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Month: April 2021


At Reflections, we are passionate about reducing the ongoing impact of asbestos.

This extends not only to sufferers of asbestos-related disease but also to increasing awareness of the ongoing risk to help prevent future exposure.   

Western Australia has the highest recorded rates of mesothelioma in the world and, likely, the most in situ asbestos of all the Australian states. Our history with asbestos has left a devastating legacy.  

Wittenoom, the small town established to service the blue asbestos mine owned and operated by CSR Limited from the early 1940s until 1966 has seen a resurgence in its popularity since COVID19 has forced Western Australian’s to holiday in their own backyard.  

The mine may have closed more than 50 years ago with Australian Blue Asbestos Pty Limited‘s workforce long gone but it is now not only past miners at risk of developing asbestos diseases. Tourists visiting the town and mine are putting themselves at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma, the terminal asbestos cancer. 

There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.

This is particularly the case as blue asbestos, also known as crocidolite, is the most dangerous asbestos fibres owing to its physical properties making it easier to work its way into the lung.   

In an Instagram era where it is all about capturing something unique to post on social media, it is important to remember IT IS NOT WORTH STOPPING IN THE DEGAZETTED TOWN OF WITTENOOM to capture images you can upload with labels such as #wittenoom #wittenoomgorge #lungdisease #asbestos #ghosttown #mesothelioma #cancercountry and #wittendoom.  

Such a visit to the former town may be fatal.   

Alana Main 

Healthy WA

The health information site for Western Australians, Healthy WA, provides some very useful information regarding DIY renovations and dust. If you are looking to renovate or simply educating yourself, be sure to visit the website.

Renovation activities cause dust and other fibres to become present which can cause irritation to the skin, face and throat, and very fine dust can make breathing difficult.

People have to be very careful and know exactly what materials they are dealing with as this dust can be hazardous if it contains asbestos, lead, silicosis or respirable crystalline.

Healthy WA gives you the information you need to know before you start renovating. This includes the following:

  • What are renovation dusts?
  • How are renovation dusts generated?
  • Are renovation dusts dangerous?
  • Which renovation tasks create the most dust?
  • How do I protect myself from dust?
  • How can I clean up effectively and safely?

You can also find out all about the health effects of dustasbestos and lead exposure.

Asbestos in the workplace

We all have a responsibility not to harm those around us and to keep our environment safe.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has generated useful information regarding asbestos in the workplace. Even though asbestos has been banned in Australia since December 2003, it was used in over 3,000 products and can be found in many buildings and materials built or renovated before 1990. This means that asbestos is still very present across Australia and people have to be extremely careful to avoid asbestos exposure. There is no known safe level of exposure.

On this website you can find all the information you need to know about asbestos safety for trades and construction workers, how to find out if a building or structure contains asbestos, what rules apply to asbestos in workplace, and asbestos assessors and removal.

You can also find information brochures for specific trades including plumberselectriciansconstruction workers, the automotive industry and the fire safety installation industry.

Not bound by borders

While COVID-19 rings out around the world, let us not forget ongoing health and safety issues that know no boundaries and continue to affect people in our community every day.  

With the highest recorded rates of mesothelioma in the world and likely the most in situ products of all the states, asbestos has left a devastating legacy in Western Australia and its impact is far from over. 

On average one person dies every 12 hours in Australia from the terminal, asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, and it is estimated there are 4000 deaths per year from the effects of asbestos. 

Reflections was established in 2016 to support sufferers and their families; promote research into better treatment outcomes, and to increase awareness of the risks of exposure, particularly to home renovators and tradespeople.  

Jo Morris is co-Founder and Director of Reflections and has spent the past five years tirelessly working to reduce the ongoing impact of asbestos. 

“My father, Barry Knowles, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2010 and given 6 to 9 months to live. Defying medical odds, he survived seven years and, in that time wrote his memoir, Reflections Through Reality, which became a catalyst for establishing a foundation by the same name.

Before Dad’s diagnosis, although having lived in WA my whole life and working in the building and construction industry, I knew little about asbestos and had never heard of mesothelioma – it took some practice to even pronounce it.

Through my work, both as a building designer and with Reflections, I hear and see all too often the ignorance and lack of awareness around asbestos. Many people believe it is a thing of the past, that we are no longer at risk or that it takes long-term exposure. I was in that category until Dad’s diagnosis, and I can assure you, mesothelioma is not a word you want to have to learn.

Reflections’ support network currently comprises both men and women ranging in age from early 50’s into their 70’s. Every new sufferer that joins is a reminder that we need to be doing what we can to reduce the ongoing impact this devastating disease has on our community.”

Jo Morris – co-Founder and Director of Reflections


“My husband was 45 when he died of mesothelioma in June 2020. He never worked with it. But at some time, someone, somewhere, took a short cut to save money. Now he is dead, and my children have no Dad.” 


Greg was 50 when a dry cough and sore chest took him to the doctor for a check-up.  Having not worked for any prolonged periods with asbestos, the diagnosis to follow was the last thing he and his wife expected. In an interview a few months before his passing, Greg said,

“It is all about awareness, and it is also about educating people that you don’t necessarily have to have been a smoker to get lung cancer.” 

“It was a shock to receive the devastating diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma when I have never worked in the building industry. It is heartbreaking to have to share this awful news with my beautiful family and friends, particularly when it is a preventable disease.” 



Jo goes on to say,

“Over the past ten years, my knowledge of asbestos and its ongoing impact has grown exponentially. It’s what drives me to make change for the sake of our future generations.

With the average age of first exposure for WA mesothelioma sufferers being 24, we need to be vigilant to ensure young people, particularly those going into the trades, are empowered to make educated decisions when it comes to working with asbestos-containing materials.

2021 sees the inclusion of an asbestos awareness module into the Cert II in Building and Construction Trade Pathways. As exciting as this is, it still puzzles me as to why, so many years after asbestos was banned in Australia, it has taken little-old-me to point out the need. Sending apprentices and trainees onto worksites without an understanding of asbestos puts them at risk of suffering its devastating effects later in life.

With the DIY culture in Australia, I believe we also need greater awareness in the general community. As we spend time in lockdown due to COVID restrictions, will we look back in 30 years as another ‘wave’ of sufferers form?

In my opinion, a national asbestos awareness campaign is something that should have been rolled after asbestos was banned in 2003.

We are fortunate to have some of the world’s leading experts in asbestos-related disease here in Western Australia. While they work on finding a long-term treatment for mesothelioma, we need to be doing what we can to ensure people are not exposed to its source – asbestos.

Asbestos seems to know no boundaries. While it might be too late for some, I believe there is opportunity to increase awareness and, potentially, save lives. Knowledge is key! 

Jo Morris

To find out more, or to support the work being undertaken by Jo and the Reflections Team, head to www.reflections.org.au or email info@reflections.org.au