Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Removal of Asbestos at Areyonga

Joint Media Release with:

  • Warren Snowdon MP, Member for Lingiari

Asbestos removalists, McMahon Services, this week began work on removing asbestos containing debris in the remote community of Areyonga in the Northern Territory.

In April, in response to community concern the Government arranged for asbestos removal experts to reassess whether the asbestos needed to be removed immediately in Areyonga.

The Government was advised that although it was important to remove the material as soon as practical, left undisturbed it did not pose an immediate health risk.

The removal is expected to be finished by the end of May 2009.

McMahon Services will conduct air quality monitoring while the removal work takes place.

The asbestos containing debris will be removed from the community and buried at a licensed landfill facility.

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) organised a community meeting in Areyonga on 1 May to explain the project and provide community residents with an opportunity to ask questions.

A Government Business Manager based at Areyonga will continue to ensure that the community is properly informed and all the necessary precautions are taken while work is underway.

The Government understands community concern about asbestos and associated health risks.

Asbestos is the legacy of numerous building programs conducted in the NT over many years.

After being made aware of the presence of asbestos containing materials in some Indigenous communities, the Australian Government ordered a comprehensive survey of 73 communities involved in the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).

To date asbestos in varying conditions has been identified in 62 of the 73 communities. High-risk asbestos in Kalkarindji, Gunbalunya and Galiwinku required immediate removal, which was undertaken.

The five-year leases acquired under the NTER legislation over prescribed communities, including Areyonga, are held by the Australian Government.

FaHCSIA is working with the NT Government on a plan to remove the asbestos containing materials which was recommended for removal within 12 months and for the future management of the remaining asbestos materials.