Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 2000s


Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral. In the 20th century, it was frequently used in Australia for construction, generally as a form of asbestos cement commonly known as 'fibro'. This product was particularly useful in building prefabricated dwellings as it was a material made from fibres that had been cemented into rigid sheets.

In 1991, a complete ban on asbestos-containing materials was introduced in Australia.

Unfortunately, the extent of toxicity inherent in asbestos had a cumulative effect in those who inhaled the fibres. A lung cancer called mesothelioma was the result. Bernie Banton led a civil case against Hardy Industries for compensation for employees affected by asbestos toxicity. He died in 2007 not long after winning the case that set a precedent for asbestos victims in all industries.

Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related disease in the world. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 people will have contracted an asbestos-related cancer by 2020. The majority of these victims will not have worked directly with asbestos, but have been home renovators who have come into extensive contact with asbestos fibres.

An asbestos warning sign in Wittenoom, Western Australia

A snapshot of 2008

  • January
    • The United Nations General Assembly chose 2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth.

  • February
    • An official apology by the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to the Stolen Generations was made the first order of business of the new federal parliament.

  • June
    • Australia ended its combat operations in Iraq, withdrawing approximately 550 troops from the region.

  • July
    • World Youth Day (WYD), the largest youth event in the world, attracted 223,000 pilgrims to the event held in Sydney.

  • September
    • The Global Financial Crisis began having a serious effect on the Australian economy.
    • Quentin Bryce was sworn in as the first female governor-general of Australia.


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