At last, compensation for the forgotten victims of the thalidomide disaster
By Senator Jordon Steele-John
In last month’s Federal budget ‒ after almost a decade of campaigning by survivors and many years of support by the Australian Greens ‒ the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, finally announced a package of compensation and support for Australia’s Thalidomide survivors
We’re still waiting on some of the final details of the package as the Department has had to take on notice some of the questions that we put to them (meaning they could not answer them on the spot). However, this package, on first examination, has the potential to be a huge win for Thalidomide survivors, who have been fighting for decades to get the recognition and support they deserve from the Australian government. After a lifetime of discrimination, bullying, ongoing heatlh problems and even suicide, Thalidomide survivors and their families now finally had an opportunity for justice.
A letter from Lisa McManus on behalf of Thalidomide Group Australia ‒ a group representing forgotten survivors of the pharmaceutical disaster ‒ asking for help was one of the first things on my desk when I became a Senator in 2017. I’ve been working with her ever since and throughout this process of fighting for justice, she has become a close friend. I want to commend Lisa and all Thalidomide survivors for their tireless work and advocacy over the past 60 years. Because of you, the Australian Government has finally acknowledged the role that their predecessors played in this medical disaster.
If this campaign has taught me one thing it’s that survivors like Lisa shouldn’t have had to fight so hard to get assistance from the people they elect to represent them.
Here's what we know so far about the package announced in the 2020 Federal Budget:
- A lump sum compensation payment of between $75,000 and $500,000 scaled according to the level of disability;
- An ongoing annual pension between $5000 and $60,000 scaled according to the level of disability;
- An Extraordinary Assistance Fund worth over $10 million will be established to aid survivors to meet major expenses such as home and vehicle modification from 2020‑21;
- A healthcare assistance fund worth almost $4 million; and
- An official government apology.
I’ll make sure to update you all soon when we have more details!
Header photo: Lisa McManus (right) and her husband Andrew - Our office has been working with Lisa on justice for Thalidomide survivors.