Thalidomide Group Australia
Here now ... Looking for Justice
Please note that the following is a brief timeline summarizing some of the efforts to communicate with Canberra in the past 6+ years.
Hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls have been made, plus meetings attended ... and we are still waiting to be heard.
Letters sent in email and hard-copy to relevant Ministers of Parliament requesting a meeting to discuss the needs of the Australian Thalidomide survivors.
Phone calls with both the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health led to each
pointing the finger of responsibility to the other … saying Thalidomide issues fall under the umbrella of someone else.
Contacts and meetings were made with local members and Ministers to enlighten them to our needs.
Letters of appreciation forwarded to any member responding to our initial contacts.
Letter received from Prime Minister Abbott’s office stating he was too busy to meet with our
The letter suggested we contact Minister Sussan Ley, Health Minister.
Contacts began with the Media requesting meetings to discuss our plight.
Discussions surrounding a rally in Canberra of Thalidomide survivors.
Meeting with Minister Sussan Ley in her Sydney office.
Minister Ley afforded us 20 minutes in which she listened, empathised, promised to “go in to bat for us”, and asked her attending assistant to look at how NDIS will support our needs.
Contact with Minister Ley asking for direction and reminding her of her promise.
Phone call from (E) in Minister Leys office stating that Minister Ley was sincerely concerned and wanted to follow us through to a resolution.
(E) was a senior staff member that had been directed by Minister Ley to contact us.
(E) asked how was it that we hoped the government would offer support?
That same afternoon, a proposal was presented to Minister Ley.
(E) advises [by phone] that the apology asked for on our proposal would not be forthcoming as the
government felt no responsibility towards the Thalidomide disaster in Australia.
Phone call from new contact at Minister Leys office.
(L) was a senior advisor to Ley.
(L) advised Minister Ley was preparing a report to be then presented to the Department of Finance.
(L) phones to report that [due to the complexity of Thalidomide in Australia] Minister Ley was
commissioning an investigation from legal representation to look at the history of Thalidomide in our country and its relationship to/with the government.
(L) phones and asks [to help their research] if there are any supporting articles and/or documentation that outlines the projected health and aging concerns of a Thalidomide survivor?
An extensive research was undertaken, and a list of references was sent to (L) within the week.
Invitations sent to Minister Ley, (E), and (L) to attend the 2016 TAI Bi-Annual Conference in Adelaide.
After requesting feedback from Leys office re:update of our proposal, we were advised Ley had her investigative report on her desk (complete with recommendations) but had not yet read it.
We were advised to allow 4 weeks for the Minister to familiarise herself with the investigation.
After five weeks we made enquiries to Leys office, and were informed the Minister still hadn’t gotten around to the paperwork.
Met with (E) at her Canberra office.
She was apologetic to be unable to shed further light on our situation with the Minister.
Sussan Ley resigns her position as Minister of Health, Aged Care, and Sport.
Letters sent in email and hard-copy to relevant Ministers and members of Parliament requesting a meeting to discuss the needs of the Australian Thalidomide survivors.
Any responses from Ministers and members (Liberal, Shadow, and Independent), echoed the same message that unfortunately they are too busy to meet with us!
A response from the new Minister of Health (Greg Hunt) states our request to meet has been forwarded to the Minister’s advisor for follow-up, and also to the Minister’s diary manager.
Still waiting to hear from Minister Hunt's staff.
Appointment to see Shadow Minister of Health, Catherine King, (in her Ballarat office) to discuss our cause.
Shadow Minister King promised to “look into” and “ask around” … and get back to us within a few weeks.
Meeting in Canberra with Federal Minister of Health, Greg Hunt MP (at the Ministers Invitation) to
discuss the proposal presented by Thalidomide Group Australia.
A meeting was also undertaken with a representative of the Hon Bill Shorten MP. In ALL the time we
have requested a meeting with Hon Bill Shorten, we have been informed he is too busy to meet.
Letter received from Health Minister Hunt to Thalidomide Group Australia outlining the governments intent of support. This letter informs us of the Ministers;
1. intention to write to the Managing Director of Diageo Australia requesting urgent
consideration for further support, and
2. offers a “formal and lasting recognition of what occurred in the tragic case of
Thalidomide” [which we understand to be a memorial plaque as this was discussed
in our meeting with the Minister].
A response letter was sent to Health Minister Hunt from Thalidomide Group Australia
expressing our disbelief and disappointment in the Ministers offering.
Our letter was also “cc’d” to other relevant Ministers, and Parliamentary contacts.
Mailout to ALL Federal members and ALL members in the Senate to notify them of our communications with Minister Hunt, update them of our "fight", and ask for their support.
Total of 222 letters were posted.
Contact made from Shadow Health Minister, Catherine King (8 months after meeting with her at her Ballarat Office).
King’s office stated the shadow Minister was intending to contact Minister Hunt to present a bipartisan option.
(as of 04.05.2018, we are still waiting to hear back from King’s office and they have ignored our contacts)
Reply email from Minister Hunt saying he was “keen to meet”.
Despite many attempts to secure an appointment since, the Minister has ignored our calls.
Meeting with Senator Richard Di Natale’s office (Leader of the Australia Greens and Senator for
Assurances were given by the Senator's office that the Senator would raise our issues with Minister Hunt, that he would also raise our issues in the Senate Estimates, and also source specific documentation vital to our cause.
(as of 04.05.2018, we are still waiting to hear back from the Senators office and they have ignored our
Senator Jordan Steele-John’s office makes contact with Thalidomide Group Australia in response to our mass mailout on November 30, 2017 ... (Senator for Western Australia).
Assurances that the Senator was extremely interested in our plight and was keen to follow-through with support.
Meeting with  representatives from Minister Greg Hunt’s office to discuss a permanent memorial in recognition of Thalidomide in Australia.
NOTE: This was a meeting to establish what the Minister was offering, NOT an acceptance of his offer.
Interview with ABC News.
Meeting with Senator Chris Ketter (Senator for Queensland) to discuss the plight of the Australian Thalidomide victim, and any possible options of support he could afford.
ABC News screening of report on Thalidomide Group Australia's "Looking for Justice"
In Canberra ... meeting with Senator Jordan Steele-John (Australian Greens).
In Canberra ... meeting with Shadow Health Minister, Hon Catherine King MP.
Shadow Minister King offered a Senate Inquiry, which TGA accepted.
In Canberra ... meeting with Federal Health Minister, Hon Greg Hunt MP.
In Canberra ... meeting with Senior Health Advisor to Prime Minister.
Channel TEN broadcast on The Project reporting of Thalidomide Group Australia's fight for Justice.
MEDIA RELEASE - Labour moves for Senate Inquiry into support for Thalidomide survivors.
Senate Inquiry Hearing conducted in Melbourne (first of two Hearings).
Senate Inquiry Hearing conducted in Sydney (second of two Hearings).
Community Affairs Reference Committee release an Interim Report on Support for Australia's
MEDIA RELEASE - Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee releases an interim report for
Australian Thalidomide survivors.
ABC Australian Story airs program "A Bitter Pill" ... with a focus on our fight for justice.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee releases its Final Report into Support for Australian thalidomide survivors.
The recommendations included in this report are favourable to both recognised and 'yet-to-be'
Meeting with Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten promises to deliver a national apology and financial package to Thalidomide survivors (should he be elected at the Federal elections in May).
Phone call from Health Minister Greg Hunt to Lisa McManus (TGA)
No discussions surrounding a financial support package for survivor's ... only discussions around a "reflections" garden in Canberra.
The Minister said he would include an "apology" at the unveiling of the garden.
2019/Mar 22: Article in The Australian newspaper by Chip Le Grand - Thalidomide survivors on cusp of apology and
2019/Mar 22: Nine News Report - Australian Thalidomide victims await apology and compensation.
2019/Mar 22: Australian Story Article - Belinda Hawkins
"Thalidomide survivors anxious to hear how the government will safeguard their future"
2019/Apr 3: BBC News article online - How Australian response lagged behind.
Continued discussions with the Department of Health (Acting Dept Secretary) regarding the drafting of incoming government briefings in preparation for the Federal elections on May 18th.
Australian Federal ELECTION: LNP is re-elected to government.
Thalidomide Group Australia is asked to assist in writing a "SNAPSHOT" of thalidomide for NDIS references.
ABC News online article - Belinda Hawkins. "A Bitter Pill"
Meeting with [newly appointed] Shadow Minister of Health, Chris Bowen (in Canberra)
Meeting with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt (in Canberra).
The Minister informs Thalidomide Group Australia that he would deliver 'his response' to the Senate Inquiry recommendations, in early 2020.
Visit to the National Arboretum in Canberra to consider the "Garden of Reflection" on offer from the Federal Health Department as a memorial of Thalidomide in Australia.
Meeting [in Canberra] with Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John.
A letter from the Department of Health states "[Minister Hunt's] response is expected to be finalised by mid-next year.
This would make a 16 month gap between the Senate Inquiry recommendations being handed down ... and a formal response by the government.
A letter from Thalidomide Group Australia is sent to the Health Department highlighting the concerns surrounding such a lengthy timeframe of response to the Senate Inquiry recommendations.
This letter also discussed the inappropriateness of the "Garden of Reflection" at the National Arboretum as a memorial of Thalidomide in Australia.
Opposition spokesmen Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten write a letter to Minister Hunt and Disabilities Minister Stuart Robert, to act urgently.
Their letter includes "You will have our full bipartisan support if you do - and you should expect our ongoing scrutiny if you do not".
Article by Latika Bourke (SMH, The Age, & Brisbane Times) highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
Radio Interview with ABC John Faine highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
Radio Interview with Leon Delaney 2CC (Canberra) highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
Channel Nine News interview and broadcast with Harry Frost highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
Article by Josh Butler from '10daily' highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
Interview with Genevieve Jacobs from "The Riot Act" - Canberra highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
2019/Oct 11 :
Interview with Nine Network "A Current Affair" broadcast ... highlighting the inaction of the Australian Government to support the Thalidomide survivors in Australia.
9News A Current Affair online article ... Letter shows doctors told about dangers of Thalidomide in 1961.
Letter from Thalidomide Group Australia to Health Minister Hunt requesting his understanding for a swift resolution, full acceptance, and prompt implementation for all senate inquiry recommendations.
Parliament Canberra - the upper house passes a motion condemning the federal government's slow response to a landmark report into the issue.
A second article by Josh Butler from "10daily" highlighting Senate Calls For 'Urgent' Apology To Australia's Thalidomide Survivors
9 News Canberra feature a segment "Thalidomide survivors and disability advocates say the government is dragging its feet on delivering compensation and a national apology".
Article in the Courier Mail by Hayden Johnson ... Thalidomide babies dying for apology.
10daily (2nd article) - Josh Butler
Mass mailout to Senators, LP and LNP Minister and members, and Independents, for
support in urging Minister Hunt to accept responsibility for the ongoing catastrophe
of Thalidomide and to deliver a speedy and decisive action to its survivors.
(Letters written and dated 18.10.2019).
2020/Feb 25: Shadow Minister Chris Bowen took the opportunity in Question Time [Parliament] to ask the
Prime Minister why there hadn’t been a response to the Senators recommendations tabled last
Health Minister Greg Hunt stated they “will take steps to do what no other government has ever
done, and we are working through that calmly and carefully and appropriately to deliver justice
to those thalidomide victims, who have never before been given that justice”.
2020/Feb 25: Article in The Herald Sun (by Tamsin Rose) - "Script for Suffering" ... focusing of the continuum of
inaction from the Australian Government to respond to the senators recommendations from
March 22, 2019.
2020/Feb 26: Meeting between Thalidomide Group Australia and Health Department.
A timeline of April 2020 was given for Health Minister Hunt's response in preparation to the 2020
Federal Budget in May.
2020/Mar 4: Senate Estimates: The Health Department are questioned regarding timelines and intent of
Health Minister Greg Hunts response to senate recommendations from March 22, 2019.
2020/Mar 6: Australian Story was awarded the Melbourne Press Club Quill for disability reporting in
production of "A Bitter Pill"
2020/Mar 19: The Health Department today "reassured" Thalidomide Group Australia [via teleconference] that
despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still working on a package to be tabled by Health
Minister Hunt in April (in line with 2020 May Budget).
2020/Apr 17: Article by Gus McCubbing (AAP), highlighting Minister Hunt's inability to now confirm a date to
table his formal response to the senate inquiry of 2019.
Canberra News - Hunt slammed for federal thalidomide delay.
2020/Jun 26: Meeting with Health Minister Hunt in his Somerville office to further discuss his intention
surrounding a support package, and a proposed date for his announcement.
2020/Aug 5: Teleconference with the National Capital Authority to discuss a memorial for Thalidomide in
2020/Oct 6: FEDERAL BUDGET 2020 - Support for thalidomide survivors
The Australian Government announce they will provide a life-time support package for all
recognised thalidomide survivors.
Unrecognised survivors are eligible to apply for recognition.
The support package is in response to the 11 recommendations of the Final Report from the
Senate Inquiry into support for Australian thalidomide survivors.
The support package will provide $44.9 million.
2020/Oct 10: 7News - Gus McCubbing ... "Thalidomide support won't buy dignity"
2020/Oct 19: Interview with Australian Medical Republic (specialised Health Journal AU) regarding the recent Budget
announcement and Federal support program.
2020/Oct 21: Initial meeting with Mr. Steven Davison (Ministry of Health, N.S.W.) regarding thalidomide survivors and
disability supports in Australia (NDIA).
2020/Dec 17: Visit to Canberra to meet with the National Capital Authority (NCA) and to visit potential memorial sites.
2021/Feb: The Federal Health Department announces its intention for the National Apology to be delivered to the
thalidomide community by Health Minister Hunt, in March 2021.
TGA is informed by the Department that due to COVID-19 restrictions only 20 attendees will be granted
admission to the Parliamentary Gallery.
A subsequent survey of survivors (directed by TGA):
* supports the apology should be postponed until the COVID restrictions are lifted, allowing any/all to
* supports the Prime Minister should deliver the national apology as Thalidomide was a national
Minister Hunt agreed to postpone the apology to later date (TBA).
2021/Feb: The one-lump sum component of the Australian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program (ATSSP - The
Program) begins rolling out to survivors.
2021/Mar: Health Department release guidelines overviewing the Extraordinary Assistance Fund (EAF) and the Health
Care Assistant Fund (HCAF) components of the ATSSP - The Program.
2021/Apr 6: Follow-up interview with Australian Medical Republic.
2021/May 5: The Federal Health Department advises "The Benevolent Society" has been engaged to operate the
Thalidomide Support Service.
2021/Sept: The yearly payment component of the Australia Survivors Support Program (ATSSP – The Program) begins
rolling out to survivors.
2021/Oct 14: National Site of Recognition Steering Committee established consisting of 4 Thalidomide survivors and 1
carer, 5 Department of Health staff, and 1 National Capital Authority staff.
2022/May 1: The Health Department closes the process by which unrecognised survivors can register for assessment
and possible government support.