The good fight

FORMER boxer Tony Mundine always knew that James Hardie would eventually bow to pressure and promise to compensate Baryulgil victims of the asbestos mine where he once worked.

However, he's not celebrating until he makes sure the good news is really true.

The community had been worried its asbestos disease victims had been left out of the building products company's historic $1.5 billion Australian compensation agreement.

However, James Hardie announced on Friday it would extend the agreement to ensure the hundreds of people who had lived and worked in Baryulgil could be compensated if they contracted an asbestos-related disease.

Mr Mundine, the former Commonwealth middleweight champion and father of boxer Anthony Mundine, worked for four years at James Hardie's asbestos mine in Baryulgil, west of Grafton.

Some of his relatives still live in the small, mainly Aboriginal town, but his mother, father and three sisters have all died.

He blames their deaths on James Hardie.

Mr Mundine himself now suffers from a cyst on the lung and believes that the disfigurement of cousins and other Baryulgil friends has also been caused by asbestos from the mine.

His family home was about a kilometre from the mine, which James Hardie owned from 1944 to 1976, and dangerous dust fibres would blow across to where the kids were playing.

"When you're on holidays from school you're up there running around," Mr Mundine said. "My family is still up there."

Mr Mundine was philosophical about James Hardie's promise to include victims from Baryulgil in an agreement that covers other Australian victims. "They had no option," he said.

He also said that he knew his people would not end up empty-handed.

"We have come to the point now where we have so many options at putting Hardie to court to compensate our people," he said.

"These days people who have got affected by it, they get compensated in some way."

NSW Premier Bob Carr also welcomed James Hardie's move.

"It shows compassion for the Baryulgil community," Mr Carr said.

"It will give the community certainty that any of its members who have asbestos-related diseases will not go un- compensated."

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