Walk for Wittenoom Children – Day 1 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Australia is a big country; the big spaces, breathtaking though they are, can be problematic when trying to get mobile phone reception. Standing atop a gigantic truck 20 feet above the Australian desert, Rose Marie Vojakovic, Executive Officer and Councillor of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA), reported on the first day of the Society's walk to raise awareness of the country's asbestos epidemic and funds for research.1 The ADSA event is fuelled by anger over cut-backs in government funds for vital research into the asbestos-related diseases killing so many Australians every year. The Western Australian capital of Perth, which is home to most of the walkers, is one of the world's worst affected asbestos hotspots due to the legacy of the Wittenoom Asbestos Mine.2

Rose Marie spoke of the emotions experienced by the walkers as they set off at 8:30 a.m. from Paddy Hannan's statue in the center of the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie. They were seen off on the first leg of their journey by politicians and well-wishers. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, developments were being followed on social media platforms with the ADSA's new twitter page making news available in real time. British MP Jim Sheridan, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety, has sent (see: letter from Jim Sheridan) the ADSA walkers his best wishes on their “600 kilometre walk through the Australian desert to raise money for asbestos-related disease research.” “We hope,” he writes “that the money you raise will help the research that is taking place in Western Australia to find new treatment options and hopefully a cure for these terrible diseases.”

After months of discussion, planning and training, the time had finally come. Strong feelings accompanied the walkers as they took their first steps; so many lost loved ones: fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters killed by Australian asbestos. Radio, TV, newspaper and media coverage has spread news of the Walk for Wittenoom Children throughout Australia. Having heard a report about the event, the bereaved son of one mesothelioma victim shut his business and plans to catch up with the walkers in the desert on day 2 so that he can honour his father's memory by joining the march. The spirits of the participants remained high throughout the day as they succeeded in reaching their individual targets of 10km to be covered before the lunch break, with another 10km to be covered after.

By the end of the day, the intrepid walkers had reached the comforts of Yellowdine where, Rose Marie reported, they would spend the night under the stars, sleeping on the bright orange sand. As we finished the interview, Rose Marie said that a traditional Aussie barbecue was being prepared down below. As much as she was looking forward to the grilled steak and sausage, the idea of the accompanying Australian red wine was, I think, the bigger draw.


See: http://www.asbestosdiseases.org.au/current-events.htm

May 1, 2012


1 Kazan-Allen L. Charity Walk for Wittenoom's Children. April 18, 2012

2 Peacock M. Fundraising walk to highlight asbestos cancers in young. May 1, 2012



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