Mundine champions the plight of Baryulgil people
By EMMA CORNFORD
WHEN he came to Grafton yesterday, boxer Anthony Mundine was not fighting for a title.
Instead, he was fighting for his family and others from the Baryulgil community, many of whom were slowly poisoned as they worked in the asbestos mines or played in the tailings, unwittingly inhaling the deadly fibres.
Mr Mundine, along with other members of his family and the community, was being screened for asbestos in his lungs by the Occupational Respiratory Screening Unit, which will be in Grafton until tomorrow.
Around 100 people will be tested during the week ? some will be former miners and their spouses, some will be their children and some their grandchildren.
Mr Mundine said the Baryulgil community had been virtually ignored for the past 30 years and people needed to be educated about their plight.
"People are dropping like flies up there," Mr Mundine said.
"We want to let the government know and the people to understand what went on here ... and we just want some justice."
Mr Mundine used to go to Baryulgil during school holidays to visit his father, Tony, who lived in the community and was recently found to have a spot on his lungs.
"It's not just my Dad but my entire family from Baryulgil. I didn't get to know my Nan and pop and that hurts me," Mr Mundine said.
"My cousin's also lost his eye from a tumor from asbestos and three others have lost their eyes and no-one can explain why. It's a third generation problem ? they've tried to sweep this under the carpet but it's been going on for far too long."
Mr Mundine's cousin, Grafton resident Albert Robinson, is the son of a miner and worked in the mines himself for a few years.
"We used to eat the peaches from around the mines. There were no grubs on them ? you know why? Because they were covered in asbestos. But we just wiped them down and ate them," Mr Robinson said.
"We think back now and we not only did that ? we'd play in it. Noone told us about the dangers, but they knew."
Mr Robinson said he 'feels sick' when he thinks of the pain his mother and father went through as they died as a direct result of asbestos. His mother died from Mesothelioma.
"She said to me, on her deathbed, that the pain she was feeling was worse than having a baby. Then I see what happened to myself and my sisters who have got asbestos and I want to see justice done and some form of compensation," Mr Robinson said.
Mr Mundine said he would like to see money put into the Baryulgil community to help future generations.
"We want to try and get some compensation ... to build the community and put money into the community so we can provide for each other and unite to provide a better future for the kids," he said.
"When it comes to Aboriginals we're fed the crumbs because they think we'll be happy with that, but you've only got to look at the community to see what's happened. It's appalling how they've handled it so far."