COMMENCEMENT OF THE BARYULGIL MINE
2.3 The Aboriginal Legal Service states that the asbestos deposit at Baryulgil was discovered in 1918, and that mining started soon after. They quote Mrs Daley as saying :
'they started opening up the mine soon after we moved to Baryulgil Square and they wanted the men to work there, but they only did this for a while and they closed the mine. It was not started up again until years later.'"
2.4 This tallies with the submission of Hardie Trading (Services) Proprietary Ltd which states that: The existence of the asbestos was known as long ago as 1918 because of the outcroppings which were visible at the site of what was later to be the quarry ... The chrysotile deposit was first developed during the 1914-1918 War, although there is no record of production from this centre prior to 1942.14
2.5 Hardie Trading (Services) Proprietary Ltd go on to state that development was recommenced in 1940 by Wunderlich Ltd, leading to a production of 103 tons of fibre in1942, and that the mining plant was established in 1943. In 1944 the company Asbestos Mines Pty Ltd was formed to operate the mine, 50% of the shares being held by Wunderlich and 50% by the James Hardie Group.
2.6 The people of Baryuigil Square from the beginning formed the Core of the workforce of the mine and mill. The Aboriginal Legal Service states that: The mine operators relied on the Aboriginal community for labour to such an extent that for the next 35 years approximately 95% of the work-force was Aboriginal ... Not only were there sufficient jobs to ensure full employment for the Baryulgil community but the demand for labour was such that Aboriginal people from outside the Baryulgil community traveled there to work at the mine. People came from the reserves at Tabulam and Muli Muli. from Casino, Kyogle. Grafton, Yamba and Kempsey, a few Queenslanders and Torres Strait Islanders came too. The usual pattern for people who came from, for example, Tabulam, was for them to live at the Square from Monday through Friday and return to their home reserves on the weekend.
CONDITIONS AT THE SQUARE DURING THE PERIOD OF OPERATION OF THE BARYULGIL MINE AND MILL
2.7 The operation of the mine and mill did provide advantages that differentiated the Baryulgil Square reserve from many other Aboriginal reserves in New South Wales. The Aboriginal Legal Service comments: These days from the 1940s to 1979 were in a sense Baryulgil's heyday. Full employment meant that the community broke away from the chronic poverty which characterised other rural reserves. Individual breadwinners had the satisfaction of providing for their families and of doing hard work well ... Life in the Square was not idyllic by any means however. Housing was decidedly Spartan. Educational facilities left a lot to be desired ... although in recent years they have improved greatly. Health care facilities were almost non-existent and although the wages dispelled chronic poverty they were insufficient existent and to ensure real prosperity.
2.8 It appears that the houses at the Square were built by members of the community from whatever materials they could obtain. The Submission of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs states that, in 1975, when they first became involved with the Baryulgil community; living conditions on the Reserve were sub-standard. Housing consisted of 14 self-constructed dwellings with an inadequate water supply.
2.9 The Department further states that in 1976 they provided $43 244 through the Copmanhurst Shire Council 'for a Special Works Project on and adjacent to the Reserve', which 'included rubbish removal, fence construction, provision of a playground, minor house repairs and road works'," and that in 1977 they provided $9470 to the Aboriginal Land Trust for upgrading the water supply at the Square.
2.10 In 1977-78, the Department began planning for a rebuilding program to include 20 new houses, electricity, water and sewerage, with $114 000 approved for 1978179 and a further $195 000 estimated for 1979/80. However, following the growth of concern about the health risk at the Square from contamination on site and from the proximity of the mine and mill:
'DAA's New South Wales Regional Director decided that the views of Commonwealth and State Health authorities should be sought before proceeding with the Baryulgil rebuilding programme.'
2.11 As a result of these investigations, Department entered into discussions with the community with a view to their relocation to a healthier site (see paragraphs 2.22 to 2.24 below).
2.12 The Department states that while it:
'has been reluctant to provide more than basic services to the residents remaining at Baryulgil on the grounds that better facilities might encourage other people to take up residence despite the health risk ... the improvements have led to new building at, and some inward migration to, Baryulgil Square. DAA spent $14 087 in 1982/83, however, to provide electricity, septic tanks and upgrade the water pumping at the Square. THE ADC has provided $50 445 to renovate the six houses remaining at Baryulgil Square. In addition to Commonwealth funding, the New South Wales Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has provided $8000 to improve conditions at Baryugil.
Use of asbestos tailings at Baryulgil Square 2.13 Evidence has been given to the Committee that tailings from the mine and mill were made available to the residents of the Square, who used them for leveling and surfacing around teir houses and as 'sand-pits' for their children. The Aboriginal Legal Service stated in their submission:
'...the most extensive and and seriouse cause of scondary pollution was the widespread use mine tailings as the surfacing material in Baryulgil Square. As the area has high rainfall at some times of the year, as as the roads within Baryugil Square were little more than dirt tracks, those roads frequently became boggy. Early in the mine's history the practise was established of spreading mine tailings on these roads and around the houses to provide a surfacing material. We have not been able to determine accurately when this practice first commenced but it was probably within the first five years of the mine's establishment, that is the early 1950's. The 'Northern Star' article referred to earlier, notes the then Mine Manager, Mr Allen, claiming to have the cheapest road surfacing material available for councils and notes also that extensive use was made of this material in the area surrounding the mine. The practice of spreading asbestos tailings in and around Baryulgil Sqaure continue unitl 1977. We are unable to say with certainty how ofter tailings were spread about the Square each year, but it appears that this took place between 15 and 30 times per annum.
The usual procedure was for Baryulgd Square residents, having noticed that the roads and areas surrounding their houses were becoming boggy, to 'obtain the Manager's permission to take a truck load or sometimes several truck loads of 'shivers' down to the Square and spread them about the Square. One resident described how the children delighted in running along after the trucks which were spreading the asbestos and kicking up the dust, rolling in it and the like. The spreading of the shivers generated an extensive cloud dust.
Over the years very substantialI amounts of tailings were dumped in Baryulgil Square by this means. It is not possible to estimate the quantity of tailings which polluted Baryulgil Square in this way but a rough estimate would be to say that 20 truck loads per year were spread over a period of 25 years. This is a conservative estimate.
The tailings were often dumped near the houses as play pits for children.
hen there had been no rain for some time the surface soil and tailings which had been dumped in the Square became dry and the dust blew about readily. The dust was further stirred up by vehicles and pedestrians. It is not possible with any precision to estimate the airborne asbestos fibre levels which resulted from this secondary pollution of Baryulgil Square. However the residents described to use seeing a dusty haze not only in the area around the houses but also inside the houses themselves. The dust would settle on window ledges, tables, plates, etc.
Members of the Community also referred to this practice during the Public Hearings at Baryulgil on 6 February 1984:
Mr BLANCHARD - Who put the tailings on the roads as fillings? Who was responsible for that? Mr Marshall - We used to ask the manager. Mr BLANCHARD - Was this your request? Mr Marshall- Yes, our own request. We would go and ask the manager whether we could do It. We would tell him what we wanted it for. Mr BLANCHARD - Did the Shire Council have any part in the operation? Mr Walker - No. it never used to do the road in the Square then. It used to use it on the main roads, though. Mr BLANCHARD - But it did use it on the access roads? Mr Walker- Yes. It has even taken truck loads of it to town. We used to have people come out from town and get it because it makes a beautiful lawn. If you spread it about two inches thick you get beautiful thick grass. Mrs Gordon - That is why we used to spread it around our houses, to make the grass grow greener.
2.14 The practice of spreading tailings in the Square was apparently discontinued late in 1977 or early in. 1978. Referring to the survey of the Baryulgil community commenced in 1977 by the Division of Occupational Health and to a series of broadcasts by ABC Journalist Matt Peacock, which had dealt with health hazards at Baryulgil the Aboriginal Legal Service stated that:
As a consequence of the Division of Occupational Health's involvement and of Peacock's expose official reaction was swift. The practice of spreading tailings about the reserve ceased the tailings in the reserve were to an extent, covered over . . .
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs Submission stated that in November 1977, the New South Wales Health Commission:
brought to DAA's attention the use of asbestos tailings on roads and grounds in the Reserve. The Health Commission recommended removal or covering of the tailings because of 'possible dangers'. In conjunction with the ALT and the Shire, DAA provided $9032 for these tailngs to be covered with topsoil. The work was carried out in December 1977
2.15 A geological survey of the Baryulgil area was carried out in October 1980 at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs' request. The geologist, Mr K.C. Cross, commented. In relation to Baryulgil Square, that:
Tailings dumped in the Square were used to level uneven and, in the majority of cases, appreciably sloping ground. Therefore, erosion of soil cover is likely to continue to re-expose the tailings. Ants may also continue to play a significant role in bringing asbestos to the surface.
CLOSURE OF THE BARYULGIL MINE AND MILL
2.16 In April 1979, Asbestos Mines Pty Ltd ceased to operate the mine and mill. The quarry was allowed to fill to form a lake, and reafforestation of the tailings dump was undertaken. The submission of Woodsreef Mines Ltd states that:
substantial time and funds have been contributed by the Company to rehabilitate the area to the satisfaction of the Department of Mineral Resources and the owners of the property. The last of this work has been completed this year in conformity with an agreement entered into by the Company with the owners of the property several years ago.
2.17 However, an environmental survey commissioned by the Aboriginal Legal Service suggests that rehabilitation of the area is not complete, and that the tailings dump is still causing pollution, through wind and water run-off, of Baryulgil Square.
2.18 With the closure of the mine and mill, there was very little employment available in the area for members of the Baryulgil Community. The Aboriginal Legal Service submission states that:
The people of Baryulgil and nearby regions, who had for so long been independent of government welfare payments, now became dependent on the welfare system. The post-I979 era sees the population of Baryulgil Square dwindle as people move away to surrounding towns and to Sydney in the quest for work . .. The people of Baryulgil and neighbouring areas now face an uncertain future. A community with a long history of full employment now has virtually no employment opportunities and is welfare-dependent.
The submission of Frank Roberts, representative of the National Aboriginal Conference, states that 'It is a fact that most of the mature younger people have left the area in search of work.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BARYULGIL SQUARE CO-OPERATIVE
2.19 Discussions and meetings of the community at Baryulgil Square late in 1976 resolved to form a co-operative and to seek a 99-year lease of the Square from the holder of the freehold title, the Aboriginal Lands Trust. This culminated in the registration on 10 November 1968 of the Baryulgil Square Co-operative Limited as a community advancement co-operative society under the Co-operative Act 1923 (NSW).
2.20 The rules of the Co-operative, which had been discussed at community meetings over the preceding two years, provided that membership of the Co-operative should be limited to Aboriginals living on the Square or descendant from one of the three original families at the Square - the Mundine, Daley and Gordon families. The Directors were all to be members of those three families.
2.21 On 22 October 1980 the Aboriginal Lands Trust granted a 99-year lease of the Square to the Baryulgil Square Co-operative Ltd. The term of the lease was from 1 January 1980 to 31 January 2079. The lease was registered on 27 November 1980. Clause 7, relating to user, stated:
At all times during the term to use the demised premises only for the continuation and furtherance of Aboriginal use and occupation in accordance with the desires of the members of the Baryulgil Square Co-operative Ltd living on the Square and all descendants of the three original families. namely Daley, Gordon and Mundine, whether they live on the Square or not.
ESTABLISHMENT OF MALABUGILMAH
2.22 In 1979, the-Department of Aboriginal Affairs became increasingly concerned about possible health hazards at Baryulgil Square because of contamination from asbestos tailings previously used there as surfacing and fill and because of Its proximity to the site of the mine and mill and even after the closure of the mine and mill In April, to the tailings dump. Accordingly, the Department decided to defer any further expenditure of funds for upgrading conditions at the Square. The Department, through Its Area Officer, had first 'discussed with the Community the desirability of moving away from the health risk associated with the asbestos mine' but 'The community was not willing to consider the option of moving at that time'. However the department's increasing concern led to the proposal for relocation being raised again, and It was supported by the then Minister, Senator Chaney, on a visit to Baryulgil in December 1979. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs submission states that:
In May 1980. a leading member of the Baryulgil Community informed DAA that the residents had been discussing the Minister's offer of relocation, and that an overwhelming majority of residents had decided to move from Baryulgil Square to a new location nearby. A small number of families intended to stay at the Square. At a public meeting in June 1980, 27 of the 31 adult residents of Baryulgil Square voted to move to the new site.
A new organisation, the Malabugilmah Aboriginal Corporation, was set up by those people who had decided to leave the Square, and by September 1980 they had submitted a development application to the Shire Council, which was supported by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
2.23 On 10 December 1980, the Minister, then Senator Baume, announced a decision to develop a new site. 'By March 1981, a new site had been acquired, Shire approval for the development had been obtained, the site had been surveyed and the first earthworks commenced. The first house was opened and occupied on 2 July 1981'.
PURCHASE OF COLLUM COLLUM STATION
2.24 The Department of Aboriginal Affairs submission stated that consideration of a proposal from the former Aboriginal Land Fund Commission to purchase Collum Collum station, near Baryulgil, for the Baryulgil Community commenced at the end of 1977.
The station was purchased by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission in 1979 for $250 511, of which a holding deposit of $2000 was paid in the financial year 1978/9. The station is a cattle property comprising 10 000 acres of freehold and 8500 acres of leasehold. After July 1980, title to the property passed to the Aboriginal Development Commission.
2.25 Initially, Collum Collum was run by the Baryulgil Square Co-operative Limited. The Aboriginal Development Commission stated that:
The existence at this time of two community organisations, Baryulgil Square Co-operative and Malabugilmah Aboriginal Corporation, created difficulties with administration of Collum Collum station. The Aboriginal Development Commission was concerned that community harmony and involvement be preserved and maximised, and at the Commission's instigation in 1981, control of the Station passed from Baryulgil Square Co-operative to a newly formed representative organisation, Collum Collum Aboriginal Corporation.
2.26 The Aboriginal Development Commission said that it 'has continued to support the development of Collum Collum as a viable economic enterprise providing employment, income and social development for the Community'. In 1983 they granted a five-year lease of the property to Collum Collum Aboriginal Corporation, and intend to transfer title to Conum Collum Aboriginal Corporation at the end of that term.
2.27 At the time the Committee took evidence from the Aboriginal Development Commission, Collum Collum was carrying 420 breeding cows, 70 growing heifers and 150 marketable cattle. They expected 300 calves in 1985. The station is run by a non-Aboriginal manager, and three Aboriginal employees.
2.28 The Aboriginal Development Commission has also been 'investigating the possibility of exploiting the natural and scenic advantages of Collum Collum Station as a facility for tourists'. A draft proposal prepared for them by architectural and engineering consultants envisages a five-year construction program at a cost of $1.6 million. The proposal would provide employment for 12 people in the construction stage, and thereafter permanent employment for 12 people. However, Mr Donnelly, representing the Aboriginal Development Commission, stated that the Community were not in favour of the particular proposal though they were in favour of the general concept of development of Collum Collum station. The Committee has since been informed of a consultants report on this proposal, concluding that the project was not economically viable. The proposal is now unlikely to go forward. There is, however, a new proposal under consideration. This would provide wilderness-holiday experience for disadvantaged children of the inner Sydney City area at Collum-Conum station. The project would be a co-operative venture of the Sydney City Mission and the Collum-Collum Aboriginal Co-operative. It would need to be supported by Commonwealth Government funding and approaches have been made to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs seeking Commonwealth funding support. The Sydney City Mission has considerable expenence in welfare work with inner city youth. It employs a number of trained and experienced youth workers. It is believed that such a project would create valuable employment experience for some members of the BaryulgilfMalabugilmah communities and the opportunity for some to be trained as youth workers. As well as the socially valuable result of providing holidays and wilderness experience for inner city youths the project would have the.added advantage of providing employment and training opportunities for some members of the Baryulgil/Malabugilmah communities.
2.29 The Commonwealth has in total expended $3 343 578.00 on the two communities since 1977. The expenditure, based on information provided by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Development Commission totaled $1 784 414
2.30 In addition the Aboriginal Development Commission has expended the following amounts: (see report)
2.31 Tailings from the Baryulgil mine were used as a surfacing material in the Baryulgil School. The Aboriginal Legal Service submission states that:
Ex-pupils have described ... such pastimes as playing marbles in asbestos dust and the use of the tailings in the jumping pits. The foundations of the present day Baryulgil School are believed to Incorporate large amounts of tailings.
2.32 The evidence gives no indication when the practice of using tailings at the school commenced, but it appears to have ceased in 1977. Mr Lawrence of the Aboriginal Legal Service stated:
The practice of spreading tailings about the reserve ceased in 1977. Those tailings that were already in the reserve were, to an extent. covered over, Those in the local school were covered over.
2.33 At the same time, steps were commenced to eliminate or diminish any risk posed by the tailings already in the school yard. Among documents provided to the Committee by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and incorporated in the Transcript of Evidence is a letter of 28 November 1977 from the Secretary of the Health Commission of New South Wales to the Regional Director of the Department which stated: 'The Department of Education has now cleared all asbestos from the school grounds . . .' A file note of the Department, dated 9 December 1977 similarly incorporated, refers to an interview on ABC television with Dr John Ward, O.I.C. Aboriginal Health Section of the Health Commission, in which Dr Ward stated that:
'... the State Education Department had acted promptly to cover the school playground with new fill . . .'
2.34 Also provided by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was a letter of 22 February 1980 to the Acting Regional Director-Eastern from the Director of Education which stated:
I would like to point out that the present brick school buildings at Baryulgil have recently been completed (1977) at a cost of $177 000. The N.S.W. Department of Public Works, which is the constructing authority for my Department, has advised that any asbestos tailings on the school site at the time of construction of the new school buildings were covered by a minimum of 100 mm of topsoil and grassed or, in the case of the access road, has been covered by a bituminous seal.
2.35 The Department of Aboriginal Affairs referred to an arrangement between the then Minister, Senator Baume, and the then N.S.W. Minister for Education, Mr Landa:
to have urgent investigations made by appropriate State authorities to determine what could be done to protect the health of the children at Baryulgil School. Mr Landa wrote to Senator Baume in March 1980, indicating that the great majority of the parents had indicated that they wanted their children to continue attending the existing school, even if they decided to move to Malabugilmah. Consequently no action was taken to establish an additional school.
2.36 In April 1980, the State Pollution Control Commission expressed themselves as satisfied that the tailings used at the school 'are not now likely to cause any problems. ' That comment was quoted in a geological study of the Area carried out in October 1980 at the request of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. However, the geologist reported that 'Areas near the Community Hall and the Public School are contaminated with asbestos', and said, of the S.P.C.C.'s expression of satisfaction:
It is already evident that such precautions were inadequate. This emphasises how difficult it would be to predict whether any proposed scheme to bury the asbestos wastes in the Baryulgil area will permanently solve the pollution problem.
2.37 On 17 October 1980, Mr Donnelly, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs' Northern Region Area Officer, wrote to the Region's Director of Education about the decision of the Copmanhurst Shire Council to delay approval of the development application for the Malabugilmah site. Council was seeking further medical advice because of the fact that the tailings at the school had resurfaced.
2.38 In late November 1980, the Minister, Senator Baume. visited Baryulgil. As a result, on 2 December 1980, he wrote to the N.S,W. Education Minister, Mr Landa, expressing concern over possible health risks at the school, and indicated an intention to ask the NH & MRC's asbestosis sub-committee to report. These matters were also mentioned in a press release issued by Senator Baume on IO December 1980.67
2.39 On 15 January 1981, the Deputy Regional Director of the N.S.W. Health Commission inspected the Baryulgil school site. He reported that 'patches of ground containing asbestos tailings are clearly visible . . . '. The next day, he visited the Deputy Regional Director of Education, and expressed to that official the Commission' s view that a bituminous surface rather than top-dressing and turfing was required. The Deputy Regional Director of Education agreed to be guided by the Health Commission's advice. On 6 February 1981, a Department of Aboriginal Affairs file note referred to the following work having been carried out at the school: 4 inches of heavy loam ... deposited all over the playground; grass seeds... placed in the loam; bitumen ... laid in the spots where asbestos exposure is worst.
2.40 On 24 February 1981rM: A.T. Jones, Officer in Charge of the Industrial Hygiene Branch of the Health. Commission. and Mr K. McCosker, Regional Health Inspector made a further investigation of the Baryulgil area. They reported:
The play area immediately at the rear of the school building, extending across about twenty metres and out from the building about forty metres had been covered with a layer of soil and then asphalted by the Department of Public Works. This is the principal play area, and an area where mine waste has been used to fill depressions. There was no sign of uncovered waste. The nearby netball court had been similarly treated, and no waste was visible. Soil to a deplh of fifteen centimetres had been placed on a further area of the rear school yard and seeded. This extended out about sixty metres to the football field. Grass was growing well and was being sown at the time of inspectIon. No asbestos tailings were visible.
Sampling for airborne asbestos fibre was carried out on a lean 10 roof at the toilets, on the rear of the school building, both adjacent to the play area, and near the mound on the western side of the yard. The sampling period covered before school recess and lunch time play, and mowing.
Results of these tests were nil fibres per millilitre.
Covering of the yard with soil and grassing, and sealing with asphalt in the heavy play areas has eliminated exposed tailings and no exposure to asbestos fibre released from them by foot traffic is now anticipated. Provided these areas are maintained in this condition there should be no exposure to fibres from this source in future, and thus no hazard to children or staff.
A copy of their Report was sent to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs by the Public Health Division of the Commonwealth Department of Health. The accompanying letter stated:
... it would appear that the question of the existence of health hazards to school children has now been resolved. It is suggested that no further action should be taken.