While my novel has the word “asbestos” in the title and that the setting is Western Australia, it is not about Wittenoom. And it’s amazing how many people think that it is. Before writing the novel, I previously researched other works and found that the asbestos problem in Wittenoom had been extensively covered. My take on this subject is different. The novel poses the problem of “WHAT IF?” What if good government had to alleviate the public health risks, pass a law, and systematically remove all known asbestos from houses, buidlings, railways, fences, etc. On the subliminal level various themes in the book show that this removal by the government (ie the concerns that asbestos degrades over time) reveals fortitude, but in relation to my characters and the demolition of their home, no “one size fits all”. Something can go wrong and does!
WITTENOOM – There is obvious evidence that this town still holds the remarkable dangers of asbestos tailings left in this ghost town and in the humungous mine sites. It is still very, very dangerous to public health. In 2020, we have the Covid-19, but asbestos fibre that remains coated on the landscape is seeping into the Fortescue River catchment. Not far from “Mining Magnate” Gina Rinehart’s Mulga Downs.
In 2008, a “Wittenoom Asbestos Contaminated Area” of almost 470 square kilometres was declared and listed by the WA Health Department as “not suitable for any form of human occupation or land use”. It borders Mulga Downs station to the north and Karijini National Park to the west, south and east. The Youngaleena Banjima Aboriginal community lies 15 kilometres east.
Further reading – ‘The Blue Ghosts of Wittenoom’ by Cortlan Bennett.