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On Australian Shores: Survivor Stories

[by Dr Magali McDuffie]

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Dr Anne Poelina. Image: supplied

On Australian Shores: Survivor Stories is a new documentary which has just been released under a CC-BY-4.0 Educational License: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hca49QyiTvI, meaning it can be screened, reshared and distributed by anyone as long as the authors are acknowledged. 

 

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kimberley Aboriginal workers were involved in weed spraying campaigns organised by the Agricultural Protection Board of Western Australia. They received no training or protection equipment. They were told the chemicals they were mixing and spraying by hand were safe to use. Unbeknownst to them, they were spraying a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D - the two components of Agent Orange. 

 

Many healthy young Aboriginal men died in their thirties and forties, leaving behind heartbroken parents, partners, siblings, children, and communities. But the impact was not limited to them. The toxins they were spraying affected their wives, who suffered miscarriages and could not have children, and their own children, who were in contact with their clothes. Auntie Lena Buckle, from Derby, lost a daughter, a son, and a grandson. Many of the survivors today have suffered cancers and other conditions. Many of their grandchildren are also affected, some born with malformations. Senior Nyikina Elder Lucy Marshall AM campaigned for the victims of Agent Orange in the Kimberley for most of her life - she received an Order of Australia Medal for her tireless efforts. She passed away last year, without the answers she was seeking, having lost a son, a grandson, and a nephew. Some of her son's organs are still held in a facility in Perth - against Aboriginal cultural protocols. 

 

Two government enquiries were held in 2003 and 2004. Cancer sufferers were promised compensation - none of the other ailments or deaths were attributed to the use of Agent Orange. The ABC covered the story in a 2014 Four Corners Programme (Chemical Time Bomb). Repeated calls for compensation and recognition of the victims have fallen on deaf ears, due to the statute of limitations. 

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