WA Greens MP Robin Chapple diagnosed with asbestosis, calls for Wittenoom clean-up

Western Australian Greens member Robin Chapple has revealed he has been diagnosed with asbestosis, more than four decades after his time working near the contaminated Wittenoom site.

The member for the mining and pastoral region, 73, worked as a mechanical engineer for a couple of months near Wittenoom in 1976 where he was exposed to asbestos dust.

The town, 1400 kilometres north-east of Perth, is regarded as one of the worst industrial disasters in Australia, with more than 2000 of the workers and residents of the town dying from asbestos-related diseases.

While the asbestos mining operations were shut down in 1966, the devastation it caused still affects people to this day.

Mr Chapple said he was diagnosed with asbestosis following tests in February however he doesn’t have any symptoms.

“I was just doing the usual routine check-up. I went down and got a CT scan and that came back that I had got asbestosis,” he said.

While the asbestos mining operations were shut down in 1966, the devastation it caused still affects people to this day.

Mr Chapple said he was diagnosed with asbestosis following tests in February, however he doesn’t have any symptoms.

“I was just doing the usual routine check-up. I went down and got a CT scan and that came back that I had got asbestosis,” he said.

“There was no sign of pleural disease which is another stage of asbestos disease. The changes were consistent with asbestos-related interstitial lung disease.

“At the moment, I am feeling pretty good. I am healthy. I am exercising. I’ve just got to see that this

While Mr Chapple said he was feeling healthy overall, his main concern was making sure the town site was cleared of the millions of tonnes of asbestos tailings that exist in the area.

“If we close Wittenoom, which we are working towards, that doesn’t resolve in my view the more serious problem of the millions of tonnes of asbestos tailings which are up there being washed down the creek into the Fortescue River and also blowing in the wind,” he said.

“We do need to clean that place up. The longer we leave it, the more it is going to cost us. I would hope that, notwithstanding the idea of closing the town of Wittenoom, that we can actually deal with the real problem which is these millions of tonnes of tailings that litter that area.

“All the time we just leave it there it’s like a time bomb waiting to go off. It needs to be dealt with.”

Mr Chapple also wants to ensure those who have been impacted far worse than he has are remembered and that further lives are not impacted.

“There are hundreds of people in Western Australia that have been helped by Robert Vojakovic and the Asbestos Diseases Association of Australia in their journey,” he said.

“While the focus might be on me, I am in fairly good health.

“There are many, most probably hundreds, of people who are in a far worse state that I’ll ever be in and who really do need the attention of the general public because it’s unacceptable in this day and age for this legacy, this horror that we perpetrated on people back in the 60s and 70s is still out there claiming lives today.”

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