LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 11 Number 2, December 2010, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Guest Editor, Dr Chrissie Pickin. Editor-in-Chief: Anne Roberts

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Rosebery Community Response

By Bronwyn Hill, Communications Consultant, in collaboration with local resident, Jo Powell

Much of the publicity surrounding Rosebery has focussed on the allegations by the Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce.

But, for the majority of residents, there is frustration and anger over what they see as a lack of balance in media reporting of the Taskforce’s concerns, and the ongoing effect on the town’s reputation and financial prospects.

One local, Jo Powell, became so frustrated that the majority view was not being heard, that she set up the Facebook group “Rosebery is NOT Contaminated. I’m Prepared to be Tested”, to put the other side of the story.

The Facebook group has attracted 484 members, and Ms Powell says while some are also members of the Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce, most believe there is no danger.

“I can’t speak for every member of the group”, Ms Powell said.

“But, excluding those who are members of the Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce, most of the Facebook group members joined up with the same basic opinion; that there may be no contamination danger in Rosebery, but let’s have some testing done and find out for sure and do something about it if there is.

 “The community still feels that the majority view isn’t being heard”, she said.

“The press only seems interested in hearing the stories of the THMTF, and when community members have been interviewed, their stories have been edited so that the actual comment has an entirely different context. 

Jo Powell & daughter Kirsten
Jo Powell and her daughter Kirsten

“If we respond to allegations or accusations on websites, we are abused and insulted”, Ms Powell said.

Ms Powell said her main concern is how the community as a whole has been affected; in particular, a fall in real estate prices and the number of tourists visiting the town.

 “People think our drinking water is toxic, people have been abused and spat on in the streets, and most tourists who come through town know the story and community members have said they feel as though they have been judged by strangers and have been found lacking”, Ms Powell said.

 “The residents of the town mostly rely on the mine for their income but the business owners rely on the tourist trade, and already this year, tourism is down on what it was last year.

 “Some are understandably angry about the loss of income etc, and with the test results making it clear that there is no danger, they feel justified in supporting their town and want to move on”, she said.

Ms Powell said whilst illnesses obviously do occur in Rosebery, there doesn’t appear to be a large number of people with unexplained or unusual illnesses.

“I don’t know everyone’s medical history personally, but I do know 98 percent of townspeople and am friendly enough with them that I would be told if there were concerns”, Ms Powell said.

“I do have two friends who were diagnosed as having heavy metals poisoning but they’ve since received a different diagnosis by another doctor”, she said.

Ms Powell also believes Rosebery’s pets are safe, citing anecdotal evidence from people living in the town.

“I personally have four cats and one dog, and all of them spend quite a bit of their time outside, and are very healthy”, she said.

Ms Powell said the same applies to all of her friends with domestic animals, and friends of friends have also reported no problems with their pets.

Whilst the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services has faced numerous criticisms from the Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce, Ms Powell has only praise for the Department’s response to the allegations.

“I feel the criticisms are at times conflicting and have no grounds, and I am very happy with the Health Department’s response”, she said.

“As far as I can see, they followed protocol and took appropriate steps to determine the risk in Rosebery, and they have always offered assistance where they possibly could and have been professional throughout.

“Members of the Taskforce have made these criticisms but have made very little real effort to aid the investigation, which I would have considered to be one of their most important priorities”, she said.

The response of the Rosebery mine’s owner MMG, has also drawn high praise.

“I, and the community, couldn’t be happier with MMG’s response”, Ms Powell said. “They have gone above and beyond what was required of them and spent quite a considerable amount of money to do so, even though the issue and their responsibility for it were still uncertain when they started looking for solution.

Ms Powell and her supporters have vowed to continue working to improve tourist numbers and house prices, and most importantly, to help restore Rosebery’s reputation.

“I think that is what has hurt us most of all”, she said.

“We are a very close community, who care for each other and support each other.

“This issue has resulted in us being labelled hillbillies in denial, and people think of us as backwards and uncaring because we don’t support the claims made by the Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce.

“This isn’t the case at all” 

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