BERNIE BANTON – THE PUBLIC FACE
How it all began…….. In a David and Goliath battle against James Hardie Industries, Bernie Banton AM, was the public face for asbestos disease sufferers, their loved ones, and the wider community.
Bernie Banton died on the 27th November 2007, after an eight year battle fighting various asbestos related diseases, including in the end, mesothelioma, the terminal cancer only known to have been caused by asbestos. Not only was he living with asbestos related disease, but for much of that time he was fighting James Hardie Industries to set up a fund to compensate victims of asbestos disease, contracted as a result of having been exposed to James Hardie Industries asbestos products.
Bernie and the movement he so ably publicly represented as the public voice and face of the asbestos disease victim, triumphed, with the end result being one of the only ongoing funds of its type in the world, with James Hardie locked into paying 35% of its worldwide free cash flow (profit) into the fund to benefit asbestos victims for at least 40 years. This deal is estimated to be worth in excess of $4.5 billion of compensation to be paid to James Hardie asbestos victims. It could end up being much more, but importantly, unlike ‘Super Funds’ set up in the USA, the funding is ongoing, not a one off payment. Importantly, the way the fund, or scheme, is structured, James Hardie cannot use the fund as a reason to have a planned ‘bankruptcy’!
Bernie’s fight to gain compensation, for all present and future sufferers, exposed to James Hardie asbestos took its toll, with his final, personal battle for his own mesothelioma compensation being won only days before his passing.
Bernie’s final three years were also spent advocating the Federal Government to have the drug Alimta, listed on the PBS for treating mesothelioma. Alimta was placed on the PBS in 2008, after Bernie secured agreement for it to do so shortly before his death – no other drug has been listed on the PBS for treating mesothelioma since!
Many people will remember the iconic scenes of Bernie in a wheelchair, at the then Australian Health Minister, Tony Abbot’s office in Manly (Sydney) NSW. Bernie was complete with oxygen bottles and 17,000 hand signed petitions asking the Government to put Alimta on the PBS (a scene that lives on via YouTube to haunt Mr Abbott to this day). This was about 3 weeks before Bernie succumbed to malignant peritoneal mesothelioma cancer – it was Bernie’s last public media outing!
Bernie’s legacy of advocating for asbestos disease sufferers, their loved ones and the wider community continues……
THE BERNIE BANTON FOUNDATION
How it has continued………. After Bernie’s death, his wife Karen Banton, who had stood by his side during illness and triumph, founded the Bernie Banton Foundation to carry on his work.
The foundation is fiercely apolitical, and was founded by Karen Banton for only one reason, to uphold what Bernie Banton AM believed in; to assist people to navigate the difficult journey an asbestos disease diagnosis presents; to enable people to have informed choice about specialist asbestos litigators and medical professionals; to prevent people being exposed to asbestos by creating awareness of the danger it presents; and to advocate for, and to be:
‘The voice of reason for Australian asbestos disease sufferers, their loved ones and the wider community.’
We advocate on behalf of asbestos disease sufferers and their loved ones, particularly on Supportive Care Option issues such as; medical and legal referral; hospitals and cancer centres; clinical trials; dealing with local councils; palliative care and support networks; and liaising with the NSW Government’s, icare Dust Diseases Care. We also advocate pharmaceutical companies and governments on wider issues such as the number of treatment trials, and newly released drugs being made available to sufferers at an affordable price.
Whilst the welfare of asbestos disease sufferers and their loved ones is our primary focus, we advocate for the wider community on asbestos related issues with local councils, SafeWork, the EPA and so forth.
On a broader scale, when time and finances permit, we also work with like-minded stakeholders to advocate for better enforcement and strengthening of existing Australian legislation regarding asbestos. Internationally, we work with the Australian Government, the union movement and like-minded organisations and individuals to make the world a safer place, by advocating for a total ban on the use of asbestos and asbestos containing products and materials.
The breath beneath your wings®
If you, or a loved one has been diagnosed
with an ASBESTOS RELATED DISEASE and you would like to talk to somebody who knows what it feels like to be in similar circumstances to what you are in, whether you are a sufferer or carer, please phone the Foundation’s 24/7 Support Helpline Freecall® number: 1800 031 731
As we leave you pondering the whys and don’ts, please listen to another iconic video, written and performed to hi-lite the plight of the miners of Wittenoom, Australia’s only (now closed – 1996) ‘blue asbestos mine’, and once one of the world’s largest suppliers of ‘blue asbestos’ – the miners and their loved ones are still being diagnosed with asbestos related disease!
Note: The Bernie Banton Foundation is not accredited to provide advice. The information and/or advice provided is for assistance only. The advice of a qualified specialist should always be sought before making legal or medical decisions.