Asbestos awareness remains in the spotlight as Fleurieu woman shares her story in Canberra

Asbestos Awareness: Goolwa woman Catherine Wegener (right) joined Senator Rex Patrick and fellow AVA representative Lesley Sheares in Canberra to share her husband's story.
Asbestos Awareness: Goolwa woman Catherine Wegener (right) joined Senator Rex Patrick and fellow AVA representative Lesley Sheares in Canberra to share her husband's story.

Goolwa woman Catherine Wegener recently shared her story of losing husband Rex to mesothelioma with The Times, and it has since reached a greater audience, with Senator Rex Patrick taking it to Canberra.

In a speech delivered to the Senate that coincided with Asbestos Awareness Week, Senator Patrick used the opportunity to share Catherine's story. Catherine was flown out to Canberra and was in attendance when Senator Patrick recounted her husband Rex's battle with the deadly disease, caused by years of contact with asbestos.

"After hearing Catherine speak at last year's Asbestos Victims Memorial, I knew I wanted to help share her and Rex's story," said Senator Patrick.

"Being able to share their story with the Parliament, and the public, was an honour and I'm humbled that she allowed me to do so."

Ms Wegener said it was a moving experience to witness her husband's story being presented to a large audience and hoped that it would raise further awareness about the risks associated with asbestos.

"It was unexpected to be asked by Senator Patrick if he could share my husband's story to such a large audience, but I want to make sure my husband's life is worthwhile, so of course I said yes," said Ms Wegener.

"We went into the Senate and heard Senator Patrick give the speech and it was amazing to think that Rex's story has gone so far. To think that it might make someone take more care or that it might save someone's life really meant it was a wonderful experience for me."

Since losing her husband Rex in 2017, Catherine has become actively involved with the Asbestos Victim's Association (AVA) and is now the group's representative on the Fleurieu. She said she was inspired to get involved after the Association helped her and Rex through the difficult times following his diagnosis of mesothelioma.

"The AVA's main purpose is to support people suffering from asbestos diseases and support their families," said Ms Wegener.

"There's not a lot known about asbestos related diseases, so we are very glad to visit people and answer their questions. We also do a variety of education work and visit different groups to talk to them about asbestos and we're really trying to get people to be very aware of asbestos and safe about it."

Ms Wegener said even though asbestos is now banned in Australia, it remains an issue where awareness is key.

"A current problem is that a lot of young people are undertaking DIY renovations on older homes that contain asbestos, so they need to be aware of the risks and take great care," she said.

"Unless we take a stand, the whole idea of asbestos can float away and we need to keep it in the public eye. It's very important and being the representative of the AVA on the Fleurieu, I'm here if anyone needs to get in touch if they're feeling worried or don't know what to do."

Senator Patrick said the work of the AVA and other relevant groups was vitally important.

"While I have no doubt that there is awareness of mesothelioma in the community, it's important we continue to support groups like the AVA in raising awareness of the disease and offering support to the victims of it," he said.

"There are still multiple properties in our communities containing asbestos products that are not identified with labels or warnings. We need to keep identifying the risks and educate the public to stop the growth of the third wave of asbestos victims.

"I would like to see greater awareness amongst Australians of the methods for avoiding contact with the asbestos that is already here."

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