Earshot, ABC Radio National




Radio/Audio: Feature

The blue asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia, closed in 1966, but its deadly legacy lives on. The owners walked away, leaving three million tonnes of asbestos tailings.

Fifty years later, the Aboriginal people of the Pilbara have the highest mortality rate from mesothelioma of any group, anywhere in the world. Numerous committees and reports from the Western Australian Government have warned of the extreme risk to tourists and traditional owners, but no government has been willing to commit to the dangerous and expensive operation of cleaning up the site.

“The Ghosts of Wittenoom” broke the news that the Banjima people are considering legal action against the WA Government for its failure to provide safe access to their native title land. The story prompted ongoing media coverage and renewed negotiations between the government, industry and traditional owners about cleaning up the asbestos tailings.

Perth-based Kirsti Melville is an award-winning documentary producer with ABC RN’s Earshot and The History Listen. Her love for audio storytelling is driven by a strong sense of social justice, a desire to pick apart the complexities of human relationships, and the beauty of working with the nuance of voice and sound. This is Melville’s first Walkley Award.

Judges’ comments:

“The Ghosts of Wittenoom” does what only audio can do: bring everything to life. It juxtaposes the viewpoints of different people and amplifies under-reported voices.”