Bernie and I gave some thought to the idea of a foundation bearing his name, around the time of his diagnosis in August 2007 with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer. Following Bernie’s initial diagnosis of asbestosis in 1999, he became a passionate fighter for justice on behalf of asbestos disease sufferers and their families. Bernie was also a man of great compassion. He felt it both humbling and an honour to effect positive change and inject hope for Australians everywhere, through his ‘never take no for an answer’ attitude.
Although Bernie’s quality of life was greatly diminished by the breathlessness he experienced, he considered himself to be ‘one of the lucky ones’. Indeed, Bernie was blessed with a God-given strength and inspirational words to be an influential voice. Only months before his passing, Bernie gained victory against a corporate giant via a tide of wonderful support from family and friends, unions, media, politicians, the general public, and of course asbestos disease sufferers and their families.
Since Bernie’s death ‘Devil’s Dust’, a TV/DVD mini series (collaborated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Fremantle Media Australia), has been released. This dramatization of a true story, based on Matthew Peacock’s exceptional book “Killer Company” brilliantly depicts how ‘through faith, Bernie and I faced and were able to overcome every battle’.
I feel very blessed as in 2012, I married an equally dedicated anti-asbestos crusader, Rod Smith. Together with his late partner Julie, Rod experienced her tragic journey of the ‘process of dying’ as he lovingly cared for her, whilst President and Support Co-ordinator of a Melbourne-based asbestos related disease support society.
Julie was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2008. Julie’s exposure to deadly asbestos had been some fifty years earlier through her Dad, unwittingly bringing asbestos fibres home on his clothing from his workplace. Julie valiantly fought her condition with amazing courage and grace, losing her battle in September 2011.
With the support and expertise of a team of talented colleagues, Rod and I feel incredibly privileged to continue Bernie’s legacy and Julie’s legacy. I know both Julie and Bernie would be really pleased and proud concerning the support and hope being offered by the Bernie Banton Foundation. Please read further to find out about the support and advocacy we offer sufferers of asbestos related diseases and their loved ones.