'Never forget, never again'

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Lorraine Burns at the cross marked wih the name of her brother Barry Branford, who was lost to mesothelioma.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Lorraine Burns at the cross marked wih the name of her brother Barry Branford, who was lost to mesothelioma.

"Never forget, never again."

Those were the words of Giles MP Eddie Hughes as he ended his speech at Friday's Asbestos Victims' Memorial Service which paid tribute to the 40-plus people in Whyalla lost to asbestos-related illnesses.

Services like this one will certainly make sure those lives aren't forgotten and those who hope for a better future believe it will one day ensure no lives are lost to asbestos illness again.

Among those affected by these deadly diseases were James Parker, a pensioner who Mr Hughes nominated for the Whyalla Citizen of the Year Award for his fight for compensation against BHP Billiton.

Mr Parker was first in South Australia to receive exemplary damages under the Dust Diseases Act 2005. He developed asbestosis after working in the BHP shipyards in the 1960s and fought for compensation from BHP for more than eight years.

The decision to award exemplary damages to Mr Parker was seen as a landmark decision which set an important precedent for other claimants.

"Mr Parker said it was not for the money, but was for all those others who would come after him," Mr Hughes said.

For many, asbestos-related illnesses meant they could no longer continue their lives after moving on from the shipyards, including Barry Branford, who developed mesothelioma while living in New Zealand.

He was a boilermaker at BHP, but spent most of his life in NZ after getting married there. He returned to Whyalla where he died, leaving a hole in the heart of his sisters Lorraine Burns and Rose Cooper.

Ms Burns attended the service and laid flowers at a cross marked with Mr Branford's name and photo, paying tribute to her brother.

"He got a payout and everything ... when he was starting to get really sick he said he wanted to come home to die," she said.

"It is lovely to have something like this service ... I know so many of the people here."

Marlene Arthur, who runs the Whyalla Asbestos Victims Support Group with her husband John, has lost three members of the group to asbestos-related illnesses in the past month.

"I don't like it, but this is part of our life ... we have learned a lot through these people, I am there to help the community the best way I can and comfort them to the best of my ability," she said.

"It doesn't matter how many years since they have lost people, they still feel that loss ... but you never lose your love for those who are gone."

If you need asbestos-related illness support, head to 87 Essington Lewis Avenue where you can speak to John or Marlene at the hub.