serious health risk.

An angry Jacinta Monck pulled her four children, aged 6-11, out of Sacred Heart School in Beagle Bay after part of its ceiling collapsed last Monday as water was being sprayed onto walls to help stop particles becoming airborne.

The incident created a huge dust cloud while children played during their lunch break. “There was a loud bang and a dust cloud had risen above the building being demolished,” Ms Monck said.

“The children were all ushered into the classroom and two of the school’s employees ran over to say ‘please stop work’.

“From that, it came that they would only work after school hours for the asbestos removal.”

Ms Monck was aware the work was happening but said a date was never given to parents.

“I was not told about what happened until I got home (last Monday) because I live on an outstation on the Dampier Peninsula,” Ms Monck said. “I was shocked and pulled my children out for the rest of the week.”

“My thing is not with the contractors, it is with the timing of the whole thing – school holidays are just two weeks away. No one had any forethought.”

An incident report has been prepared for the Shire of Broome.

Mining and Pastoral Member Stephen Dawson has written to Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Peter Collier calling for the work to be suspended at the school.

In the letter, Mr Dawson said the dismantling of the structure posed a risk to the health of children and urged Mr Collier to postpone the works until school holidays.

“This will ensure that students are not necessarily taken out of school as the community becomes increasingly concerned for their children’s welfare,” he wrote.

After travelling to Beagle Bay and meeting with the school principal Lyla Forte last weekend Mr Dawson said work removing the asbestos had not begun when he was there.

He could understand parents’ concerns and that children should not be at school while an asbestos-ridden building was torn down.

Several calls to the school went unanswered last week.

In July the _Broome Advertiser _first lifted the lid on Aboriginal communities plagued with abandoned buildings.

The Shire of Derby/West Kimberley said one of them in Bayulu were a significant health risk because fibres had the potential to become airborne.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs said the work to remove the potentially deadly material in Beagle Bay was not a risk to the public.

“The contractor is a Restricted Asbestos Licence Holder and has advised the work being undertaken does not pose any risk.”

Source article:

Asbestos dust cloud threatens Beagle Bay school

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