LEAD Action News Vol 2 no
1 Summer 1994. ISSN 1324-6011
Coordinator's Report - January 1994
by Elizabeth O'Brien, National Coordinator, The LEAD Group
Our achievements in 1993
Members, Subscribers, Donors and Information Recipients
In 1993, as in 1992, The LEAD Group acquired over one hundred members from across Australia and your subscriptions were a great help in covering the running costs which were not covered by donations. This and the still vital volunteer labour at the Community Lead Information Centre enabled us to give free advice by telephone, fax or mail, plus free information sheets by mail or fax, to around 500 enquirers whose needs were not met by any government agency or private enterprise. It is great to see as subscribers, community health centres in Sydney and Melbourne as well as local councils and corporations (especially as the corporate subscription rate is four times the individual rate). Thanks again to all who donated funds to The LEAD Group in 1993. For a listing of the larger donations made, members can refer to the Treasurer's Report to the AGM (Annual General Meeting).
Consultants and Network
The highly qualified team of experts on The LEAD Group's Technical Advisory Board, who are available for advice on technical and policy matters and who give our statements and publications credence, increased in number in 1993, with the happy addition of such lead luminaries as Professor Graham Vimpani and experts such as Dr Jill Maddison (veterinary research) and Peter Caldwell (until recently the Chief Engineer of NRMA) plus multi-media star Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. Some of our consultants must remain anonymous. Many of them joined in the hard slog of committee work at both state and federal level in 1993 and ably represented the community while seeking to achieve The LEAD Group's objectives. Thanks so much for this excellent work.
Our supportive network of environmental, health, community and public interest groups has continued to grow, with the addition of the Nature Conservation Council (NSW), Coalition for Urban Transport Sanity (Sydney), Victorian Conservation Council, The Environmental Youth Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Family Resource and Network Support (FRANS), and the Toxic Chemicals Committee of the Total Environment Centre. Additionally, I represented the interests of The LEAD Group at meetings organised by the Consumers Health Forum, between community groups and the Central Sydney Division of General Practice and The LEAD Group advised several community or resident groups on issues such as the siting of preschools on busy roads, effects on residents of living near contaminated ex-defence sites or industries such as cement production and battery manufacturing and the ramifications of Victorian school closures.
The Committee has again been hard-working and I'd like to thank them all but especially Kerry O'Donnell and Fred Salome. Members are always welcome to any of our Committee or Finance Sub-Committee meetings. Meetings are at 8:30pm on the first Wednesday of the month with Full Committee meetings in even-numbered months and Sub-Committee meetings in odd-numbered months. The Committee for 1994 will be voted in at the AGM on the first Wednesday in February at 8pm (Feb 2nd, 1994). The use of the venue has been kindly donated by Fred Salome - 4 Rothwell Avenue, Concord West. RSVP by Jan 31st.
Other Volunteers and Pro Bono Service Providers
We have been exceptionally fortunate in 1993 to have David Ratcliffe as Office Manager of the Community Lead Information Centre, a fantastic contribution as he works nearly every day, as a volunteer. Up until June, Wan Yi volunteered one day a week for office work. For the past 6 months, Mangala has done a great job regularly filing our newspaper clippings, whilst many people must be thanked for sending them in, but especially Noela, Lynnie, Greg and Michael. We can't afford a clipping service so please help the cause by donating press clippings and TV and radio tapings. Thanks to Lyn for her generous video tape copying. Steve, Mangala and David have been very reliable and efficient in photocopying the newsletters, while many people have done word-processing, including Carol, Rebecca, Noela, Shirley, Deidre, Ann, Gail, Nana and Cathy.
Augustina and Vivien have been particularly obliging with last minute graphics and I cannot thank our volunteer desk-top publishers enough - Rebecca Peters, Desktop Workshop and Ann Warburton. Thanks also to the Volunteer Centre of NSW for providing a regular influx of new volunteers; the old team of Noela, Greg, Lynnie and Di provided hundreds of hours of free childcare to allow me to prepare for meetings and I'm sure the State and Federal governments would like to thank them.
It was through the pro bono legal advice from John Grimes of Sly and Weigall that The LEAD Group became an incorporated association in September 1993 and the pro bono accountancy advice from Spiro Sakiris of Economos and Co may have had a part to play in The LEAD Group's successful application for one of the Grants for Voluntary Conservation Organisations. Many thanks to PIAC (Public Interest Advocacy Centre) for organising these two services.
Peak media coverage of the lead issue occurred around the time of the Council meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council in June and the Lead (in petrol) Roundtable in Canberra in July 1993. ABC TV's reporter Gavin Gilchrist won an award for his News reports on lead and if Julian Cribb from The Australian didn't win one, he should have. It was all shoulders to the wheel in the second half of 1993 with representatives of the network and the Technical Advisory Board and myself heavily involved in consultation with governments, and consequently a quieter time in the media. Nevertheless, some of us did find time for an appearance on Live it Up (Channel 10) hosted by Trish Goddard, for interviews for an article in Parent's Magazine which sparked a lot of interest, and requests for further information. Dr. Garth Alperstein and I have been consulted by a writer from GP, so hopefully we will see the fruits of that in a TV show soon.
Talking to Industry
The LEAD Group arranged meetings with four of Australia's five petrol refiners and the Australian Institute of Petroleum in the 2nd quarter of 1993. The petroleum industry expressed their willingness to reduce lead in petrol by reducing the research octane number (RON) of leaded petrol and said that this could happen very quickly, virtually overnight. For the rest of 1993 we evidenced some of the dogfight between the petroleum industry and the vehicle manufacturers over the reduction in RON, at committee meetings with both NSW and Federal Governments. Finally on 1st January 1993 lead in petrol levels were reduced in all states by around 25%. (See Table.)
The petroleum industry representatives we spoke with earlier in the year also made various guesstimates of the percentage of pre- 1986 vehicles which could run on unleaded petrol (or other fuels), all or some of the time, or as a shandy (in the same tank full) with leaded petrol. The guesstimates varied from 60-90% of the pre-1986 fleet. Though we battled valiantly for the rest of the year, in the upcoming federal education campaign, only 24-30% of the pre-1986 fleet drivers will be advised to use unleaded petrol.
In 1993 we have published the first four issues of LEAD Action News plus a range of Information Sheets which are constantly updated as bits of the information in them becomes superseded (usually due to our lobbying efforts). Titles have included: Facts Sheet, Facts Sheet about Lead in Petrol, Seven Point Plan for Australian Parents for the Prevention of Lead Poisoning in Our Young Children, Is Your Child being Exposed to Lead?
Speaking Engagements and Info Stalls
Among the speaking engagements for myself and, in some instances, for members of The LEAD Group, were: parents meetings at a number of preschools, organisers meetings for several Family Day Care districts, staff meeting of FRANS, Abbotsleigh School old teachers and students discussion group, Soroptimists, Meadowbank TAFE childcare students, Toxic Chemical Load Conference organised by the Toxic Chemicals Committee, a Law Conference organised by Sydney Uni law students, Link-up (transport) conference organised by the Total Environment centre, Lead in Blood Conference run by Standards Australia, and Korrana Special Needs Unit professional staff meeting. Unfortunately a talk for prisoners studying for a certificate in "Understanding Children" at Mullawa Women's Prison was cancelled due to lack of supervision.
Info stalls at Balmain Festival and Summer Hill Fete saw a lot of free information and advice go out. Thanks to Jason, Lynnie, Carmel and Pam for help in manning the stalls and to Debrah and Carmel for cake baking.
Results of The LEAD Group's survey of state and territory plans for lead abatement were published in LEAD Action News Volume 1 No 1 and a report of the community consultation process in the Working Groups of the NSW Lead Taskforce was published in LEAD Action News Volume 1 No 3. Meetings continue for the Lead Education Working Group though the 8 other Working Groups seem to have had their last meetings. In all I attended over 40 half-day or full-day meetings and five other unpaid community reps together would have attended around the same number. Four of The LEAD Group's Technical Advisory Board members who run their own consultancies had to forego paid work to attend meetings though other of our technical advisors were able to attend as part of their job.
The first half of the year saw a flurry of activity by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) team who were chosen by a committee of the NHMRC to consult the community on lead and make recommendations. The LEAD Group members and nominees attended meetings across the country. The RMIT report made a valuable contribution to the deliberations of the Lead Roundtable and the June Council meeting of the NHMRC and will soon be available in paperback. The Environment Minister, Ros Kelly ably picked up the ball and ran with it and a new section for Lead Abatement was created in CEPA (Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency) which will even take over the National Blood Lead Survey of children once the NHMRC has written the survey protocol. I am now the only community representative on the NHMRC's National Blood Lead Survey committee, and on CEPA's Technical Working Party and the Consultative Committee on Lead in Petrol although I am joined by environmentalist Peter Allan from ACF, on the latter.
I am one of many community representatives, environmentalists and advisers to politicians across Australia on the Reference Group to the Government Working Party on Lead (involving the Democrats and the Greens). It is a pleasure working with Imogen Zethoven, adviser to Cheryl Kernot, Democrats leader.
Thanks for your continuing support. We will continue to strive to achieve our aims.
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Updated 12 November 2012