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The late Floyd Laurie (second from the left), sitting on the pipe with his brothers Norrie and Shane and his sister Di Randall, is pictured at the Baryulgil Public School (circa mid 1960s). The pipes are still there today; note the pile of asbestos behind the children on the right. Image: Contributed

Baryulgil asbestos victim dies

The late Floyd Laurie (second from the left), sitting on the pipe with his brothers Norrie and Shane and his sister Di Randall, is pictured at the Baryulgil Public School (circa mid 1960s). The pipes are still there today; note the pile of asbestos behind the children on the right. Image: Contributed

Floyd Laurie grew up in Baryulgil, where playing in the piles of asbestos spread around the town (including at the school) was just a part of everyday life for the town’s children; on January 24 he succumbed to the incurable asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, at just 55 years of age.
Mr Laurie was diagnosed with the disease in July 2016 and is, at least, the first of his cohort to die from exposure to the lethal dust during the operation of James Hardie’s asbestos mine between 1962 and 1979.
Mr Laurie’s lawyer, Tanya Segelov, said his death was “very sad”, and that a financial settlement had been reached “late on the day [January 16] before the hearing was scheduled to take place at his home”.
Mr Laurie was suing the NSW Education Department.
“We had to expedite his claim and, even then, the urgent hearing was brought forward to the 17th of January,” she said.
Ms Segelov, who specialises in asbestos-related disease lawsuits and is a member of the federal government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council, said “the good news was that Floyd knew the settlement had happened and that the money would come through to look after his family; he was very happy about that”.
She said, in her experience, that after a “typical diagnosis” a victim of the disease had an average life expectancy of nine to 12 months.
She said that the amount of compensation paid was “legally speaking … the full amount he was entitled to”.
“In terms of human life, the compensation is never fair; however, in the terms of what a judge decides and what the law allows, Floyd got a great result.”
Ms Segelov said there are co-morbidity issues to consider, regarding other cases she is “looking at” at the moment and one from the past, which involved a woman who was a smoker.
“There’s no doubt asbestos played a role in her lung cancer,” she said.
“But that type of fight goes on all of the time.
“The government and the company have been able to say there hasn’t been any [asbestos-related] disease but they couldn’t say that with Floyd because there was nothing else to blame … he wasn’t a smoker.
“…To say there’s no other disease in that community is wrong … but how much is related to asbestos is unclear because [previous suspected deaths from exposure to asbestos] haven’t been properly followed through.”
She said that autopsies have not been carried out due to cultural reasons within the Aboriginal community and that deaths are “put down to other reasons” because there is a high rate of co-morbidity among the Baryulgil community.

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