"Looking for Justice"
1962 bought to light the devastating tragedy of Thalidomide. Marketed as a wonder drug, Thalidomide turned out to be a monster that rendered thousands of babies with life threatening and life altering deformities. The world has never seen such a medical disaster as it saw with Thalidomide and it is estimated approximately 40% of babies damaged by the effects of Thalidomide died in their first year of life.
It's now 2019 and the adults that are living with the effects of thalidomide are simply existing in bodies that are worn out, painful, and unbelievably disabling. The future is bleak and understandably, survivors are scared. For the most part, Thalidomide survivors in Australia have been fiercely independent. Along with their families and loved ones, they have struggled and suffered … but they lived quietly. Today however, their disabilities and general health is being severely impeded upon as they age. After more than 55 years, Thalidomide survivors are looking to the Australian Government to recognize, own, and deliver on its responsibilities.
Attempts to contact our government to discuss the plight of Thalidomide survivors commenced in earnest in 2014. Hundreds of phone calls have been made and letters sent to political Ministers, Members, and media throughout Australia requesting governmental support. Unfortunately replies have been few and generally offered words of sympathy towards our situation … but little else.
In February 2016 (as requested by her office), a proposal was sent to the [then] Minister of Health, Sussan Ley, that would enable Thalidomide survivors in Australia the security needed to move into the future. The proposal was extremely unpretentious when taking into consideration the pain and suffering of those effected by Thalidomide. Responsible governments throughout the world have set up processes to compensate for the past, and financially support their survivors into the future, yet the Australian government has offered nothing. In fact, the evidence of abysmal neglect by the [Liberal] government (over 55 years ago) to protect its citizens against Thalidomide is shameful. The further evidence of that government’s abhorrent involvement to allow the drug to stay on the Australian market (even after they knew of its catastrophic effects), is unpardonable. And further to their total disregard of the Thalidomide disaster, is the fact that the German company responsible for manufacturing Thalidomide is [to this day] still allowed to operate here in Australia unencumbered by sanctions or penalties.
In December of 2014, the first of hundreds of contacts seeking support from our Government was initiated … and still the neglect and contempt continues.
The Health Minister (in 2016) offered us assurances that her department was working towards recognising our needs and guaranteed she wanted to see a resolution to our plight ... but still, nothing.
The current Minister of Health (The Hon Greg Hunt MP), met with us in June 2017 and appeared concerned and compassionate to our plight. In the following September, he forwarded a letter to Thalidomide Group Australia that was dismissive, disrespectful, and contemptuous to our needs. Again, in June of 2018, we met with the Health Minister ... and still, he ignores us.
World-wide, governments have heard the cries of their native Thalidomiders and are responding accordingly. They have recognised, designed, implemented, and reviewed packages that will support their Survivors, and enable them to move forward into the future with financial security and a sense of respect.
We are simply asking the same of our government … to afford us parity.